Helmets Off, Mics Up: N.F.L. Players Discover the Power of Podcasts
The phenomenon of active athletes hosting podcasts largely started in the N.B.A., where players can command more attention because there are smaller rosters and more frequent games. Early entries included JJ Redick’s “The Vertical” in 2016 and Richard Jefferson and Channing Frye’s “Road Trippin’” in 2017.
Perhaps the first active N.F.L. players to host a podcast were offensive tackle Taylor Lewan, who was playing for the Tennessee Titans in 2019 when he started “Bussin’ With the Boys,” and his former teammate Will Compton, a free agent at the time.
Podcasting is particularly attractive to players who are still generating N.F.L. highlights and not enjoying a relaxing retirement. The foray into a lucrative entertainment landscape is one they can fit into a regimented schedule. Hill said he started his podcast, “It Needed to Be Said,” partly to prepare for a potential broadcasting career.
The financial upside can be gigantic: This year Pat McAfee, a former punter for the Indianapolis Colts, signed a deal with ESPN, reportedly worth $85 million, to bring his popular show to the network. Brands such as Bleacher Report, which works with Parsons and Miller, have increasingly signed up athletes. And the medium has become a growth area for agencies who represent players.
“It’s the democratization of content,” said Josh Pyatt, the co-head of WME Sports, who helped LeBron James and Peyton Manning build media production companies. “There’s a low barrier to entry, which is why I think there’s so many podcasts out there and why, when they cut through the clutter, they’re so valuable.”
Miller said podcasts also allowed players to connect authentically with fans while bypassing questions from traditional reporters. He recently interviewed his teammate Damar Hamlin, who nearly died after going into cardiac arrest during a game in January and has spoken sparingly to the news media.