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Ryan Harris Committed To His Craft & His Goal

“I really do not have an expectation on the outcome. I will tell you though that everywhere I go I will be the best prepared.”

Brian Noe

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Is Ryan Harris a dumb ex-jock? Absolutely not. Is Ryan Harris a busy man that’s balancing a successful career? As Jules in Pulp Fiction once said — correctamundo. Harris has some serious brain power, which helps explain his busy schedule. He is a color analyst for Notre Dame football broadcasts and a midday host in Denver on Altitude Sports Radio 92.5. He does some postgame work for CBS and has been a sideline reporter two Monday Night Football games this year. Oh, I almost forgot to mention that he does speaking engagements, emcees events, and has a best-selling book out as well.

Silly me.

Just a few other minor details to mention — Harris is a Notre Dame graduate, NFL veteran of 10 years, and a Super Bowl 50 champion. I’m on pace to get carpal tunnel listing off all of this stuff.

You might think someone with this much success could be difficult to get along with due to a massive ego. That simply isn’t the case with Harris. He’s a very nice guy that is more interested in improving instead of reminding people how accomplished he already is.

I love how Harris can go from insightful thoughts like surrendering the outcome, and quickly transition to a stance on f-bombs and keeping football fun. It’s so important to be versatile in life to better connect with a vast range of people. Shocker alert — this is another skill that the former offensive tackle possesses. I truly had a good time chatting with him. I’m confident you will have a good time reading this as well. Enjoy. And Go Irish!

Brian Noe: What has been the most valuable thing you’ve applied from playing sports to broadcasting about sports?

Ryan Harris: That’s a great question. I would say the ability to study. Even players in the NFL, it’s so hard to study and to know what to study. For me to be able to continue to study with my experience, that’s something that really has helped me in broadcasting because you never know what you’re going to use and when you’re going to use it. For me it’s fun to continue my pursuit of knowledge through learning the stories of the many players, coaches, and teams that I’ve covered.

BN: Who did you learn the most from in your playing career that you can apply to broadcasting now?

RH: I had some great coaches, man — Gary Kubiak, Mike Tomlin. Gary Kubiak was so thorough and so honest with his players. Same thing with Mike Tomlin. Mike Tomlin starts his meetings every morning with the Pittsburgh Steelers the same way. The first rule of getting better is showing up. Second rule — listening is a skill. It’s your job to learn how you listen and our job as coaches to give you information that matters.

Learning from those two coaches, my preparedness is on me. I can’t be upset in a game with a coach if I see a blitz that we covered on 3rd & 7 and I don’t pick it up. Well, they covered it. That’s something that I have to take pride in beforehand. Learning from Gary Kubiak and Mike Tomlin helped me in that respect. In the career, no question Aaron Taylor has been a huge mentor for me as well as Gerry Matalon and Howard Deneroff. Just listening to people when I actually get the chance to be around them and reading about some of the broadcasters that I think are great. Reading about Collinsworth and how he approaches a broadcast, how he prepares and studies film. Those things have been really helpful. 

BN: What was your welcome-to-the-NFL moment where you realized you were on a different stage?

RH: My rookie year I was walking from the locker room in the Broncos facility to the training room. I was walking through and John Lynch — somebody I had looked up to for a long time — said hey, Ryan. He just kind of walked past me. I was like oh my God. That is John Lynch and he knows my name. 

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Playing against Tamba Hali was the first time I played a chess player. Tamba Hali, DeMarcus Ware, Khalil Mack, Von Miller, all those guys are chess players. They’re going to do their due diligence on you and they’ll know within two to four snaps whether you’ve been studying film on them. If you’re trying something different, those kind of guys will wait the whole game to pull out their best pass-rush move.

Tamba Hali stood up and just clubbed me with an inside club move one time. Right as I was falling to the ground, I was like oh, he was watching film on me and waiting for me to do that. Then I hit the ground. That was like a whoa, these guys are different than in college. You realize as soon as you’re on the ground that it’s not about getting hit to the ground. That’s going to happen to everybody. But the fact is were you there to get knocked over? I’ve been ran over and sat on a couple times. It doesn’t feel good. But the look on your opponent’s face when you get up from getting knocked down is priceless. That’s the moment that I love anytime I got knocked down and anytime I will get knocked down in the future.

BN: What was your welcome-to-broadcasting moment when you realized you were on a stage that you weren’t accustomed to?

RH: (Laughs) Yeah, it was an adjustment to be near football and around football and not be able to swear. Learning how to comment on a play, or an execution, or a tackle, that was hard to not use some of the language that I grew up using in football.

BN: That’s funny, man. Did you do a decent amount of cussing on the football field?

RH: Yeah, it’s just a different culture on the field of play, especially in the NFL. One time I remember my first year playing against Joey Porter. He went after a receiver on our team and said “I’ll skin your tattoos off you in front of your children.” I was like whoa, what’s happening here? It’s just a different environment.

Even in college to grow up around great and tough coaching, to then be broadcasting and remembering that this may be a parent, or father, or friends in a car with kids. Being so close to the game and having to kind of censor myself was definitely like I’m in broadcasting now. This is a different thing.

BN: If there was a game or a show that you could cuss on, what’s something you might say?

RH: A lot of “what the f***”, or “what the f*** was that?”. Colorful language — the f-word is prominent in football. One of the things I learned outside of football is that swearing really puts people on edge. It can really affect people whereas in the NFL that’s part of the language, especially on the field.

I learned that lesson and I’m so grateful that I know what it’s like on the field. I know what that sounds like. I know what it’s like to be challenged man to man physically as well as mentally and emotionally. I know how to battle through that and that’s a large part of the reason why I wrote my book to encourage others to choose their mindset and overcome their obstacles.

BN: How would you summarize your book Mindset for Mastery?

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RH: Winning the Super Bowl, everything you believe about yourself comes true for other people. I want people to have that moment in their life. The moment we won the Super Bowl and the clock struck zero, I wasn’t complaining about sacrificing Saturday mornings after high school graduation to go train. I wasn’t complaining about the yoga classes and the strength training and learning how to breathe again with MMA fighters to be a part of the hurry-up offense that we ran with Peyton. All your sacrifice is worth it.

When you choose your mindset, you will overcome not only obstacles, but people who may be obstacles in your life, people who may not be encouraging. There are 1,600 players in the NFL this year. Only 53 will call themselves champions and it will be because they’ve committed not only to the craft and the individual details, but to their teammates and to their goal. When you do that, it’s an amazing feeling. There aren’t enough voices to encourage us to go after those dreams in those moments. So many times we fail and we think that’s it, or so many times we want to do something knowing that it’s going to pan out. We don’t get to know those answers, but you do get to choose your mindset each and every day.

BN: What are the biggest hurdles you’ve had to clear in your career?  

RH: The first game I started was a Monday night in Oakland. I remember waking up that morning thinking run, give back the money. You’re going to embarrass yourself. You’re going to give up six sacks on Jay Cutler on Monday Night Football. Everyone’s going to know you’re a fraud. So I had to battle tremendous self-doubt. I really had to learn how to perform with my fear. Recognize my fear, recognize that certain thoughts aren’t real, and also learn how to recognize distractions.

BN: Do you think you have to experience some level of success to have true confidence and get rid of self-doubt?

RH: Absolutely not. You do not need any past experience of success to succeed. You do need a willingness to try new things, a willingness to learn, and a willingness to work. There are over 200 diamonds in my Super Bowl 50 ring. None of them were laying on the ground ready to be picked up. You’ve got to dig for your diamonds. Past success or past failure does not matter when you’ve made up your mind that you’re going to accomplish something and you’re willing to do what is necessary to overcome and work through.

BN: Have you ever had experiences with teammates — broadcasting or football — that didn’t have a positive mindset and didn’t accomplish what they were capable of?

RH: Oh, all the time. All the time. That was a big adjustment for me in my early years in the NFL. Sometimes on teams I was on, guys didn’t care about winning. They cared about getting their numbers, getting their contract, and making it look good enough for them to be back next year.

One of the things I learned playing with Peyton is, Peyton Manning prepares and it looks extremely different than anyone else. He doesn’t care. He doesn’t care what it looks like. He doesn’t care what problems people have with the way he prepares. That was a great lesson for me. Champions look different. We sound different. Because of that, you’re going to be different. Until I was around some champions, I really didn’t notice that.

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Even in the NFL, not everybody wants be a champion. You really have got to work hard to believe in yourself and your mission because you’ll be around a lot of people in the NFL with a lot of money that may not want to be successful.

BN: What’s your proudest achievement as a football player?

RH: Oh, man. Going to my teammate Lonie Paxton’s charity event because that’s where I met my wife. (Laughs) Outside of that, the night before the Super Bowl I told myself I am a champion. I can go out tomorrow and play my tail off. I will. I envisioned raising the trophy. For some reason when I sat there, closed my eyes and visualized it, I could only see the trophy from the bottom up. Well, fast forward 24 hours later and here’s Peyton Manning handing me the Lombardi Trophy from the stage. I’m touching the Lombardi Trophy for the first time out of Peyton Manning’s hands from the bottom up. After my moment with it, I got to hand it to DeMarcus Ware. That was a moment that I will remember forever.

BN: What would you say is your proudest moment as a broadcaster? 

RH: Just doing the Notre Dame games. I really love doing the Notre Dame football broadcasts. I did sidelines for the Monday night Seattle-Minnesota game. Seeing my coaches who were with me in Denver who are now with the Vikings, just giving them big hugs and laughing and joking and poking fun at them and just being on the field at CenturyLink in Seattle — knowing that I’m on the same broadcast with Kevin Harlan and Kurt Warner — that I got to see old buddies of mine. That was a moment as well.

BN: With your religious background being a devout Muslim, have you encountered any backlash as a player or broadcaster from people that don’t understand or disagree with your beliefs?

RH: Never. That’s the thing that gives me great hope. I never had teammates treat me differently or negatively because I was a Muslim. If anything I had great conversations with teammates. Because I’m Muslim it has taught me that no matter what our religion is or where we come from, when we put our minds together to allow our differences to exist and not divide that we can accomplish some great things.

When we won the Super Bowl we had Christians, Muslims, non-believers, and it really doesn’t matter. But also I recognize that I’m rare. A lot of people don’t leave where they’re from. A lot of people don’t place themselves in uncomfortable situations to become great. But I had a lot of fun with my teammates talking about Islam and learning about their situations. I always told teammates to ask me anything. There are no stupid questions because I’d rather have them ask than not know. I had teammates ask me where do Muslims shop? I’m like “well, have you been to the mall?”. I’ve had people ask what do Muslims laugh at? I’m like “well, have you seen the new Kevin Hart movie?”. You know? 65 percent of Americans do not know a Muslim and I recognize that.

BN: What would you most like to experience or accomplish personally and professionally?

RH: I want to see my children get married. I want to dance with my daughter at her wedding. I want to see my sons get married. I want to vacation, buy a retirement condo or something in Florida with my wife. Professionally, I’d love to call a Notre Dame football National Championship Game. I’d love to call the Super Bowl someday. Professionally, there are a lot of options.

One of the things that has really helped me and brought me great peace, not just as a broadcaster but as a player, is that I surrender the outcome. I really do not have an expectation on the outcome. I will tell you though that everywhere I go I will be the best prepared. I will bring seriousness and professionalism to every job that I go to and I will also bring fun. Fun is what helped us win a championship. Football is fun. As long as I’m broadcasting, I will make sure that the fun gets through the broadcast as well.

BN: That’s really interesting — surrender the outcome. I’ll never forget, Steve Fisher was the coach of the Fab Five at Michigan, and he described their Final Four failures like a feather that was floating through the air. He said Michigan was trying so hard to grab the feather that it caused it to fly away instead of letting it fall into their hand. A mindset where you prepare and battle to do a great job, but don’t worry about the result, how important is that to being successful?

RH: Huge. I wrote a book on that mindset. Because here’s the thing that people don’t tell you, you’re going to need the process that is going to help you succeed after you succeed. You know what nobody talked to us about? How to handle ourselves after you win a Super Bowl. I was talking to a coach of mine and I was like it was awesome. He’s like yeah and a lot of people have one championship. Why not go for two? It was just a moment of like yeah there is this whole other side of it.

When you focus on the process, that’s how when I left football, okay I’m going to become a broadcaster. Well, what’s my process of being great? I study. I prepare. I practice out loud. These are all things I did when I was a player. That process will be key because whatever your goal, you will accomplish it. Brian, you’ve accomplished your first goal. If you didn’t have work ethic instilled in you and a mindset that created that process, you’d be stuck.

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If I just wanted to win the Super Bowl, how would I be as a father, as a husband, as a friend, as a broadcaster? I would be unprepared. When you win the Super Bowl, you learn it’s not about winning the Super Bowl. It’s about every week you had laughs on the bus and practices and games. It’s about the whole thing. When you focus on the outcome, you often miss the details that are the most enjoyable.

BSM Writers

Being Wrong On-Air Isn’t A Bad Thing

…if you feel yourself getting uncomfortable over the fact that you were wrong, stop to realize that’s your pride talking. Your ego. And if people call you out for being wrong, it’s actually a good sign.

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WRONG BAD

In the press conference after the Warriors won their fourth NBA title in eight years, Steph Curry referenced a very specific gesture from a very specific episode of Get Up that aired in August 2021.

“Clearly remember some experts and talking heads putting up the big zero,” Curry said, then holding up a hollowed fist to one eye, looking through it as if it were a telescope.

“How many championships we would have going forward because of everything we went through.”

Yep, Kendrick Perkins and Domonique Foxworth each predicted the Warriors wouldn’t win a single title over the course of the four-year extension Curry had just signed. The Warriors won the NBA title and guess what? Curry gets to gloat.

The funny part to me was the people who felt Perkins or Foxworth should be mad or embarrassed. Why? Because they were wrong?

That’s part of the game. If you’re a host or analyst who is never wrong in a prediction, it’s more likely that you’re excruciatingly boring than exceedingly smart. Being wrong is not necessarily fun, but it’s not a bad thing in this business.

You shouldn’t try to be wrong, but you shouldn’t be afraid of it, either. And if you are wrong, own it. Hold your L as I’ve heard the kids say. Don’t try to minimize it or explain it or try to point out how many other people are wrong, too. Do what Kendrick Perkins did on Get Up the day after the Warriors won the title.

“When they go on to win it, guess what?” He said, sitting next to Mike Greenberg. “You have to eat that.”

Do not do what Perkins did later that morning on First Take.

Perkins: “I come on here and it’s cool, right? Y’all can pull up Perk receipts and things to that nature. And then you give other people a pass like J-Will.”

Jason Williams: “I don’t get passes on this show.”

Perkins: “You had to, you had a receipt, too, because me and you both picked the Memphis Grizzlies to beat the Golden State Warriors, but I’m OK with that. I’m OK with that. Go ahead Stephen A. I know you’re about to have fun and do your thing. Go ahead.”

Stephen A. Smith: “First of all, I’m going to get serious for a second with the both of you, especially you, Perk, and I want to tell you something right now. Let me throw myself on Front Street, we can sit up there and make fun of me. You know how many damn Finals predictions I got wrong? I don’t give a damn. I mean, I got a whole bunch of them wrong. Ain’t no reason to come on the air and defend yourself. Perk, listen man. You were wrong. And we making fun, and Steph Curry making fun of you. You laugh at that my brother. He got you today. That’s all. He got you today.”

It’s absolutely great advice, and if you feel yourself getting uncomfortable over the fact that you were wrong, stop to realize that’s your pride talking. Your ego. And if people call you out for being wrong, it’s actually a good sign. It means they’re not just listening, but holding on to what you say. You matter. Don’t ruin that by getting defensive and testy.

WORTH EVERY PENNY

I did a double-take when I saw Chris Russo’s list of the greatest QB-TE combinations ever on Wednesday and this was before I ever got to Tom Brady-to-Rob Gronkowski listed at No. 5. It was actually No. 4 that stopped me cold: Starr-Kramer.

My first thought: Jerry Kramer didn’t play tight end.

My second thought: I must be unaware of this really good tight end from the Lombardi-era Packers.

After further review, I don’t think that’s necessarily true, either. Ron Kramer did play for the Lombardi-era Packers, and he was a good player. He caught 14 scoring passes in a three-year stretch where he really mattered, but he failed to catch a single touchdown pass in six of the 10 NFL seasons he played. He was named first-team All-Pro once and finished his career with 229 receptions.

Now this is not the only reason that this is an absolutely terrible list. It is the most egregious, however. Bart Starr and Kramer are not among the 25 top QB-TE combinations in NFL history let alone the top five. And if you’re to believe Russo’s list, eighty percent of the top tandems played in the NFL in the 30-year window from 1958 to 1987 with only one tandem from the past 30 years meriting inclusion when this is the era in which tight end production has steadily climbed.

Then I found out that Russo is making $10,000 per appearance on “First Take.”

My first thought: You don’t have to pay that much to get a 60-something white guy to grossly exaggerate how great stuff used to be.

My second thought: That might be the best $10,000 ESPN has ever spent.

Once a week, Russo comes on and draws a reaction out of a younger demographic by playing a good-natured version of Dana Carvey’s Grumpy Old Man. Russo groans to JJ Redick about the lack of fundamental basketball skills in today’s game or he proclaims the majesty of a tight end-quarterback pairing that was among the top five in its decade, but doesn’t sniff the top five of all-time.

And guess what? It works. Redick rolls his eyes, asks Russo which game he’s watching, and on Wednesday he got me to spend a good 25 minutes looking up statistics for some Packers tight end I’d never heard of. Not satisfied with that, I then moved on to determine Russo’s biggest omission from the list, which I’ve concluded is Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates, who connected for 89 touchdowns over 15 seasons, which is only 73 more touchdowns than Kramer scored in his career. John Elway and Shannon Sharpe should be on there, too.

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BSM Writers

Money Isn’t The Key Reason Why Sellers Sell Sports Radio

I started selling sports radio because I enjoyed working with clients who loved sports, our station, and wanted to reach fans with our commercials and promotions.

Jeff Caves

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Radio Sales

A radio salesperson’s value being purely tied to money is overrated to me. Our managers all believe that our main motivation for selling radio is to make more money. They see no problem in asking us to sell more in various ways because it increases our paycheck. We are offered more money to sell digital, NTR, to sell another station in the cluster, weekend remotes, new direct business, or via the phone in 8 hours. 

But is that why you sell sports radio?

In 2022, the Top 10 highest paying sales jobs are all in technology. Not a media company among them. You could argue that if it were all about making money, we should quit and work in tech. Famous bank robber Willie Sutton was asked why he robbed twenty banks over twenty years. He reportedly said,” that’s where the money is”. Sutton is the classic example of a person who wanted what money could provide and was willing to do whatever it took to get it, BUT he also admitted he liked robbing banks and felt alive. So, Sutton didn’t do it just for the money.

A salesperson’s relationship with money and prestige is also at the center of the play Death of a Salesman. Willy Loman is an aging and failing salesman who decides he is worth more dead than alive and kills himself in an auto accident giving his family the death benefit from his life insurance policy. Loman wasn’t working for the money. He wanted the prestige of what money could buy for himself and his family. 

Recently, I met a woman who spent twelve years selling radio from 1999-2011. I asked her why she left her senior sales job. She said she didn’t like the changes in the industry. Consolidation was at its peak, and most salespeople were asked to do more with less help. She described her radio sales job as one with “golden handcuffs”. The station paid her too much money to quit even though she hated the job. She finally quit. The job wasn’t worth the money to her.

I started selling sports radio because I enjoyed working with clients who loved sports, our station, and wanted to reach fans with our commercials and promotions. I never wanted to sell anything else and specifically enjoyed selling programming centered around reaching fans of Boise State University football. That’s it. Very similar to what Mark Glynn and his KJR staff experience when selling Kraken hockey and Huskies football.  

I never thought selling sports radio was the best way to make money. I just enjoyed the way I could make money. I focused on the process and what I enjoyed about the position—the freedom to come and go and set my schedule for the most part. I concentrated on annual contracts and clients who wanted to run radio commercials over the air to get more traffic and build their brand.

Most of my clients were local direct and listened to the station. Some other sales initiatives had steep learning curves, were one-day events or contracted out shaky support staff. In other words, the money didn’t motivate me enough. How I spent my time was more important. 

So, if you are in management, maybe consider why your sales staff is working at the station. Because to me, they’d be robbing banks if it were all about making lots of money.  

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BSM Writers

Media Noise: BSM Podcast Network Round Table

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Demetri Ravanos welcomes the two newest members of the BSM Podcast Network to the show. Brady Farkas and Stephen Strom join for a roundtable discussion that includes the new media, Sage Steele and Roger Goodell telling Congress that Dave Portnoy isn’t banned from NFL events.

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