The football season is now in full swing, and for two ex-football players - Charles Davis and Mike Mayock - it's been a long climb from the gridiron to the broadcast booth.
While ex-Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo went straight from the NFL to CBS, Fox's Davis, 52, put in years covering the Southeastern Conference. NFL Network's Mayock, 58, entered the booth after a career in commercial real estate - and is now leading the network's draft coverage and calling Sunday-night games for Westwood One Radio.
Both men say the path for ex-players to snare a significant spot as an NFL analyst is more difficult if their careers are less noteworthy than someone like Romo. "Every chance there was to take a rep, I took a rep," says Davis. "[Any frustration] was more self-inflicted than anything else. I've always wanted to prove myself ... but these [ex-NFL stars] all have things where they don't have to say a word, and their resume is evident. I can't go in and be like, 'Well, I played at the University of Tennessee.' No one wants to hear that."
'[Any frustration] was more self-inflicted than anything else. I've always wanted to prove myself.'- Charles Davis
Mayock, for instance, spent three injury-riddled seasons in the CFL and the NFL (the final two with the Giants) and desperately wanted to break into broadcasting. But there were no jobs waiting for him.
Well, almost no jobs.
"If you're not a Hall of Fame player or a Pro Bowl player it's very difficult," Mayock says. "I did high school games on the radio for free in Philadelphia for two years. I sent a bunch of audio tapes to anyone in the country who was doing college football games." New Jersey Network was the only one to respond, offering Mayock a gig as a sideline reporter. "I interviewed mascots and parents and girlfriends and everything was live - and in hindsight [it] was a great way to break in," he says. "I had to do a lot of stuff I didn't want to do. All I wanted to do was talk football, and here I was, a sideline reporter.
"If you don't have a 'name' they kind of shuttle you aside and say you can't be an analyst."
While Davis now teams with Kevin Burkhardt and Pam Oliver as one of Fox's top broadcast teams, it took him 30 years to get there after his NFL career ended after one training camp with the Cowboys.
"I do have the distinction of having [legendary Cowboys head coach] Tom Landry himself say I wasn't a pro football player," says Davis, who played college football at Tennessee. After being cut, Davis spent years working as a football assistant at Pacific, an assistant AD at Stanford and running Disney World's Wide World of Sports and directing its PGA tournament. Then he got a call from Fox Sports South's Steve Craddock to do a couple of college football games. Davis was "addicted," and to work his way up he did everything from Pop Warner football to college volleyball to Little League baseball to get experience as an announcer.
'If somebody would have told me 15 years ago I would be making my living through the NFL Draft I would have laughed at them.'- Mike Mayock
Mayock, who speaks often with Davis about their similar paths to the top of the business, says he was told directly - first by CBS and then by the NFL Network - that he was not getting jobs because of a lack of name recognition. He thought he was going to football purgatory when the NFL Network's Howard Katz asked him to head up the network's draft coverage.
"That was the biggest break I got, even though I fought against it," Mayock says. "If somebody would have told me 15 years ago I would be making my living through the NFL Draft I would have laughed at them."
Meanwhile, ex-Giants lineman Geoff Schwartz says he'll tackle any job that can advance his announcing career.
"A lot of the media things I have been doing ... I hate the term 'grinding,' but that's what it is," says Schwartz, who's in his first year out of the NFL. "Especially a guy in my position, who wasn't a quarterback or Hall of Famer, everything I had to do with media (Sirius, ESPN Radio, Fox Sports Radio, SB Nation, TV in Charlotte) ... it's really just about finding work, pestering people to get a job and when you get that chance do well on it. I don't turn down anything. I'll do any interview at any time."