For football players, reaching the NFL is the culmination of a life-long dream; hours of work on the practice field and in the meeting rooms all lead up to that shot at the big time. Becoming a play-by-play announcer or color commentator, however, is a different story. Just ask Sunday Night Football’s Cris Collinsworth.
Despite being one of the NFL’s leading television analysts, Collinsworth never dreamed of stepping behind the microphone. He actually planned on pursuing a different post-playing career.
Cris Collinsworth’s on-field career
While most modern NFL fans probably know Cris Collinsworth as an NFL announcer, he also had a capable football player before stepping into the booth. The Dayton, Ohio native played quarterback and ran track in high school; that potential earned him a scholarship from the University of Florida to join the Gators on the gridiron.
Collinsworth headed to Florida as a running quarterback, but the team’s offense struggled to find its rhythm. Head coach Doug Dickey decided to change things up by passing the ball more frequently; since Collinsworth’s strength was his mobility, he moved to wide receiver. Despite the drastic change in position, he flourished. By the end of his senior season, he caught 120 passes for 1,937 yards and 14 touchdowns on the outside.
Tempted by his blend of height and speed, the Cincinnati Bengals selected Collinsworth in the second round of the 1981 NFL draft. Despite his relatively recent move to wide receiver, he put together a respectable professional career, grabbing 417 catches for 6,698 yards and 36 touchdowns over eight NFL season.
First picking up the microphone
After hanging up his playing equipment for the final time, Cris Collinsworth didn’t miss a beat. He promptly took a job at a local Cincinnati radio station, and, shortly after that, he joined Inside the NFL.
Before long, Collinsworth became a member of NBC’s NFL coverage team; after the network lost their broadcasting rights, he made the jump to Fox. He slotted into the lead booth, joining up with Joe Buck and Troy Aikman, and established himself as a big name in NFL color commentary. In 2009, he returned to NBC, taking over John Madden’s seat on Sunday Night Football.
Despite that meteoric rise, Collinsworth never intended to join the media after his playing days were over. Instead, he was planning on heading back to school.
Cris Collinsworth never dreamed of becoming an analyst
After Cris Collinsworth retired from the NFL, he only had one thing on his mind: law school. But then a unique opportunity came calling.
“All I wanted to do was finish law school and become an attorney,” Collinsworth told Jeff Agrest of the Chicago Sun-Times. “But I had just gotten married, we had a baby on the way, and so I thought I could steal a few dollars to pay for law school.” Stealing a few dollars, in this case, meant taking that initial radio job, then doing some extra work on the side for HBO. Over the years, however, those additional commitments became a full-time career.
Collinsworth isn’t taking his success for granted, however; even Sunday Night Football’s color commentator knows that no one is safe in the fickle world of television. “I’ve given my wife probably the same speech every year, that this is gonna be our last year, they’re gonna find a quarterback or a coach or somebody who’s gonna come off the field,” he explained. “But somehow it lasted 30 years, and [I’m] still having fun.”