Sep 5, 2013
By Alex Cate
While Vols across the NFL will making their regular-season debuts this weekend, there is one Vol that is making his NFL debut outside the white lines.
Dan Hellie, a University of Tennessee alumni and sports broadcast personality made his NFL Network start at the beginning of August after spending time as a local sports anchor and reporter in the Washington D.C. area at NBC affiliate WRC-TV.
"Obviously I'm excited about the move," said Hellie. "I was never going to leave Washington D.C. In my mind, for me in my mind, that was the best job for me. It was my hometown. I was covering all of my favorite teams that I grew up rooting for as a kid and there was never any reason to leave. I never had a burning desire to be on the national stage. I was perfectly content in being in Washington."
After graduating, Hellie traversed the country working as an anchor and reporter from Minnesota to West Palm Beach, Fla.
He never thought he'd be working for anyone like the NFL Network however. As an undergraduate at Tennessee, Hellie noted that it was a different world of sports broadcasting. An emphasis on the local anchor has been replaced by a movement towards the national outlets like ESPN and NFL Network.
"When I was a broadcasting student at UT, the NFL Network didn't even exist," he said. "I loved ESPN, I loved watching SportsCenter like any other kid in my fraternity house. You know I'd watch it five times a day - the same show. You know at that time they didn't have a morning show. They just re-aired SportsCenter in the morning."
Hellie hosts NFL Total Access, which has moved to primetime (8 p.m.) in 2013. He works alongside NFL Hall of Famers Warren Sapp and Marshall Faulk.
To him, being surrounded by stars isn't the best part though.
"I just think being associated with the NFL, I just think it's special," said Hellie. "Not everybody has a chance to do that."
But working for NFL Network isn't the only bonus of the move. Hellie wakes up to the Manhattan Beach scenery where he and his family live.
He can even see the beach from his house.
"It's a great way to wake up," said Hellie. "It's a great way to go to work. Everybody at the NFL Network has been awesome."
Hellie arrives at the NFL Network's location between 10 a.m. and 11 a.m.. After a meeting with producers and analysts to go over the day's topics, he heads back to write parts of the show. A quick trip to makeup and wardrobe happen before the show airs live at 8 p.m. eastern time.
"You know it's a different time, it's on prime time, 8 o'clock on the east coast so we're going against the very best shows in television every single night," he said. "I just want people who watch who are NFL fans to - not just to enjoy it but to think a little bit and maybe they don't agree with what we say but they can obviously understand where we're coming from."
His one goal when he took the job?
"The show is different than it used to be," said Hellie. "It's more discussion driven. We have a little more opinions than maybe we had in the past. My goal was to just make the show the best show that it can be and it's always going to evolving. We're still trying to figure out the right elements or right ingredients to make this the best show possible."