Oklahoma native Carrie Underwood is excited to be selected to sing the opening theme for NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” as the replacement for Faith Hill. In a conference call Tuesday afternoon, telecast producer Fred Gaudelli and Underwood discussed her new role:
Producer Fred Gaudelli Opening Remarks: As I’m sure you know, since the inception of Sunday Night Football on NBC, “Waiting All Day for Sunday Night” has opened every Sunday Night telecast. Pink performed it the first season in 2006 and Faith Hill has performed it every season since then. And now I am beyond thrilled to welcome the latest superstar to “Sunday Night Football.” She’s had 17 singles go to No. 1 on the Billboard charts, a six-time Grammy award winner, who’s sold over 15 million albums, and she’s done it in only eight short years. She’s the only woman to win the Academy of Country Music’s entertainer of the year award twice. Carrie Underwood will now open television’s highest rated show with a brand new version of “Waiting All Day for Sunday Night.” Carrie, welcome to Sunday Night Football.
Carrie Underwood Opening Remarks: Thank you. I’m very excited. I think it’s a perfect fit and I am such a sports fan and football fan, and we love Sunday nights around my household, so for me to be a part of it is something really special.
Gaudelli on the decision to make the change: Faith called me in February and told me she thought it was time for her to, as she put it, “pass the torch” and let someone else “rock the open.” So at that point I really only had one person in my sight and that was Carrie. Interestingly back in 2006 when we got the package, Carrie was in my sights back then too and the stars didn’t align that time. But fortunately, this time they did. She’s the only person I spoke to about this.
Underwood on how long it took to say “yes”: Not long. Like (Fred) said, way back when, we kind of had them on the radar for Sunday Night Football, so I guess I had a long time to watch Faith be so amazing at it and bring such an energy to the event every Sunday night. So for me, to have that opportunity to follow in her footsteps and do something really cool like that, it sounded like fun. And like I said, this is something that’s been a part of our household for a while now and to be a part of that is exciting. I can’t wait.
Gaudelli on the evolution of “Waiting All Day on Sunday Night”: Just the evolution, I think, there really are two major components: I think obviously having the right song, a really good song that connects with people and kind of sticks in your head, and then a great performer. Pink kicked it off and Faith did it wonderfully for six years, and I think Carrie is going to bring a new dimension to it — something that is going to be singular to her, and it’s just a fun way to kick off a game. On Sunday night, we think of it as more than a game, it’s primetime. There is an entertainment component to what we do and this is a significant part of that component. It’s a mixture of that. An iconic opening.
Gaudelli on players being in the Open: We really like to showcase the players in this, and we’ve tried to do that (through the years). This year should be no different. We’ll be inviting them – I wanted to make the announcement before we started contacting players to come out and shoot but you don’t really ever get a “no.” They all want to be a part of this. We’ll be having players this year.
Underwood on how she will adapt “Waiting All Day on Sunday Night”: Musically, it’s our first step. We definitely wanted to make it sound different and sound like me. Faith put her stamp on it for a long time and did such a wonderful job and it was totally Faith, she owned it. We wanted to be mindful of that and go in and change things up a little bit. So they’re actually going to be recording that here pretty soon, and then I’ll be able to go in to the studio and do what I do. And then everything after that visually, we’ll lock in. We have to get the song first. It’s the same song, same lyrics, but it’s going to be with my flair.
Gaudelli: Carrie’s right about the visuals. We have some ideas right now. Obviously it’s Carrie, it’s players, it’ll probably include some live audience component, and it’ll be a lot of visual effects and hopefully a rocking number to kick off the game.
Underwood on husband and NHL player Mike Fisher’s reactions: He’s excited. He’s a sports dude. Yes, he plays hockey but he definitely loves football, as do I. He’s really excited. He’s got a lot of friends that play for different teams and I think me being a part of that with them and with a sport that he loves, I think it’ll just make it all the more better for him.
Underwood on her relationship with NBC: We obviously met with lots of people in NBC about the “Sound of Music” and everybody within that family is so wonderful to be around and so wonderful to work with. I don’t think one had to do with the other, but it just made it, working together again, all that much better because we already knew a few people at the network so it makes me even more part of the family.
In honor of the first coaching matchup of brothers in a Super Bowl, “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel” plans to reair a July 2011 feature on the Harbaughs in its premiere at 9 p.m. Tuesday.
Here is a description of the segement:
All in the Family. Manning. Griffey. Ripken. These are some of the multi-generational families in sports that are household names. But a new family is making history, not as players, but in coaching. The Harbaugh boys, John and Jim, have followed in their father’s footsteps and are the first brother act to serve simultaneously as head coaches in the NFL. Jack Harbaugh coached college football for 45 years and taught his only sons the ins-and-outs of the game from an early age. His eldest son, John, is the Baltimore Ravens’ head coach and has led the team to the playoffs in each of his first five seasons at the helm. Jim, after a successful NFL career as a quarterback, reenergized the StanfordUniversity football program and was hired in January 2011 to take over the underachieving San Francisco 49ers. Correspondent Andrea Kremer joined the family on vacation in the summer of 2011 to find out what makes them tick and why they have so much to be thankful for.
The Harbaugh brothers will meet in the Super Bowl on Feb. 3 when the Ravens and 49’ers take the field at the Superdome in New Orleans.
ESPN NFL analyst Jon Gruden hosts another one of his excellent quarterback camp specials at 6 p.m. Thursday on ESPN. Gruden had film and workout sessions with five top quarterbacks — Andy Dalton (TCU), Blaine Gabbert (Missouri), Jake Locker (Washington), Ryan Mallett (Arkansas) and Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton (Auburn).
Gruden answered questions from the media in a conference call this week:
Q: Was there one guy you sat down going into the QB camp that you came away really impressed by or you may not have thought as much of until you sat down with him and broke down the film with him?
A: Cam Newton with 14 career starts, the thing that impressed me, not only his physical attributes and his size, but his charisma. I think his eagerness to learn and prove that he can adapt to a pro style on offense. He showed very good retention to me in the meetings and the material that we covered.
I just like the look in his eyes, the eagerness and feeling that he has a lot to prove to everybody including himself. I think Newton impressed me the most in that regard.
Q. What were your impressions of Mallett? Do you think he gets it in terms of what’s going to be required of him in the NFL?
A: I think he does get it. He comes from a unique background. His mom and dad were teachers and coaches. Football is very important to him. The thing I really liked about Ryan Mallett was his background playing under Bobby Petrino at Arkansas. And I know Coach Petrino well enough to know that he coaches quarterbacks hard, very demanding. If you watch Mallett play, he’s in a lot of pro style situations, underneath the center, in the shotgun, audibling, check‑with‑me’s. They do a lot of good things on offense at Arkansas. Ryan Mallett can draw protections, blocking schemes, and he does have a beautiful throwing motion that I know a lot of guys in the league are excited about. He can really hum it.
Q. Can I get your take on Jake Locker? You seem to have a pretty good connection with him during that QB Camp episode. Wanted your take on how close do you think he is to the NFL level, and the accuracy concerns and other concerns you think he still needs to work on?
A: This is one tough guy. I mean, Jake Locker has played for two head coaches. He had to endure an 0‑12 season. This guy took a lot of punishment. The whole offense was built around No. 10. From a running standpoint, from a passing standpoint, this guy was involved significantly on every snap for the Huskies. He does have to improve his accuracy. But I think when you’re hit a lot and asked to do as much as Locker’s been asked to do, sometimes your fundamentals wane a little bit. They disappear in key situations. He does have a good, strong arm. He’s an outstanding athlete. He’s got very good elusiveness and straight line speed with some power, and I think he loves football. I think there is a real passionate fire inside this guy that somebody’s going to capture. He would be a fun guy to coach.
Q: Based on your work with Newton and your observation of all these players you’ve talked about at other positions and your knowledge of the Panthers from coaching against them, with the first pick of the draft, who do you see?
A: I think they’re going to take Cam Newton out of Auburn. In this NFC South, I believe you have Josh Freeman, you have Matt Ryan, you have Drew Brees. They have a young guy there now in Jimmy Clausen. But I think with DeAngelo Williams, assuming he’s re‑signed, Jonathan Stewart, Jordan Gross at left tackle, assuming Otah comes back at right tackle, you’re going to have the ability to put together a striking running game with Cam Newton being a part of that. Your good friend Steve Smith out there can still hurt people and off the play action pass and things of that nature while Cam develops. I think there are things this guy can do.
I wish I had more tape on Cam Newton. I don’t think it’s going to happen overnight. But this is the kind of guy you’re looking for. He’s almost 6-6, 255 pounds. And everybody says yes, he sees the best conference in college football, and he really did a great job in that conference this year. I think he combined for 51 touchdowns.
Q: The consensus has been that Newton and Gabbert are a cut above the other quarterbacks in the draft. You’ve talked a lot about Newton, and I think his skills are obvious. But do you believe that Gabbert is a cut above the other quarterbacks in this draft? If so, why? And if you could give speculation on where you think he might go, and the farthest he might drop down in the draft?
A: I do think Blaine Gabbert is a Top 10 pick. All you have to do is see the ball come out of his hand. He’s got a very quick, strong arm, prototype size. He’s over 6-4, 235 pounds, a finance major, so you know he has intelligence. He has speed. I mean, Gabbert ran very well at the combine. He’s elusive back there. His scrambling and playmaking ability I think will be very enticing. Once again, here’s a junior quarterback that comes from a very unique, different style of spread offense at Missouri where he’s been in the no‑back set, and the shotgun predominantly. But I think his physical talents are very noticeable to everybody.
Before he decided to play football at the University of Oklahoma in 1984, Troy Aikman almost decided to play baseball instead. A three-time Super Bowl champion quarterback with the Dallas Cowboys, Aikman told Bryant Gumbel in a segment airing on the next edition of HBO’s “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel” that the New York Mets made a pitch for him to play baseball. The program premieres at 9 p.m. Tuesday.
Aikman will team with Joe Buck to call Super Bowl XLV on Feb. 6 on Fox.
Here’s an excerpt from the interview:
AIKMAN: “I got a call from the New York Mets and they said, ‘We need to know what it’s gonna take to get you to forgo college.’”
GUMBEL: “Did you pitch?”
AIKMAN: “I was a pitcher and a shortstop. And so when they said what’s it gonna take.’ I said, ‘I don’t know, $200,000.’ They said, ‘$200,000? Darryl Strawberry is not even making that much money.’
And I said, ‘Well if you want me, that’s what it’s gonna take.’ And they said, ‘You have a nice football career at Oklahoma.’ “
I’d be surprised if ESPN football analyst Jon Gruden took the University of Miami coaching job. I think better jobs would be available in the NFL if he decided to return to coaching. In a teleconference last week, Gruden addressed the rumors:
Gruden: “I’m very thankful for the job that I have and I’m eager to try and get better at it. I know there was a lot of speculation over the last few days and I’m sorry for that. I’m excited to be on Monday Night Football with Ron and Mike.”
ESPN executive vice president Norby Williamson said, “For a little perspective, we at ESPN actually want our analysts to be sought after by the sports they cover. Anytime that happens, it demonstrates a level of relevancy, expertise in a particular sport…with that said, very specifically, Jon’s contract with ESPN runs through the 2011 season and he’s made that commitment.”
Gruden also talked about the big “Monday Night Game” between the New York Jets and New England Patriots:
Gruden: “The game is equally important for both teams but given the fact that it’s at New England and the Jets have already beaten New England this season, I think it’s a little bigger for the Patriots. I don’t see anybody sweeping Tom Brady twice in the same season in my lifetime. It’s going to be a tall order I believe for the Jets. I think Brady is at the top of his game and the consecutive winning streak at home is unbelievable.”
On Jets head coach Rex Ryan; “He assembled a great staff and he’s very confident in his abilities. He is who he is. I think he’s funny, I think he’s a riot. I love watching his press conferences. I like watching it during the week, and I like watching his team back it up on game day. He has his own style and he’s consistent with that. I give him credit for that and he’s also got the players to back it up.”
The final top 10 greatest players of all-time were unveiled Thursday night on “NFL Network’s The Top 100: NFL’s Greatest Players.”
And the No. 1 player? It’s former San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Jerry Rice, the all-time leading receiver. Runner-up was Cleveland Browns running back Jim Brown, followed by New York Giants linebacker Lawrence Taylor, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Joe Montana and Chicago Bears running back Walter Payton.
Detroit Lions running back Barry Sanders, a former Oklahoma State star, was the highest rated Oklahoma star at No. 17. Jim Thorpe ranked No. 37, followed by former OU stars Troy Aikman at No. 80 and Lee Roy Selmon at No. 98.
Rice and Brown were also presenters during the Top 10 episode, with Rice presenting 49ers teammate Montana, and Brown presenting fellow running back Payton.
Here is the list with presenters in parenthesis.
1. Jerry Rice (Jon Gruden)
2. Jim Brown (Burt Reynolds)
3. Lawrence Taylor (Bill Parcells)
4. Joe Montana (Jerry Rice)
5. Walter Payton (Jim Brown)
6. Johnny Unitas (Frank Deford)
7. Reggie White (Mike Holmgren)
8. Peyton Manning (Ray Lewis)
9. Don Hutson (Peter King)
10. Dick Butkus (Howard Mudd)
11. Ronnie Lott (Marcus Allen)
12. Anthony Munoz (Bob Trumpy)
13. Joe Greene (Dennis Miller)
14. Sammy Baugh (Bill Belichick)
15. Deacon Jones (Jennifer Allen)
16. Otto Graham (Don Shula)
17. Barry Sanders (Wynton Marsalis)
18. Ray Lewis (Marvin Lewis)
19. Bronko Nagurski (Jim Dent)
20. Brett Favre (Steve Mariucci)
21. Tom Brady (Derek Jeter)
22. Gale Sayers (Billy Dee Williams)
23. John Elway (Marty Schottenheimer)
24. John Hannah (Joe Klecko)
25. Dan Marino (Alex Rodriguez)
26. Bob Lilly (Dan Reeves)
27. Merlin Olsen (Jerry Kramer)
28. Emmitt Smith (Moose Johnston)
29. Jack Lambert (Chuck Klosterman)
30. Night Train Lane (Jerry Glanville)
31. Bruce Smith (Luke Russert)
32. Jim Parker (Raymond Berry)
33. Sid Luckman (Marv Levy)
34. Deion Sanders (Michael Irvin)
35. Chuck Bednarik (Ray Didinger)
36. Raymond Berry (Frank Deford)
37. Jim Thorpe (Sally Jenkins)
38. Lance Alworth (Jerry Jones)
39. Gino Marchetti (Ernie Accorsi)
40. O.J. Simpson (Chuck Klosterman)
41. Rod Woodson (Boomer Esiason)
42. John Mackey (Ernie Accorsi)
43. Alan Page (Steve Rushin)
44. Mel Blount (Bob Trumpy)
45. Tony Gonzalez (Trent Green)
46. Roger Staubach (Chuck Klosterman)
47. Ray Nitschke (Jerry Kramer)
48. Red Grange (Steve Hirdt)
49. Mike Haynes (Matt Millen)
50. Terry Bradshaw (Dennis Miller)
51. Bart Starr (Bill Curry)
52. Eric Dickerson (Marcus Allen)
53. Willie Lanier (Floyd Little)
54. Forrest Gregg (Deacon Jones)
55. Earl Campbell (Jerome Bettis)
56. Gene Upshaw (Phil Villapiano)
57. Mike Singletary (Joe Theismann)
58. Steve Van Buren (Ray Didinger)
59. Mike Ditka (Roger Staubach)
60. Jack Ham (Dennis Miller)
61. LaDainian Tomlinson (Reggie Bush)
62. Randy White (Mark May)
63. Jim Otto (Bill Bergey)
64. Herb Adderly (Mel Renfro)
65. Randy Moss (Brian Billick)
66. Willie Brown (Mercury Morris)
67. Kellen Winslow (Joe Gibbs)
68. Mike Webster (Joe Greene)
69. Bobby Bell (Michael MacCambridge)
70. Marshall Faulk (Kurt Warner)
71. Paul Warfield (Mercury Morris)
72. Jonathan Ogden (Michael Strahan)
73. Ozzie Newsome (Bob Trumpy)
74. Marion Motley (Mike Brown)
75. Darrell Green (Carl Lewis)
76. Art Shell (Ron Wolf)
77. Tony Dorsett (Roger Staubach)
78. Bruce Matthews (Warren Moon)
79. Emlen Tunnell (Michael MacCambridge)
80. Troy Aikman (Drew Brees)
81. Steve Young (Mike Holmgren)
82. Ted Hendricks (Howie Long)
83. Norm Van Brocklin (Sonny Jurgensen)
84. Joe Schmidt (Jerry Glanville)
85. Marcus Allen (Matt Millen)
86. Willie Davis (Bobby Mitchell)
87. Crazylegs Hirsch (Michael MacCambridge)
88. Ed Reed (Hines Ward)
89. Ernie Nevers (Steve Hirdt)
90. Kurt Warner (Nick Bakay)
91. Fran Tarkenton (Sen. Amy Klobuchar)
92. Michael Irvin (Troy Aikman)
93. Sam Huff (Sonny Jurgensen)
94. Lenny Moore (Bobby Mitchell)
95. Larry Allen (John Randle)
96. Mel Hein (Steve Hirdt)
97. Derrick Brooks (Jon Gruden)
98. Lee Roy Selmon (Ron Wolf)
99. Michael Strahan (Jon Runyan)
100. Joe Namath (Spike Lee)
Thanks to several readers for pointing out that former OU running back Adrian Peterson was snubbed in the AFLAC trivia question on ABC’s Texas at Nebraska telecast Saturday afternoon.
The question was “What was the highest finish for a freshman in the Heisman Trophy voting?” The answer, according to ABC/ESPN was Clint Castleberry of Georgia Tech, 1942; Herschel Walker of Georgia, 1980; and Michael Vick of Virginia Tech, 1999. They all had third-place finishes. Peterson, in fact, had finished second as a freshman standout at OU in 2004.
ESPN/ABC has acknowledged the mistake. We’ll see if they correct it on a future broadcast.
— Fox studio analyst Howie Long believes St. Louis Rams quarterback Sam Bradford is the rookie of the year so far this season. Long: “The Lions’ Jahvid Best has played exceptionally well and he’s battling turf toe. Rookies Tony Moeaki and Eric Berry in Kansas City along with Maurkice Pouncey in Pittsburgh are also playing well. but I’m going to go with Sam Bradford in St. Louis.”
— Through the first six weeks of the season, NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” is averaging 21.4 million viewers, the most for the first six weeks of a primetime NFL package in 14 years (24.5 million in 1996 on ABC). “Sunday Night Football” was the No. 1 show on Sunday night for the sixth consecutive week.
— ESPN.com’s original scripted series “Mayne Street” is back for its fifth season with six new webisodes debuting every Tuesday at 8 a.m. This season will feature one continuous storyline with Kenny challenged by a new executive producer who quickly becomes his arch nemesis. On “Mayne Street,” Mayne stars as himself in a fictionalized version of life at a sports television network. His reoccurring foils revolve largely around his fictional production crew, as well as other ESPN personalities.
Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, a former OU star, appeared Wednesday morning on “The Dan Patrick Television Show,” 8-11 a.m. on DirecTV’s 101 Network and simulcast on KEBC-AM 1340. Here are some excerpts:
On whether or not he is better than Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson:
“Yes. What does he do better than me? I don’t think anything. Not faster, not stronger, anything. That’s just the mentality that I have. I have ultimate respect for that guy, he’s a heck of a player. So my mentality doesn’t change and it’s all love and I wish everyone the best and to succeed, but ultimately I play the game to be the best and I’m going to work my tail off to accomplish that goal.”
On how he will hold the ball differently this year:
“Yeah, a lot tighter.”
On his fumbling problems in the past:
“Doing research on myself, watching film,” Peterson said. “I find that a majority of my issues are when I’m getting tackled and fighting for extra yards … swinging that ball, giving guys a chance to punch at it.”
On whether or not he expects to be in the Super Bowl this year:
“Oh yes, without a shadow of doubt. That’s the expectation of me and of this team and that’s our goal. We will be accomplishing it. To make it even better, it’s in Dallas. Dallas, Texas, right where I’m from. It’s going to be good to go back and win it at home.”
On the last time he got nervous before a game:
“You know to be honest with you, when I’m out there that first snap, you have the little jitter bugs going but after that first snap it goes away. So that’s pretty much [how] nervous that I get.”
The NFC is especially rich this season for local NFL viewers with the longtime fan favorite Dallas Cowboys being challenged by the Minnesota Vikings and St. Louis Rams for attention on the tube.
The Vikings feature former OU running back Adrian Peterson and veteran quarterback Brett Favre, who returns for his 20th season in the NFL.
Former OU star quarterback Sam Bradford is the key ingredient to the Rams’ rebuilding efforts.
If you had a chance to program local Fox affiliate KOKH-25, which has the rights to the NFC, which of the three teams would you give top priority? Who are you tired of seeing?
How about the AFC? Which team should KWTV-9, which has AFC rights, give the most attention? The Kansas City Chiefs? Houston Texans? Or another team?
I welcome your thoughts as I prepare a story on the NFL TV schedule.
Fox Sports analyst Jimmy Johnson, a former Dallas Cowboys and Miami Dolphins coach, evaluated some of the top quarterbacks in the upcoming draft. Here are some excerpts:
On Sam Bradford: “He is a big, physical, good looking player that can move. He is the prototype quarterback. You have to be a little concerned about the shoulder injury and if it is going to happen again but he has the intelligence that I like. You want him to lead your franchise. That’s why if the Rams look at him and think ‘he’s our guy and we believe in him,’ then you don’t even listen to another offer, you just get him signed. He’s a guy who will be able to fit into your offense style right off the bat.”
On Jimmy Clausen: “He is an accurate passer and has a good touch on the deep ball. I like him. I just don’t know that he has the physical ability of Sam Bradford but if you need a quarterback he is probably one of the two guys who can come in and play for you now.”
On Tim Tebow: “He’s still a work in progress. It is going to be difficult for him to jump in and perform without sitting, watching and practicing. He is a talent but has to go to the right team that uses him the right way. Tebow’s development is going to be a two or three-year project. A team could use him in other areas before he becomes a starting quarterback but you first have to consider your current quarterback. Is he going to be comfortable going to the sideline while you develop Tebow? There are a lot of teams where that is not going to happen. I would take a chance on him in the second round. His intangibles are off the charts and if I am in the middle of the second round and he fits our style of play, I think he is worth the pick.”