ESPN's football femme puts on her 'game face' for the gridiron
As a 10-year-old in 1974, Suzy Kolber had no fear taking the boys head-on when she made the youth football team in her hometown of Upper Dublin, Pa. (pop. 25,878).
Little has changed. These days Kolber continues to make her mark in a man's world as a sidelines' reporter for ESPN's Monday Night Football.
"I was always on a team, always involved in sports–so comfortable in the environment and so comfortable with the guys," says Kolber, 44, who grew up with a poster of Miami Dolphins Hall of Famer Bob Griese in her room. "I never ever in my entire career felt out of place."
Her face has become a familiar part of the NFL reporting scene since 1993, when she first joined ESPN. Co-anchoring the popular SportsCenter and covering a spectrum of events, including Triple Crown horse racing, NASCAR, the X Games, and tennis French Open and Wimbledon championships, brought Kolber plenty of TV exposure. But nothing compared to the notoriety that followed her infamous 2003 interview with inebriated New York Jets Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Namath, who woozily confessed to a nationwide audience how much he wanted to kiss Suzy.
"At the moment, it didn't strike me as something that would stand out, not even a little bit," Kolber remembers. "It was just one of those goofy moments."
Monday Night Football producer Jay Rothman, 46, who has worked with Kolber since 2001, says it's a shame that the Namath incident is what many people remember most about her. "While the incident turned Joe's life around (Namath went into rehab following the interview), it did a complete injustice to who she is, how she works, and what she stands for. For all the years, for all her hard work, to be tagged with that is kind of a tragedy."
The upbeat Kolber, of course, moved on. Two years later, she was assigned to cover the Super Bowl from the sidelines. "I was on the field for Super Bowl XL, which is like the pinnacle of a career," she says of the NFL title game that closed out the 2005 season. "And though I won't be on the sidelines this year, I'll be there all week as part of ESPN's coverage." Super Bowl XLIII airs live Feb. 1 from Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla., at 6 p.m. EST on NBC.
For Kolber, the magnitude of the Super Bowl stage is a thrill without comparison. "I promised myself that I was going to really enjoy the experience and take it all in," she says of working Super Bowl XL in Detroit. "Every minute of it–all the pregame, the musical stuff, everything." With her passion for the game, Kolber always makes sure her ducks are in a row come kickoff time. "They call me Game Face, because, like a player, I'm really focused and intense," she says. "We're ready with absolutely everything."
These days, Kolber juggles her eventful career with the duties of a new mom. "The toughest thing is being away from her for three days on a weekend," she says of 11-month-old daughter Kellyn.
The new addition has taken multitasking to a whole new level for Kolber, who lives in New England. "She's awesome, and I've never been happier in my life."
As she prepares to cover footballs biggest game of the year, she reflects on how the dreams of one little football-loving girl came true, in ways far beyond her childhood expectations. "How many people," she asks with a big smile, "get to experience that?!"