In these parts, Erin Andrews has always been well-known. She grew up in Tampa, the daughter of WFLA-Ch. 8 investigative reporter Steve Andrews. She graduated from Bloomingdale High and then the University of Florida before landing her first TV gig, as a sideline reporter at Lightning games in 2000. From there, she moved to TBS, then ESPN, where she has been a sideline reporter for its college football and basketball coverage for the past five years. In July, her world caved in when a grainy videotape of her naked in a hotel room, shot without her knowledge, was spread across the Internet. This month, Michael David Barrett, 47, from suburban Chicago, was arrested; the FBI says he made the videos, posted them online and offered to sell them. He is due in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles on Friday to face federal charges of interstate stalking. Andrews' only public comments about what happened have come on The Oprah Winfrey Show in September. She cannot discuss it now because of the ongoing investigation. Andrews, 31, returned to Tampa last week as part of ESPN's Thursday night coverage of the USF-Cincinnati football game. She spoke with St. Petersburg Times staff writer Tom Jones about how she's doing, the influence former Lightning coach John Tortorella had in her career and where she wants to go from here.
How are you doing?
I'm hanging in there.
Are you a different person since what happened?
Uh (long pause) I don't know.
Are you a different reporter?
No. No, I'm not a different reporter. I still work really hard and do the best job I can.
Let's talk about your career. How much did former Lightning coach John Tortorella (the coach when Andrews started with the team) influence your career?
Torts has meant so much to me in my life and in my career. It was clearly a situation where he didn't want a 22-year-old around that team, nor should he have. He was trying to turn around the worst team in the league. And here's this 22-year-old kid right out of school traveling on the bus, at the hotel, at all the practices.
But he taught me so much about how to prepare, how you should act as a professional, how to ask questions. I mean, if you weren't prepared, a guy like that could be tough to deal with. (Laughs) And he taught me to have no fear. He taught me how to prepare and jump right in. He was so good and respectful to me, and he didn't have to be. Everybody with the Lightning was like that.
How good of a reporter were you back then?
Oh, I was horrible. I'm not just saying that. I was bad. Seriously. I didn't know what I was doing.
So what changed?
I grew up. I learned. Back then, I knew nothing about what it took to do that job. I probably had no right to even have that job. But once I had it, I was thrown into the fire. I was on TV every other night. I'm doing pregame interviews and features and interviews between periods, and I did postgame wrapups and interviews. I had to learn. I just did it, but I honestly would hate to go back and even look at those tapes.
But it turned out to be great experience, didn't it? It turned into more opportunities.
I was definitely in the right place at the right time.
When did things change? When did you reach the point where you thought, "You know, I can do this job, and I can do it well.''
Well, I got lots of support from my dad, and with him being on TV, I grew up with it, and it's never really been that big of a deal for me to be on TV. But it probably wasn't until my third year with ESPN that I started to feel really confident in the actual job. But I certainly don't think I've learned all there is to learn.
With your popularity came criticism, too, and you've at times become a lightning rod among sideline reporters for criticism. Do you pay any attention to what people out there might say about you?
It's always been like that. I remember my first year with the Lightning, I called my dad and told him that I had read something critical about myself on a message board, and I was crying, and my dad said, "Hey, toughen up. Get some thick skin.'' I just learned that there are always people out there, and there are going to be things on the Internet and things that people say, sometimes even co-workers or others in the business, and you just have to keep working hard. But it can be hard to deal with, for sure. It's not easy.
Are you surprised how far you've come since you've been at ESPN and how popular you have become since those Lightning days?
Are you kidding? I've never looked at myself as someone special. I'm just a normal girl. I mean, look at me now. I'm not wearing makeup. I'm in sweats. I'm wearing a baseball cap. I've never thought of myself as a big deal or anything. I'm just a reporter at ESPN who works hard at her job.
What's a typical week like for you during football season?
Crazy. I cover a game Saturday and fly home (to Atlanta), and I'll be honest, I sleep all day Sunday because I'm wiped out. I put on my sweats and don't leave the house. And I sleep until noon on Monday. And then it all starts. We have a conference calls with the crew to get ready for the next Saturday game. And then conference calls for the Thursday game. Tuesdays I'm catching up on stories involving the teams I'm going to cover and have a conference call with coaches, and I'm making other calls and doing more reporting. Then on Wednesday we all fly into the city for the Thursday night game, and we meet with the home (team). Then it's a production meeting Thursday morning for that night's game. Then we do the game, hopefully get a couple hours of sleep, and then fly Friday to the next city for the Saturday game. And then it's more meetings, cover the game on Saturday, maybe catch a couple hours of sleep, and then get up early Sunday, fly home and start all over.
Where do you see your career going from here?
I'm happy doing sports. I feel every year I'm getting better and more comfortable, and I want to try to keep developing that. I'm not looking to do anything else.
But don't you ever feel like you might have reached a ceiling as far as sideline reporting, that there isn't really any more for you to do in that job?
No, not really. I still feel like I have so much more to learn. I sometimes still feel like that girl who was doing Lightning games, so I just want to keep getting better.