Behind the Mic: ABC, ESPN Deploy Full Armada of On-Site Talent for Next Week’s 2019 NFL Draft in Nashville

Behind the Mic provides a roundup of recent news regarding on-air talent, including new deals, departures, and assignments compiled from press releases and reports around the industry. In this week’s edition, ABC/ESPN announce who will be deployed for the 2019 NFL Draft in Nashville, Fox Sports adds two familiar U.S. Men’s Soccer faces for CONCACAF Gold Cup, NBC Sports adds Dale Earnhardt Jr. to coverage of the 103rd Indianapolis 500, a racing Hall of Famer is stepping away at the end of the 2019 season on Fox, a former Atlanta Braves relief pitcher joins Fox Sports South/Southeast’s analysis team, ESPN signs up a former Clemson offensive guard for the new ACC Network, ESPN re-ups a senior writer, a retired NFL referee joins ESPN as an officiating analyst, and Peyton Manning will have a new show on ESPN+.

The Walt Disney Company’s multi-network presentation of the 2019 NFL Draft, April 25-27 from Nashville, Tennessee, features an all-star cast of commentators and new roles for ESPN college football analyst Kirk Herbstreit and ESPN Monday Night Football analyst and two-time Super Bowl champion Booger McFarland. Herbstreit will team with host Rece Davis and their eight-time Sports Emmy Award-winning College GameDay Built by The Home Depot crew for the 2019 NFL Draft on ABC, Thursday, April 25 (8-11:30 p.m., ET) and Friday, April 26 (7-11:30 p.m., ET), live coast-to-coast on The ABC Television Network and via streaming. McFarland will make his NFL Draft debut on ESPN’s main set for Round 1 on Thursday, April 25 (8-11:30 p.m., ET).

Coverage will be more comprehensive than ever with ABC airing the event in its entirety for the first time and ESPN televising the draft for the 40th consecutive year. The NFL Draft will also air on NFL Network and be streamed via NFL digital properties.

“ABC and ESPN plans for the NFL Draft are more ambitious than ever with distinct prime-time telecasts across multiple networks featuring many of our most recognizable commentators from the NFL and college football,” said Lee Fitting, ESPN vice president of production. “From Rece Davis, Kirk Herbstreit and our College GameDay crew, joined by sports broadcasting Hall of Famer Robin Roberts and other special guests on ABC, to Trey Wingo and the team of NFL experts and insiders on ESPN, we will cover the festivities in Nashville from every angle.”

ESPN’s draft telecasts, presented for the fourth year by Courtyard, will be X’s- and O’s-focused, packed with expert insight and analysis for the most passionate of football fans. Wingo will host Round 1 for the third year, with NFL Draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr., covering his 36th draft, and NFL analysts Louis Riddick, his fifth, and McFarland. NFL Draft analyst Todd McShay, who will be covering his 11th draft; NFL Insiders Chris Mortensen and Adam Schefter and NFL host Suzy Kolber will also contribute to Thursday’s prime-time telecast. On Friday and Saturday, McShay will join Wingo, Kiper, and Riddick at the main set for Rounds 2-7.

ABC will provide differentiated coverage for Rounds 1-3 in prime time that focuses on the journey of the NFL Draft prospects, as viewers go up close and personal to understand the part their families play in their success and the hard work involved in attempting to become an NFL Draft selection. In addition, ABC broadcasts will center on the energy and excitement of the complete event, as coverage will include celebrity appearances and other nods to the host city of Nashville.

On ABC’s prime-time broadcasts, April 25 at 8 p.m. ET and April 26 at 7 p.m. ET – live from coast-to-coast, Davis and Herbstreit – who lives in Nashville and was part of ESPN’s main set in 2018 – will be joined by analysts Lee Corso, Desmond Howard, and David Pollack and reporter Tom Rinaldi. The 2019 NFL Draft on ABC will also feature Roberts, ESPN’s Jesse Palmer, and Maria Taylor and a number of special guests to be announced, including Kansas City Chiefs star quarterback and 2018 NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes. ABC will simulcast ESPN’s telecast of Rounds 4-7 on Saturday, April 27, beginning at 12 p.m. ET.

In addition, all seven rounds of the NFL Draft will also be streamed live via the ESPN App, broadcast on ESPN Radio and televised in Spanish on ESPN Deportes.

On ESPN Radio, commentators include: Dari Nowkhah, Chris Canty, Ian Fitzsimmons, and Mike Tannenbaum, the former Miami Dolphins and New York Jets front office executive.

On ESPN Deportes, commentators include: Eduardo Varela, Pablo Viruega, Miguel Pasquel, Sebastian Martinez-Christensen, Monday Night Football’s Alvaro Martin, and Raul Allegre, and special guests. Additionally, Kenneth Garay and Carlos Nava will serve as commentators for the Spanish-language radio broadcast…

…Following this week’s CONCACAF Gold Cup draw, Fox Sports unveils its broadcasters and schedule for the expanded biennial continental championship of the North, Central American, and Caribbean region. Headlined by the U.S. and Mexico men’s national teams, the tournament is shown June 15 – July 7 on Fox Sports’ family of networks.

The broadcast team is led by seasoned play-by-play announcer John Strong and former U.S. international Stu Holden, who called last year’s 2018 FIFA World Cup final. Joining Fox Sports for the tournament’s 15th edition are U.S. Men’s National Team legend Landon Donovan and U.S. Soccer Hall of Famer Bruce Arena, who make their Gold Cup studio debuts as analysts. The announcement was made today by David Neal, Executive Producer, FIFA World Cup on Fox and Vice President of Production, Fox Sports.

Joining Donovan and Arena as studio analysts on Fox Soccer Tonight are World Cup veteran Cobi Jones, former U.S. MNT and Rangers FC midfielder Maurice Edu and Emmy Award-winning broadcaster Fernando Fiore. Accomplished journalist Kate Abdo hosts the nightly Gold Cup and FIFA Women’s World Cup wrap-up show from the Fox studios in Los Angeles.

Bringing extensive on-and-off the field experience to Fox Sports’ 31-match schedule are former Mexican international Mariano Trujillo, former England defender Warren Barton, multisport broadcaster Mark Followill, and television veteran Jorge Perez Navarro. Rodolfo Landeros reports from the U.S. and Mexican National teams, while longtime FIFA and CONCACAF match commissioner Dr. Joe Machnik lends his insights and expertise as rules analyst…

Dale Earnhardt Jr., one of racing’s most popular personalities and an NBC Sports motorsports analyst, will attend his first Indianapolis 500 on Sunday, May 26, as a member of NBC Sports’ broadcast team when the 103rd iteration of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing airs on NBC for the first time.

This marks the latest in a series of major announcements for NBC Sports’ first-ever presentation of the Indy 500. Earlier this year, NBC Sports announced that Mike Tirico will host its coverage, and former INDYCAR and NASCAR driver Danica Patrick will serve as an analyst alongside Tirico. In addition to Earnhardt Jr., NBC Sports motorsports host Krista Voda and reporter Rutledge Wood will contribute to the network’s Indy 500 presentation.

Earnhardt Jr. made 17 career appearances and registered five Top 10 finishes in NASCAR’s Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He will serve as a roving reporter on race day, exploring the expansive scene that includes hundreds of thousands of spectators at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and contributing to NBC Sports’ pre-race, in-race, and post-race coverage alongside Wood. Earnhardt Jr. will also be featured on NBCSN’s Indy 500 coverage originating from Indianapolis Motor Speedway during race week.

Earnhardt Jr. amassed 26 NASCAR victories during his storied career, including two Daytona 500 wins, and joined NBC Sports’ NASCAR broadcast team following his retirement from full-time racing in 2017.

On the call, Leigh Diffey (play-by-play), Townsend Bell (analyst), and Paul Tracy (analyst) will facilitate NBC Sports’ inaugural Indianapolis 500 broadcast on NBC, which will feature a total of 14 commentators, the most-ever for NBC Sports’ coverage of INDYCAR. Bell and Tracy have combined to make 19 career Indy 500 starts. Tracy was the runner-up in the 2002 Indy 500, while Bell registered a career-best fourth-place Indy 500 finish in 2009. Diffey, who will call his first Indy 500 this May for NBC, has called many of motorsports’ most prestigious events, including the F1 Monaco Grand Prix, the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

Marty Snider, Kelli Stavast, Kevin Lee, and Jon Beekhuis will serve as pit reporters for NBC Sports’ Indianapolis 500 coverage, along with INDYCAR Insider Robin Miller and reporter Dillon Welch

…It will be one to go at the line for NASCAR Hall of Fame driver and Fox NASCAR analyst Darrell Waltrip when he hits the air from Sonoma Raceway in June.

The three-time champion, a member of the original Fox NASCAR broadcast team that debuted at Daytona in February 2001, will retire from his Fox Sports duties at the conclusion of the network’s 2019 season. Waltrip’s final race calling Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series action will be at Sonoma Raceway on Sunday, June 23 (3:00 PM ET on FS1).

Waltrip steps away from the Fox Sports broadcast booth at the conclusion of the 2019 season after more than 330 races and 1,500 practice and qualifying sessions with the network.

…Fox Sports South and Fox Sports Southeast announced that former Atlanta Braves relief pitcher and 13-year MLB veteran Peter Moylan will join Braves LIVE, the networks’ flagship pre and postgame show, for Braves telecasts.

Moylan joins an accomplished roster of broadcasters covering the Braves for the networks. The roster includes Emmy Award winner Chip Caray; former Braves outfielder and Gold Glove winner Jeff Francoeur; former Braves All-Star, Cy Young winner, and National Baseball Hall of Famer Tom Glavine; 2018 Braves Hall of Famer Joe Simpson; former All-Star Paul Byrd; host and reporter Kelsey Wingert; Emmy Award winner Jerome Jurenovich; former Braves outfielder and All-Star Brian Jordan; former Braves infielder Nick Green; and digital correspondent Ashley ShahAhmadi

…Clemson Tigers fans will see former offensive guard, team captain, and first-team All-ACC selection Eric Mac Lain on ACC Network (ACCN) Fridays and Saturdays in the fall. He will contribute to studio coverage with analysis of the conference’s season-long football action. ACCN is the new, 24/7 national platform that will launch on August 22, 2019. One week later, Clemson will kick off ACCN’s football slate on August 29 when it hosts Georgia Tech in the season-opening game for both teams.

Mac Lain played at Clemson 2011-15, where the Tigers captured two conference championships and made a national championship appearance. He obtained the most wins (46) by a single player in Clemson history, while earning Strength and Conditioning All America honors. As a student, Mac Lain was an All-ACC Academic Football Team selection and was graduated with a bachelor’s in health science (2015) and a master’s in athletic leadership and administration (2017). He will be joining ACCN from JMI Sports where he has worked on multimedia sponsorship rights for Clemson athletics…

…ESPN has signed senior writer Bill Barnwell to a new multi-year extension. A leading voice in the company’s NFL coverage, Barnwell will continue to write his popular column for ESPN.com and host his ESPN Audio podcast, The Bill Barnwell Show, while continuing to contribute to ESPN Radio, television and digital platforms.

Barnwell’s unique brand of football writing for ESPN.com and ESPN The Magazine combines quantitative and qualitative analysis to dig deeper into how teams win games and how players impact them. He recently wrote three significant stories in the span of a week – features on the Antonio Brown and Odell Beckham trades and an NFL free-agency grades piece, which generated significant traffic for ESPN.com.

Barnwell will expand his role in ESPN’s growing collection of digital shows and be a guest on SportsCenter, Daily Wager and more. While continuing to focus on the NFL, Barnwell will also continue to venture into other realms on occasions, including soccer, baseball, basketball and hockey analysis…

…National Football League official John Parry, who served as head referee for Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta in February, has joined ESPN as an Officiating Analyst. He will contribute to weekly Monday Night Football telecasts from the booth and offer analysis on ESPN’s NFL studio shows, SportsCenter and more.

An NFL official for 19 seasons – including the past 12 years as a referee, Parry worked three Super Bowls: SB LIII (head referee), SB XLVI (referee), and SB XLI (side judge). His 13 other postseason assignments include two Wild Card playoff games, seven Divisional Playoff games, and one Conference Championship. In 2019, Parry worked the Cowboys-Rams NFC Divisional Playoff game in addition to the Super Bowl. Prior to enjoying a successful career on the field, Parry served as a replay official for the NFL in 1999.

Parry has been a full-time game official following retirements as both a corporate pilot and financial advisor…

Peyton’s Places, a 30-episode documentary series hosted by legendary quarterback Peyton Manning, is coming to ESPN+. Manning will host the football-themed series, revisiting seminal moments in NFL history through conversations with former players, coaches, and other key figures about football history and its cultural impact. The series will be part of the celebration of the National Football League’s 100th season.

Produced by NFL Films in collaboration with ESPN+, Peyton’s Places will debut in July exclusively on the leading direct-to consumer sports streaming service. The series will be presented in five chapters – each consisting of six episodes. ESPN or ABC will air special compilations, recapping each part after the full episodes debut on ESPN+. Part 1 will be available on ESPN+ on Monday, July 15, while Parts 2–5 will debut in subsequent months through January 2020.

Peyton’s Places offers a fun, insightful tour through 100 years of football, following the sport and the league’s rise to an American cultural touchstone. For nearly a year, Peyton has crisscrossed the country, visiting the people and places that have played an important part in the making of the NFL – highlighting memorable events, teams, players and trends over the past century. Peyton and a team of NFL Films senior producers chose the people, places, and stories in the series.