Q&A With MNF Reporter Lisa Salters
By: Melissa Jacobs | Posted: September 12, 2013
Name a sport and Lisa Salters has probably dabbled in it. Salters began her sports career as an athlete, playing guard for the Penn State women’s basketball team. After graduating, she embarked on a distinguished string of elite reporting duties that has ranged from covering the O.J. trail for ABC News to World Cups, the Olympics, college football and the NBA for both ABC and ESPN. Salters is currently juggling her role as a featured correspondent for ESPN’s news magazine show E:60 with her much more high-profile gig as Monday Night Football’s sideline reporter.
I had a chance to catch up with Salters just hours before the regular season debut of Monday Night Football, for which she has begun her second season.
Salters interviewing Texans RB Arian Foster last October (Ida Mae Astute/ESPN Images)
How is prepping for Monday Night Football different from other sports?
It’s just like studying for a final exam every week. It’s a lot of intense studying and reading and taking in so many different players. It’s truly like cramming for an exam.
Do you try and study teams far in advance of your matchup, or is mostly on a week-of basis?
I keep everything the week of, but I watch football. So I’m watching games on Sunday and Thursday. But yeah, for me, I just try to stay focused on whatever two teams I have coming up that week..
When this job became available, what was your reaction to be selected?
I was surprised that is was available. I didn’t know they were looking for someone so I was surprised when I got the phone call and they asked me if I wanted to do it. It was pretty exciting but I really had no idea I was even being considered.
What are your thoughts on the evolution on the sideline reporter?
I think I like where it is now where it’s much more about reporting. There was a time, I guess early on, when it was a well-respected position and then it got to a point where it was like fluff on the sidelines. Then it evolved back into meaningful reporting when Suzy [Kolber] did it and Michele Tafoya did it. I’m happy I’m at this place in its evolution where I can do real reporting.
That’s why you don’t see me a lot. You only see me when news happens down there – when someone gets hurt, something extraordinary happens, that’s when you hear from me. Generally I’m just down there and keep watching everything and making sure news doesn’t break out in the middle of the game.
How is it working with Mike Tirico in the Monday Night Football forum?
I love working with Mike. That was one of the things that made it so easy and reassuring to come do this with people I had largely never worked with before – I knew I was going to be with Mike. I knew he would look out for me and show me the ropes.
Have you worked with anyone even remotely comparable to Jon Gruden?
No. (Laughs) I’m a former athlete so he’s just like many coaches I have had. He’s just very intense, all about the game, all about the sport. But he’s an excellent, excellent teacher. He teaches our crew every week with his film study. He’s a big film guy, concept guy, scheme guy. He’s not just talking to us; he’s explaining things so it really makes it enjoyable because you’re actually absorbing.
Has he turned you into more of a football fan?
He was made me see football in a different way. He has helped me appreciate some areas of football I didn’t really pay much attention to before.
On a more important subject, congrats on being a new mom.
Thanks. This is the first sport up again since adopting my son and it’s been fantastic. It’s a lot, though. It’s a lot when you’re home raising a newborn. But it’s hard when you’re on the road. My parents are watching him while I’m working, which is great but I hate hearing 'oh, he’s up on all fours now’ or ‘he’s almost crawling.’ I hate missing that stuff. But he’s doing great.
And how old is your son now?
He’s five months old. Six months on the 21st.
Now that you’re a mom, do you have designs on your future? As you son gets older, do you want to keep at this gig or have it evolve into something else?
No, I like what I do. And I want to do it as long as I’m healthy enough to do it, for one. But also I want to do it so he can see me do it. I want to be doing it when he’s at an age to appreciate it and thinks it’s cool.
So he can go brag about his mom at school?