The SEC on CBS broadcast crew has seen a couple of new additions during the course of the last two years. Last season, after Verne Lundquist decided to take on a lighter broadcasting load, the network tapped Brad Nessler as the new play-by-play man. This year, when sideline reporter Allie LaForce moved on, CBS brought in Jamie Erdahl to cover the sideline duties.
The 29-year-old Minnesota native has been working with the network since 2014, pacing the sidelines for NFL and the NCAA Tournament. Now, as her first year on the SEC sidelines is nearing the end, we caught up with her to get some insight into how she got her start, her favorite moments and career goals.
CBS Local Sports: You were a very good athlete, playing basketball and softball in college before transferring to American to pursue broadcasting. Is this something you have always wanted to do?
Jamie Erdahl: Yeah, it was. If you go back to when I was in high school, I would often stop by the office of our dean of students to talk to him, because he was also the football coach for the school. So, I would try to be late to class and talk to him about the game coming up that Friday night. It was part of my makeup from an early age.
When I was a junior, I did a job shadow at the sports radio station in Minneapolis, and it was one of Michelle Tafoya’s early stops in her career. She stopped through one day, and I got to chat with her for five minutes. I didn’t put it together at the time that I wanted to work specifically in this job (sideline reporter), but I knew that this was a realm in which I wanted to exist.
My whole family is in medicine, and they love that. But I never did. But, more than that, I wanted to find something that I loved as much as they do. It was more sports in general when I was younger, and then playing in college really bolstered my passion for it. The willingness and eagerness to talk sports all the time started very young.
CBS Local Sports: So you mentioned that your family are all in medicine, where did the passion for sports come from then? Were your parents sports fans?
Jamie Erdahl: Well, I played everything growing up, was very much a tomboy. But, on top of that, my mom wanted to visit all of the baseball stadiums; she’s halfway through at this point. So I learned baseball from her. She taught me how to keep score, she listens to the radio broadcast while she is in the stands. She is that kind of person.
My dad had basketball covered and, of course, the Vikings, growing up in Minnesota. My sister wasn’t into this stuff, but they realized that I was and liked being around them and liked to watch and play games and be around sports. It was so much more than just a hobby, it was part of my upbringing.
CBS local Sports: You joined CBS in 2014 and have worked everything from studio shows to the NCAA tournament to SEC on CBS. What is the most memorable moment you have had so far?
Jamie Erdahl: Both times that I got the phone calls telling me that I would be doing the NCAA tournament and SEC on CBS. It’s funny, people always want to know about the best moments in games that we cover. I don’t know if this is ruining the mystique, but the games, short of something like the ‘Kick 6’, all sort of run together.
That’s why, for me, the most memorable moments are the ones that I spend with the people I work with everyday, who help further my career. [They] are the ones that stand out to me the most. It was the same person both times who called me to tell me, so both of those moments were really life-changing. It is everything I thought it would be.
CBS Local Sports: I don’t think you’re ruining the mystique, that just feels like a very human reaction. In that vein, what’s the camaraderie like between you and the rest of the broadcast team in Brad Nessler and Gary Danielson?
Jamie Erdahl: It’s awesome. It has been everything I thought it would be like and more. It’s also nerve-wracking. I came off of three years with the same guys with Greg Gumbel and Trent Green, and those guys will forever be in my heart. We had a great rapport. Then, to take it all the way back to the beginning and step one with two new people, it’s scary. Particularly with Gary and Brad, because Gary’s been in the SEC for 25 years, and Brad has made stops on high-profile broadcasts all over. You want to come in and be the cool girl and get along with everybody. But you also don’t want to fake it, because that gets exhausting too.
That said, it was one of the easiest transitions I have ever made in my professional career. Those two are so warm and welcoming. We have been able to spend hours on end together, and it is easy and seamless. Pretty much every time we go to Tuscaloosa, we’ll all fly down to Atlanta and take the SEC bus with just the three of us on the four-hour trip from Atlanta to Tuscaloosa.
It’s always just us watching TV, or Brad makes us watch Gunsmoke, and he explains to us what is going on. (Laughing) Those types of things, have made the transition great, and it has been easy for us for sure.
CBS Local Sports: As you have been reporting on the SEC this season, what is the most interesting story about a player or coach that you have found while researching for a game?
Jamie Erdahl: One that stands out in my mind was the first time we had LSU, the week they played Florida. I got on the phone with their linebacker Devin White. Now, one thing to note, college is a little different from the NFL, because with the players’ schedules, I’m usually able to work it out to get to talk to the players one-on-one, whereas in the NFL, I’m getting all of my notes from the production meetings.
So, I was talking to Devin White, and I had read a story about him having a horse in a stable near Baton Rouge. When I called him, I said, ‘Hey Devin, how are you doing?’ and he responded with ‘Oh, I’m good, I’m just out in the stable fixing my horse’s shoe right now.’ We went into 20 minutes on this injury that his horse had sustained. He’s just sitting in the stable with his Air Pods in, helping his horse and talking to me on the phone. That image was just so great to me.
He told me he goes to the stables every week at 5 a.m. on Fridays to go ride her before game weekend. I’m sitting there thinking, this kid is crazy. (Laughing)
CBS Local Sports: That’s an incredible memory and story, for sure. So, college sports teams tend to have some of the most passionate fan bases in the country. What is the best stadium atmosphere you have encountered?
Jamie Erdahl: Unfortunately, it didn’t last long for them, but the beginning of that LSU-Alabama game was pretty special. The setup and the build to that game was all about telling me that I needed to wait and see an LSU night game for myself. It really did live up to that billing.
I also really enjoyed when LSU went to Auburn, because I think Auburn’s game day experience was pretty special. From Toomer’s Corner all the way to the stadium feels like an all-encompassing kind of setup. This is my first time through everywhere, so it has been pretty eye-opening.
CBS Local Sports: As a sideline reporter, you are expected to provide updates when a player is injured. I don’t think fans know much about how that information is obtained. Can you take us inside that process?
Jamie Erdahl: So, my only basis for comparison is the NFL. In the NFL, teams are required to report to us on injury information. So, when I started this season with the SEC, I was coming off a situation where the baseline of information was the same across 32 teams.
That’s not the case in college. In the SEC, I had to learn pretty quickly which teams don’t give me anything, which teams have the S.I.D come find me to tell me what happened. So it was different across teams.
To be honest, it is almost easier if a team tells me that they don’t release injury information, because then I know that the second an injury happens I can just start working my own observations into the report based on what I have seen with my own eyes.
That said, the second an injury happens, I have to make sure I’m busting my butt to get over to that sideline, because all I have is that 30 yards that the player is being helped off the field to the tent. On top of that, over the years I have learned different things mean different injuries. Holding the elbow for example, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s an elbow injury, it could be something wrong with the shoulder. You pick things like that up along the way.
CBS Local Sports: The final question I have for you, your career is just getting started, what are the long-term goals as you look to the future? Do you want to be in the booth at some point? Or do you really love being on the sideline.
Jamie Erdahl: I do. It’s twofold. I love the sideline. What is intimidating, and what I have been lucky with, is that the play-by-play guys who I have worked with in Greg Gumbel, Brad Nessler and Andrew Catalon are so good that it’s so intimidating (Laughing). Those are my examples, and if that is what the standard is, I want nothing to do with that. I feel like I could never do that job as well as those guys do it.
That being said, I think I have been able to identify other things that I would like to do in addition to sideline. I see Colleen Wolfe on Thursday Night Football doing remote studio hosting from the site, and I think that would be great. What I have learned is that I have never wanted one thing or the other, I have always wanted to do studio work and in the field.
Other than that, in the future, I just want to work the biggest games at every level. I feel like I have accomplished that with the SEC, and then maybe hopefully at some point I can do a Super Bowl. Things like that.