Off the gridiron, some Miami Dolphins players are calling a new play—sports broadcasting. Through a program with their local media partners— CBS Radio sports WQAM-AM Miami (560) and CBS’ WFOR-TV—dubbed the “Broadcast Blitz,” players get a glimpse at careers in radio and TV broadcasting.
During the one-day boot camp, players visited both the radio and TV studios to observe the production process and try their hand behind the microphone and in front of the camera.
The program is part of an ongoing effort by the Dolphins to expose players to potential career options for after they retire from pro football. The “Dolphins Mentoring Program” matches players with professionals, often Dolphins’ alumni themselves, in areas that interest the athletes. For the radio component of the “Broadcast Blitz,” WQAM host Joe Rose, who played six seasons with the Dolphins and now anchors “The Joe Rose Show” in morning drive, welcomed Dolphins players for a play-by-play tutorial in sports radio.
“Having an understanding of how the operation works was an eye-opener for them,” says Kaleb Thornhill, the team’s director of Player Engagement and the architect of the program. “They liked getting reps behind the camera and at the mic. They got to see how you work your way up, what the pay is and what kind of jobs there are.”
Thornhill says the program is part of a Dolphins effort to prepare players for life after football. A former football standout at Michigan State University, Thornhill recalls how some of his teammates struggled to find jobs and build careers once their football days were over. He says football can provide a springboard to a second act in life, and believes that coaches, team staff and alumni can be instrumental in facilitating successful transitions.
Among the mentorship options, Thornhill says nine players expressed interest in broadcasting and four participated in the inaugural “Broadcast Blitz,” including defensive back Walter Aikens, who already has an eye on his next career move.
“You gotta set yourself up for a future outside of football,” says Aikens. “I’ve always been around sports, so being in sports radio would be a field that I would love to enter. [I’d like] to stick around sports, continue to learn and enjoy this game.”
At WQAM, players shadowed Rose and his producers in pre-show preparations and post-show work, and took turns behind the mic, although it was off-air. Rose’s executive producer Danny Rabinowitz says the players were engaged and were impressed by the effort that goes into the on-air product.
“I was thrilled to see how much passion the guys truly had making it a great experience all the way around,” Rabinowitz said.
Moving from the playing field to the broadcast booth is a common second career for many retired athletes. Tune in to just about any sports talk radio station in the country and you’re bound to hear the voices of some of the players who you once rooted for…or against.
Thornhill says the “Broadcast Blitz” is an important first step for the players and that he wants to help the aspiring broadcasters land broadcast jobs. He envisions players going on to work for WQAM and WFOR, as well as local media in the players’ hometowns. Just like in football, Thornhill says the players will benefit from spending time in the studio, working on their delivery, listening back to their work and taking feedback from seasoned broadcasters. “If they do every year and have a seven-year career, they’ll be well ahead of anyone else,” he says. “As they build their brands and their social clout and followers, that will pay dividends.”
To gain experience, Rabinowitz says aspiring broadcasters should make themselves available to the news media for interviews and explore new digital formats, such as podcasts. “All of those things will make you more comfortable in front of a microphone or camera,” Rabinowitz says.
After the “Broadcast Blitz,” Dolphins cornerback Bobby McCain, who also participated, was eager to spend more time in the studio. “I loved it. You can really be yourself. You can come to work and just talk about things that you would talk about in a locker room, or things that you would talk about in a barber shop,” McCain says. “The vibe in sports talk and sports radio is something special.”
Cain says he would like to shadow Rose for a day or two and immerse himself in the business. “I want to know the nitty and gritty, the worst of the worst, as well as the best part of sports talk and sports radio,” he said.