NetWorks Spotlight Interview with… Charles Davis, Sports Analyst, Fox Sports & NFL Network
By Tracey Savell Reavis
The voice you hear when Charles Davis calls football games on TV sounds equally energetic when you speak with him one-on-one. The 13-year veteran announcer has covered college football, basketball and baseball, the NFL, NBA, PGA, Arena Football and has worked on both radio and TV. And he’s just been partnered with Gus Johnson, as the two become the lead team for Fox Sports College Football games this coming season.
Charles grew up in the small town of New Paltz, New York, but his roots are anchored in Tennessee. Partly because he was born there, and partly because it’s where both of his parents are from, he’d always wanted to return to college in the Volunteer State. Back when he was eight-years old he saw Condredge Holloway, the first African American quarterback to start at an SEC school, playing in a University of Tennessee game, and knew from that moment exactly where he wanted to play football. After four years as defensive back for the Vols, Charles left Knoxville armed with an undergraduate degree in Political Science and a Masters in History.
Since football season hasn’t started yet, you can’t tune in to hear the sportscaster’s voice. But you can read the story of how he achieved success, in his own words. It will have to do for now, while we all wait for the first Saturday in September.
In your career, you’ve had a number of different sports-related jobs. How did you end up in broadcasting?
I found out a friend told a TV exec that he thought I’d be good on TV. I never knew he’d had this conversation. Then two years later the TV exec called me, asked me to try out and I got my first assignment as an analyst with Fox Sports South.
Do you remember the first game you covered, and what the experience like?
Yes, it was August 1997, Memphis State at Mississippi State. I may have been awful, but I remember I had a lot of fun and that I thought I wanted to do more of it. Now I’m working on the craft.
What was the transition like for you going from playing college sports to not being able to play as a professional athlete?
My goal was always to be in the NFL. Fortunately to prepare for life after football, I did have a Plan B. I started grad school in my red-shirt year. Then I thought about politics, I thought about law school. But I knew I wanted to stay in sports. Sports has always had its tug on me.
What would you say to people who think it’s a given that a former athlete would be able to get a job in sports broadcasting?
Yeah, I say it takes 20 years to become an overnight success. It’s like that with actors. Someone will have a breakout movie and people will think they are new and say, ‘Where did they come from?’ When they’ve been there all the time, putting in
10, 15 years, getting better. And it happens not just in movies, but in all walks of life. If it were a given, I would have started right after school. I fought my you-know-what off to prove that I am capable. I’d say very few people will outwork me. And I’ve never taken it for granted that I’ve arrived.
Can you give us an idea how much preparation and work you put into a game week? Or is it just a 3-hour game broadcast and you’re done?
Wouldn’t that be nice? I don’t typically count the number of hours I prepare, but it depends on the game. I know the teams, but there’s extensive research. The number one thing is to know the players’ names and numbers. And I look at game tape to watch for a teams’ strength, for nuances, and to learn things about players. We’re looking to tell interesting stories. We’re ‘Taking off the helmet’ figuratively of the players, to tell you something different.
What kind of career advice would you offer to anyone wanting to get into the sports industry?
I’d say be prepared. Everyone always wants the answer that eliminates the hard work. But it’s the work that keeps you there. And probably not to take no for an answer. If one company doesn’t want you, try others. Go through the stages – anger, grief – then move on. Opportunity could be at the supermarket, or on the seat next to you on a plane. It could be anywhere. If something is your passion, figure out how to make it happen. There are other ways to get through, get over and get by it. Be a fighter.
Let’s talk about your new assignment and partner at FOX Sports. Are you friends with Gus Johnson, and are you looking forward to working with him?
No, we’ve never met. But we’ve already spoken on the phone a little before the announcement and chatted after as well. It is exciting and I am looking forward to it.
Do you think this is historic or worth mentioning the pairing of two African-American broadcasters calling a Division I College Football game?
I think it would be disingenuous not to notice. But it’s not the principle focus. We’ve both worked hard to get to where we are, and we’ve gotten there because we’ve merited it. The bottom line is it’s the work.
Do you think there will ever be a College Football playoff system with a championship game?
I don’t know. I don’t think it would necessarily be good or bad. I think the bowl experience is great for many kids who might not otherwise have the opportunity. Each one that I went to was distinctive. I don’t think you can put bowl games into a playoff system. I’d say if we ever go with a championship game, to know what you’re giving up – it could change everything.
Get to Know Charles
Sport he’d love to broadcast but hasn’t yet: Hockey
Favorite sport after football: Basketball
On his nightstand: The latest Harlan Coben thriller
All-time favorite film: Say Anything
Most influential book: The Autobiography of Malcolm X
In his music library: Old school, sounds of Motown
Tune in to FOX and the NFL Network as Charles offers his expert analysis on college football and the NFL.