Ed Werder is a long-time NFL reporter for ESPN who can be seen on SportsCenter, NFL Live, Sunday NFL Countdown, and Monday Night Countdown. Across his esteemed career covering the NFL, Werder has worked as a beat writer for the Dallas Cowboys and Denver Broncos, and won the Pro Football Writers of America’s Dick McCann Memorial Award for long and distinguished reporting on professional football in 2017.
We caught up with Ed for this week’s Friday Five…
1) Who is your biggest mentor?
I’ve certainly been the beneficiary of mentoring. The first person who did this for me was Rick Reilly, 11-time Sportswriter of the Year. When I was in my first full-time writing job at a small paper, having replaced him on the staff, I asked him to critique a collection of my work. He did so in a very encouraging but honest manner, offering praise in some regards and suggestions for improvement in many others.
The other two people who are incredibly significant to me are my ESPN colleague Chris Mortensen and Peter King. Mort has been invaluable as someone who could provide journalistic advice and who collaborated freely while also using his influence to advocate for me. We first worked together at The National Sports Daily and then he convinced ESPN to consider me for a position at the network.
I was one of Peter’s regular NFL contributors when he was at Sports Illustrated and he convinced management at CNN-SI when they were hiring to launch their 24-hour sports network to use a few of the positions for strong print writers and teach them the TV element. So I credit Peter with providing my first chance to work in TV.
2) What is the most interesting interview you’ve been a part of?
There have been many compelling interviews in my career. Bill Parcells and Jimmy Johnson were always fascinating to me. I’ve had sit downs with Deion Sanders, Troy Aikman, Michael Irvin among many other interesting personalities. It’s hard to imagine a more incredible spectacle than the news conference at which Jerry Jones and Jimmy Johnson announced the end of their partnership until the next day when Jerry sat with Barry Switzer as the next head coach of the Cowboys.
But I think the most memorable interview I had was without a camera at the Minnesota Vikings team hotel in Appleton with Brett Favre the night before he played against the Packers at Lambeau Field for the first time in an opponent uniform. Favre was emotional and clearly apprehensive and shared with me that he had received enough death threats that the Vikings had security screened all his mail that week, including a box from a man in Green Bay who returned to Favre all of the quarterback’s memorabilia he had collected.
3) What is your favorite part about covering the NFL?
I can’t tell you how amazing it is to me to see social media highlights noting the various anniversaries of historic moments in pro football, and to realize that I was at that game and witnessed it first-hand.
I enjoy all the preparation, the interviews with players and coaches, the research for unique insights, but what I love most are the games. That’s what we do it for — the games. What a privilege it has been to see so many great moments and performances.
4) What piece of advice would you give your younger self?
This is a relationship business. Build relationships among the people you cover and in your own building. Protect your credibility at all costs and never betray the trust placed in you.
5) If you could invite any three people in history to dinner, who would they be and why?
The first thing I would want to do is to be sure to invite somebody who is going to pick up the check. No, this was probably the hardest question for me. I’m going with Stevie Nicks from Fleetwood Mac, my first favorite rock band, because I’m fascinated by the art of songwriting and she’s got the best female voice ever.
My second dinner guest would be Vince Lombardi because the Packers were my first favorite team and I want to know what football and life were like when he was living it.
And I would invite Henry Aaron because of the respect I have for him as a man who endured so much to achieve historic feats and because I admire him as a lifelong Atlanta Braves fan.