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ESPN’s Dave Flemming Salutes Colleague Rod Gilmore, John Saunders Award Recipient At The Dick Vitale Gala Tonight

"The award recognizes courage in the face of a fight against cancer, and Rod has demonstrated unflinching courage over the past six years since his diagnosis of multiple myeloma," Flemming writes

(L-R) ESPN college football analyst Rod Gilmore, reporter Stormy Buonantony, play by play commentator Dave Flemming (Photo courtesy Dave Flemming/ESPN)

EDITOR’S NOTE: Tonight in Sarasota, Fla., during the 17th annual Dick Vitale Gala, ESPN college football analyst Rod Gilmore will receive the V Foundation’s John Saunders Courage Award. About six years ago, Gilmore was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a blood cancer. Dave Flemming, his broadcast partner during the college football season, wrote this first-person tribute to his booth partner for the Gala program. The Dick Vitale Gala raises funds for the V Foundation and cancer research.

It’s hard to imagine a more worthy recipient of the John Saunders Award than my ESPN football broadcast partner Rod Gilmore.

The award recognizes courage in the face of a fight against cancer, and Rod has demonstrated unflinching courage over the past six years since his diagnosis of multiple myeloma. But I think any award named for our former colleague John should also reflect the qualities so many sports fans loved in him – intellectual curiosity, compassion for the athletes he covered, dedication to craft, and love of family. Rod lives a life full of these qualities – and that life has been so full and rich that when you stop and consider all the places he’s been and the things he has accomplished, it almost reads like fiction.

Rod Gilmore (Mark Gaier/ESPN Images)

Rod was born in Oakland, Calif., and grew up in a loving household of six kids. His dad Carter and his mom Liz raised them each to be contributing, active members of their community. Carter Gilmore was an important figure in the civil rights movement in the Bay Area in the 1960s and 70s and served on the Oakland city council for more than a decade. Carter died of cancer in 2006. Liz is still the center of the Gilmore family, hosting holiday gatherings with pizazz to this day at age 92.

Rod played football and baseball as a kid alongside the likes of former Major League Baseball stars Ricky Henderson, Gary Pettis, and Lloyd Moseby. You can imagine what those Babe Ruth league games were like!

From high school, Rod moved across the Bay to Stanford University. He was a multi-sport star there, playing both baseball and football for the Cardinal. As a teammate of former Stanford quarterback and Hall of Famer John Elway, Rod was on the field for the most famous play in college football history- “the band is on the field!” (As an aside, we all know that Dwight Garner’s knee was down.)

After Stanford, Rod graduated from UC Berkeley Law School, and to this day continues to balance his football broadcasting career with his law practice.

Rod came to ESPN in 1996 and has been a mainstay on the network’s college football coverage ever since, contributing as a game analyst, studio analyst and writer. He has worked alongside many of ESPN’s top football voices over the years, including Joe Tessitore, Steve Levy, Rece Davis, and of course John Saunders himself.

Speaking from experience as his partner the past several seasons, I can tell you that Rod brings football acumen to each telecast – but more importantly, he is an advocate for telling the stories of the student-athletes themselves and for celebrating their achievements off the field. He is never afraid to ask tough questions of the coaches we cover, and our broadcasts are better for it.

Even holding down two full-time jobs for decades, and in recent years through his own fight against cancer, Rod has devoted countless hours of service to Stanford, to his local community, and to fundraising for cancer research in his role as a member of the Board of Directors of the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation.

In recent years, Rod has also taken a lead role in our college football group in educating all of us on the importance of social justice and equity in our coverage. Every one of us broadcasting college football on ESPN would say we have benefitted from his perspective and his insistence that we face these important issues head-on.

Even holding down two full-time jobs for decades, and in recent years through his own fight against cancer, Rod has devoted countless hours of service to Stanford, to his local community, and to fundraising for cancer research in his role as a member of the Board of Directors of the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation.

Despite all of these personal accomplishments, I think Rod is most proud of his own family. His wife Marie has been an irreplaceable partner in their life together. Their two children, Anthony and Nicole, are incredibly bright and accomplished young adults. Rod glows when keeping us up to date on their achievements.

Please join me in congratulating my broadcast partner on this honor. Rod every day demonstrates the courage and empathy that John Saunders so perfectly embodied.


EDITOR’S NOTE: In October 2016, ESPN reporter Shelley Smith – who has shared her breast cancer diagnosis – interviewed Gilmore regarding multiple myeloma in the video below.

ESPN Remote Production and Jon McLeod produced the Smith-Gilmore video

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