Before he became an NFL insider, Field Yates was literally an NFL insider — having worked for both the New England Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs. Since joining ESPN in 2012, Yates covers all things NFL. You can catch him on all digital platforms, as well as across the board on ESPN television and radio. For the upcoming NFL Draft, watch him on ESPN’s digital draft show.
We caught up with Yates for this week’s Friday Five…
1. Who has been your biggest mentor?
I’m going to reach outside of my family… I’m going to reach into the business of sports media and Mike Reiss has been my biggest mentor. Mike, probably for those that have met him, is easily established as one of the most sincere and kind-hearted individuals in sports media. This business doesn’t always lend itself toward nice guys finishing first — it’s often the nice guys finish last mantra. Mike — I’ll never forget this — when I was trying to find my way in this business, I was still living in Massachusetts and under my mom’s roof and trying to find a role anywhere, doing anything, and I sent out close to 40 emails and one person was willing to a) respond, and b) stay in touch. And that’s Mike Reiss. I’ll never forget this, only because I would have felt grateful and surprised if someone had responded back to me in a week or even a month. But I’ll never forget it was less than 11 minutes later when Mike responded to my initial email. He said, “I appreciate your reaching out to me, it’s a particularly busy time during the season” – 2011, the second time the Pats-Giants met in the Super Bowl. He said, “Let’s be in touch, though.” And true to his word, Mike reached back out to me days after the Super Bowl. It was an extremely quick turnaround and he is someone that I have remained close with to this day. As a matter of fact, at the time you and I are having this chat, Mike and I got off the phone only an hour ago. We catch up almost daily — definitely daily over text — and almost daily over the phone.
2. What’s your top pet peeve?
I hope this doesn’t make me sound too “Type A,” but I am an “on time” person. I am a disciple of Tom Coughlin in this regard. [Laughs] I violated my own rule because you and I did a 5-minute delay of game because I was trying to see if Aaron Rodgers was going to break the Internet with something he said during an interview with Pat Macafee. But, my feeling generally is, If you tell me a time, I expect to be there on time and I will always do my best to be on time or early. I look at it as, when I show up late, and especially without any notice, that’s me suggesting to you that my time is more valuable and important than your time. So punctuality is a stripe that I feel comfortable stating that I have. And in our world, usually it’s the athlete or the coach or the GM making time for us. So if you don’t show up on time, you might not get the quote, the interview, you name it.
3. What’s your favorite book?
Back in early 2020, my wife and I were going on our honeymoon … And I tried to set a goal of like 25 books in the calendar year of 2020 — I think I came up a little short. But there were some really, really good ones. Where the Crawdads Sing was probably my favorite book that you would only read it once and not have to go back and read it again. But the book that I find myself going back and rereading, and I feel like it’s healthy and therapeutic and insightful to read — maybe not every year, but every 18 months or two years — is a book called The Go Giver. It’s a very easy read. It’s the kind of book you can read start to finish in a weekend. Just some ways to live life as a giver and not a receiver, and giving to others will ultimately end up being a foundational mentality that you can lean on. It’s a book that I find myself every once and a while flipping through.
4. If you could have dinner with any three people in history, who would be at the table?
Muhammad Ali would be my one — an athlete who I marveled at. Not that I watched him live in his prime, but having re-watched some of his main events but also having read and understood the historical context. My dad is not a huge TV sport athlete himself. He was a wrestler, that was his passion. But he would always marvel at Muhammad Ali. He sorta instructed me, if you’re going to have one athlete as your north star, Ali would probably be it.
I’m trying to think of somebody who would entertain — someone to make it fun and funny and bring it all together. I’ll table the NFL player for a second.
The coaching bug was always something that itched at me, so I would say Bill Walsh — some of the principles that he instituted during the advent of so many different important influences. He would be someone that I would have to have in there as well. There’s a creativity that is clear and obvious.
And, I’ll go with a player. I spent a little bit of time with him — I consider us acquaintances. If he considered me a friend, it would be a considerable honor. I feel like if I go around saying I’m friends with Ed Reed he might be like, “Who?” But I have had enough conversations with Ed Reed, who always cracks me up. And separate from being an amazing football player, he is somebody whose entertainment value has soared in my opinion, since his playing career has been over. Ed and I played in the same fantasy football league together and he made me laugh perpetually. So, throw Ed Reed in there as well.
5. If you went back in time, what advice would you have for yourself?
I would say travel a little bit more if you can. I was fortunate enough to be able to travel a little bit in my youth. One thing that I realized is that windows will open and close again. There are some times in your life that you have the time and energy to travel and then there are other times where it feels like your entire calendar is mapped out for you before you even have a chance to inject what you want to do. And, it’s not that those aren’t great things but between commitments — between work, eventually family — it just becomes more difficult to do. I understand, telling people to travel, you have to have certain resources to be able to travel. But if you do, and you’re fortunate enough, I’ve been able to see some really unique places that have taught me a lot and added some perspective. I hope it’s something we can get back into soon — and not just because of COVID restrictions — but also life right now is quite busy and if we can travel more, I can travel more — there are places I’ve been to previously that I would love to go back and visit again. I haven’t been outside of this continent in quite some time but I’d love the opportunity to go back to Europe and explore some places that I’ve been briefly before. I’d love to get more time there whenever an opportunity or window presents itself.
What place that gave biggest boost in perspective
My family went on a safari after I graduated from high school. Landing in Nairobi, the capital of Kenya, and seeing how different our societies are — from a first world country to one that isn’t — was jarring. It was eye-opening. I had a chance to go to Barcelona; it’s a place that I think about quite a lot. We live in a society where we’re constantly glued to our phones and social media. Everything is about what’s next, who’s doing what, whereas Barcelona is such an amazing, vibrant city that has so much culture and history and entertainment and they also shut down the city for a couple of hours a day so everybody can siesta and recharge. I always think about that perspective. If somebody even gave me a window for two hours a day to go and relax, would I take it? I would hope so, but part of me wonders if we’re so wired that if someone gave me a two-hour window, I might just tell you that rather than taking a nap, I’d go grab a cup of coffee and go back and try to take care of more things.
Check out all of our Friday Five features — including Troy Aikman, Andrea Kremer and more — in the Friday Five archive.