ESPN’s hit new college football sideline reporter Jenn Brown connects with Journey’s hit single, “Don’t Stop Believing,” but it’s not the iconic lyrics like “She’s a small town girl” or “Don’t stop believing” that Brown identifies with the most.
It’s the feel good instrumentals and the overall positive state of mind the song puts her in that makes it her favorite song—the song that’s her ring tone and a part of her sports broadcasting resume reel.
“Tell me it doesn’t put a smile on your face when it starts playing?” Brown rhetorically stated.
Brown’s phone doesn’t have to ring to put a smile on the faces of ESPN executives. Rather Brown’s work during her two-year journey at ESPN should do the trick.
And according to Brown, she will be keeping her superiors at ESPN happy for awhile.
“I’m working for the World Wide Leader in sports,” Brown said. “There’s really no place if I wanted to branch off in my opinion is better than where I am now.”
After hosting travel shows and working in the entertainment business, it didn’t take long for the former seven-sport high school star to realize her calling was as a sportscaster.
Brown grew up playing sports and continued her career at the University of Florida playing softball for the Gators. There, she anticipated staying engulfed in the sports world by becoming an agent, but those plans changed quickly.
“I fell into television,” Brown said. “It started with the travel show I did. It wasn’t about sports, but any country we went to, I would try to do an extreme sport.”
After working on various projects and shows in travel, entertainment, and sports television from 2005 to 2008, she hosted ESPN’s Road Trip which combined travel and sports into one.
Throw in her work on College GameDay and Brown’s face became a familiar site on the network. However, it wasn’t until the SEC Championship Game last year that it hit her—she had made it.
“I was standing on set with Desmond Howard talking about Heisman candidates in front of thousands of screaming fans,” Brown explained. “I thought ‘I could get used this.’”
While she’s a staple on College GameDay and on the sidelines, Brown yearns for a little bit more. Doing feature stories on GameDay has her hooked on telling people’s tales.
“What I’d like to do is tell more stories about people, kids, or athletes overcoming adversity so people can be inspired,” Brown said.
“That’s what sports do. They inspire.”
Brown finds her inspiration as a reporter right at ESPN. No, it’s not the obvious choice, Erin Andrews, but rather Tom Rinaldi.
“Tom Rinaldi is such a phenomenal reporter in terms of the questions he asks and the storytelling he does. I study his craft because he is one of the best people at ESPN that does that. He’s someone that I model myself after.”
Rinaldi’s long-form work appears all over ESPN including E:60, the network’s featured magazine-style show, and that’s eventually where Brown wants to go with her career.
“I love investigative journalism which would be a role that would fit well with my criminology major.”
That career path would certainly set her apart from the sideline reporter she’s frequently compared to, Erin Andrews.
“I don’t think it is necessary to compare the two of us. I understand we both went to Florida and we do similar roles, but so do a lot of reporters that ESPN has hired.”
Those comments don’t mean that Brown doesn’t admire or look up to Andrews, who has perhaps become the most well-known reporter in sports and a celebrity as well. Brown, who is headed down a similar path, doesn’t look at herself as a celebrity. She considers herself to be just another ESPN employee who’s dedicated her life to the company.
“We’ve all been hired for our knowledge and our experience. I don’t let [the celebrity] get to my head. At the end of the day, I’m here to talk about sports. I don’t think I’ve let it change who I am. I’m still the same old Jenn.”
While Brown reiterated her focus is as a reporter, it’s hard to ignore the opportunities created by being a burgeoning celebrity. Icehouse, a beer that’s part of the Miller Brewing Company, tried to sign Brown as a spokeswoman.
ESPN reportedly nixed the deal possibly because common sense dictates it’s not a smart idea for a college sports reporter to represent an alcoholic beverage. ESPN allows its personalities to endorse most products, but that’s currently not a concern of Brown’s.
“At the end of the day, my number one priority and focus is to work for ESPN and do a good job. I’m busy enough as it is. I might get one off day a month and I spend it studying for my next assignment.”
What is a concern for Brown?
Her passion for telling the complete story has sparked her interest in reporting for E:60, but she also has another goal at the World Wide Leader.
“I would love to do a sports talk show and if ESPN ever did one I’d hope to be able to put my foot in the door.”
But for now, she’ll continue to work the sidelines of some the nation’s best college football games and produce features on some of the most riveting individuals in college football. This is just the first step of what Jenn Brown hopes to a long journey at ESPN that keeps her smiling the whole way.
Jameson Fleming is currently a freelance reporter and a member of the United States Basketball Writers Association. For more from Jameson, follow him (@JamesonFleming) on Twitter.