Hannah Storm, Cam Newton
Taking a page from the Barbara Walters playbook, ESPN anchor Hannah Storm identified the biggest newsmakers in pro football and convinced four of them to sit down with her on their home turf for a pre-Super Bowl special. Quarterbacks Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers and Cam Newton of the Carolina Panthers, Detroit Lions defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh and Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay opened up about their lives on and off the field on SportsCenter Special: NFL Face to Face With Hannah Storm, airing tonight at 9/8c on ESPN2.
"These people are all a lot more complicated than we give them credit for," Storm says, "and I thought they needed a little bit more fleshing out." She says in a Twitter world, each had been pegged with "oversimplified labels... It galls me to hear that Ndamukong Suh's dirty, Jim Irsay's crazy, Cam Newton's arrogant and Aaron Rodgers, quite frankly until a few years ago, he was labeled as inadequate. "Guess what? That's just not really the totality of who they are, nor is it really a fair label."
Rodgers visits a favorite restaurant and talks about his pranks, his personal life and making the transition from Brett Favre's backup to MVP favorite. "He is at the same time so super smart and so mature and such a goofball and such a good leader," Storm says.
Newton, returning to an Atlanta-area park where he used to toss the football with his family, discusses the "pay-for-play" college scandal and apologizes for acting like a sore loser following a bad game during his rookie season. "He said he's glad [the investigation] happened," Storm says. "He said they opened up their books and there was no money there, and he kind of makes a joke, 'Where's that $200,000?' He actually says that it brought him closer to his father."
Suh explains the famous Thanksgiving "stomp" and shows off the weight room he funded at Nebraska. "He's not a guy that you ever get an impression is on some kind of image rehab tour or being insincere in any way," Storm says.
And Irsay sings Bob Seeger's "Turn the Page" on one of the guitars in his collection, which is display at an Indianapolis museum. He also goes over prospects for the Colts' future, which may or may not include Peyton Manning at quarterback. "Everyone was like, 'Why do you want to do Jim Irsay?'" Storm says. "I said we absolutely have to do Jim Irsay."
(Portions of the interview have already aired on SportsCenter, where Storm is an anchor.) She adds that learning about Irsay's background is essential to understanding how he built one of the most stable franchises in the NFL. "And he let me hold John Lennon's guitar for The White Album, which was really cool," Storm says.
She did have a fifth prospect in mind, Denver Broncos Tim Tebow, but he cut off most media after the season. "We're working on that," Storm says. "That elevated to another echelon." Tebow's absence just leaves more room for the other four interviews in the one-hour show. "I'm grateful that they invested in it and that they trusted me and felt that they could sit down and tell their stories," Storm says. "It's hard for people to talk about themselves, but I think it's worthwhile."
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