Erin Andrews is a dancer and a ‘dork’ (her words), but definitely not a diva. A major part of her job may be reporting from some of the biggest sports events in the nation, but in real life she is never on the sidelines. Her energy and enthusiasm are immediately obvious when talking to her, and those qualities, along with a lot of determination and hard work, have made her one of the most famous sportscasters in the country.
Since joining ESPN in May 2004 as a reporter for the network’s National Hockey League coverage, Erin has worked on everything from Big Ten college basketball coverage to Monday Night Baseball, but she is best known in the world of college football. Erin currently hosts College GameDay on Saturdays on ESPNU and is a regular contributor on ESPN’s College GameDay, along with reporting from the sidelines. In 2010, Erin made her first appearance on ABC’s Good Morning America as a correspondent.
Erin became known to an even larger audience after becoming a contestant on the 10th season of the ABC hit television series Dancing With The Stars. She and her partner, Maksim Chmerkovskiy, were one of three contestants to make it to the finals, where they placed third.
The respect Erin has earned in a field that was once dominated almost exclusively by men is testament to the positive attitude and discipline that has allowed her to excel in her career. Mentally and physically, she just keeps getting stronger. Erin took some time recently to share her insights with MBS on her successes, challenges and hopes for the future.
MBS: What were you like a decade ago in your earliest years in television, before America got to know you?
ERIN: I was fresh out of college when I landed my first serious gig-sideline reporting for the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning. I was so amped up during the playoffs that I barely ate for about two months. Can you imagine? A doctor asked me, “Really, what’s wrong, Erin?” I was like, “Nothing! I’m just so excited!” I was like a little puppy: yapping my head off, trying to find my way, running into doors, falling down all the time. I don’t mean that metaphorically-I’m pretty clumsy. I’ve wiped out in hockey arenas and on football fields; I took a massive fall on a treadmill just this year. I used to make a lot of on-camera mistakes, too.
MBS: What do you think ESPN saw in you when you were hired in 2004?
ERIN: I think they saw someone who was a very big sports fan, was energetic and really wanted to work hard.
MBS: Do you feel as though you’ve proved yourself?
ERIN: If I was criticized—especially by those who had preconceived notions about why I had my job—I had to learn how to deal with it. It was part of figuring out who I am and who I want to be. My skin got thicker; I did some growing up. Meanwhile, like anyone who’s willing to work hard, I got better at my job.
The most important thing for me in my industry is being taken seriously-by my peers and, even more so, by the coaches whose teams I cover. In the past couple of years, I’ve had enough coaches reach out to me and thank me for what I do that I just don’t worry about getting respect anymore-I know I already have it. Naysayers will ask, “Why does Erin Andrews have her job?” Well, they should ask the people around me and those who have mentored me. They should ask Roy Williams, John Calipari, Mack Brown and other top coaches in college basketball and college football. Those guys know how I do my job and the work I put into it.
MBS: What’s a typical work week like for you during college football season, and how do you find time for exercise?
ERIN: During the football season I travel from Thursdays through Sundays around our game schedule, but often I’ll head out as early as Tuesdays to report on feature stories. It’s a grind all season long-you don’t have much of a life. But I still try to work out every single day, although some weeks I have to settle for five workouts. When I miss a day, I can be mega-cranky.
With all the traveling I do and as pressed for time as I am during the season, I have to take opportunities to exercise as I get them. Fortunately the colleagues I travel with are a very health-conscious group. We work out in hotels most often, of course, but sometimes we’ll do it inside schools’ football training facilities; there are even those days when a few of us will run stadium steps. It’s nice to work with people who push me to work out. The exercise helps me stay sharp not just physically but mentally.
MBS: Do you have a special workout wardrobe?
ERIN: I injured my right foot on Dancing With The Stars and really feel such cushion when I’m running in my Reeboks. I also love Reebok’s spandex three-quarter-length shorts-I’m kind of obsessed with those-and the sports bras and tank tops, which I have in every color. That is my workout gear, no ifs, ands or buts about it.
I’ve been trying the Reebok RealFlex shoes for weightlifting, and they’ve been phenomenal. At the Masters this year, I wore Flex sneakers in a variety of colors. I think in part because I wear different colors almost every day, people always ask me, “Are those comfortable?” The answer is an emphatic yes. I have to be presentable out there because a lot of athletes, kids and other folks ask me to take pictures with them.
MBS: How special was your time last year on Dancing With The Stars?
ERIN: My experience on Dancing With The Stars will stay with me forever. It becomes a part of your life. Pro Football Hall of Famers Emmitt Smith and Jerry Rice actually thanked Dancing With The Stars in their induction speeches. I think for anyone who does the show and completely dives into the dancing and the process, it’s a life-changing experience.
MBS: Was the sports world watching?
ERIN: Anyone who thinks it’s just females watching Dancing With The Stars is so wrong. I can’t tell you how many coaches and players-guys you wouldn’t think would care in the slightest about that show-brought it up in conversation with me during those three months I was on the show. They’d say, “I can’t believe that judge gave you an 8. What a ripoff!” I’m sure a lot of athletes watch the show and think, “Hmmm. I’m pretty sure I could do that.” With the coordination, conditioning, discipline and experience being coached that athletes have, a lot of them probably could do very well.
MBS: How grueling was it?
ERIN: I’d never done anything like that kind of training in my life. To say it was rigorous is an understatement. I suffered a back injury and broke my foot. My best friend on the show, figure skater Evan Lysacek, broke a toe and had a concussion. Isn’t that scary? But we just stuck with it.
MBS: Why do you think you were able to fight through all that pain?
ERIN: I’m very much a tomboy. I found myself mimicking what football players do-wanting to chest-bump, spit and do other manly stuff to get myself fired up, you know? I’d even scream backstage before my dances. I know what you’re thinking: what a dork. But that’s me.
MBS: Did your body go through any drastic changes?
ERIN: It was definitely the skinniest I’ve ever been in my life-normally my 5’10” frame checks in at about 130 pounds, but on Dancing With The Stars I got down to about 110. I lost every curve and shape to my body, and they were continually taking in my costumes and adding padding to them. Eventually I just started referring to myself as a 12-year-old boy. But it’s not like it was happening just to me. NFL star Chad Ochocinco was on my season and everyone was saying how thin he was.
MBS: What was your favorite dance?
ERIN: My favorite dance was the Argentine tango during which I jumped off the stage onto the shoulders of my partner, Maksim Chmerkovskiy. I felt the strongest in that routine, but for me it was more about facing up to the fear I had of taking that leap of faith. If you watched the footage of our practices for that dance, you saw that I was freaking out, petrified. I was 6-foot-1 in those heels-I was afraid I couldn’t jump off the stage and clear Maksim’s head with my front leg. Meantime, I was so amped up on the night of the show that he was afraid I’d completely jump over him and kill myself. I was a mess going in, but somehow we mastered it. I’m really proud of that and thankful for the entire experience.
MBS: What are you like away from the cameras?
ERIN: My sister is a professional dancer. When she’s not at work, she takes dance classes. Well, when I’m not at work, I watch games on TV. When I read, it’s about sports. I love sports. I’m just a sports nerd—that’s how I’d describe myself.
Probably the biggest thing people don’t realize about me is how normal I am. I was in a boot camp class and someone said, “Wow, you’re pretty normal.” I was like, “What do you mean?” I don’t look at myself as being different than any other huge college football fan.
MBS: You’re really passionate about your career. What are some personal causes or issues that are also near and dear to your heart?
ERIN: I care deeply about advocating for strengthened laws against stalking and working to make the internet safer. I want to help, and be a mentor to other women who’ve been victimized as I was in 2009. It’s really unfortunate that advocacy for women who’ve been stalked isn’t very strong. I hope someday soon to have the time, means and resources to make an even bigger impact.
MBS: What else do you hope to accomplish?
ERIN: I want to become better as a studio host on ESPN’s College Football GameDay and continue to be more and more versatile. I do hope to stay in sports for a long time because of the excitement that’s in it for me. On a personal note, I look forward to having a family to share my life and my success with. I’d love for my personal life to be as exciting as my professional life.
MBS: What does your image mean to you?
ERIN: Image is a very big part of my job, more so now than ever before. I feel I’ve been put in this situation for a reason. There are so many people watching what I do, whether they’re naysayers or young girls who want to do what I do for a living. I have to be careful with what I do and say; everything is calculated, everything is thought out. I can’t just put something on Twitter and let it fly. You might think I should just live my life and not be concerned with the rest, but I have a job to do and was put in this position to be a good role model. MBS