On the first full day of summer, Ian Rapoport ’02 was playing golf and focused on nothing more urgent than which club to choose for his next shot. A few minutes later, after getting a tip from a source and confirming it, he was on the phone with the set of Good Morning Football, the NFL Network’s morning show, breaking the news that the Oakland Raiders had signed quarterback Derek Carr to a contract extension that at that time made Carr the highest paid player in the NFL.
Such is the life of an NFL “Insider” in these days of no real offseason and a 24-hour news cycle — always on call, always one moment away from having to drop everything and chase down a story, verify a report, confirm a rumor. And Rapoport loves every minute of it.
“I like covering something that people really care about and need to know about,” says Rapoport, who has been an on-air reporter for the NFL Network since 2012.
Rapoport, like his chief rival, ESPN’s Adam Schefter, is charged with “breaking news, telling our audience things they didn’t know and giving them insight into what is going on around the league,” says David Eaton, news editor for the NFL Network.
BEN LIEBENBERG / NFL.COM
Rapoport appears regularly on the shows Good Morning Football and NFL Total Access, often with segments that air from his basement studio at his home in Rye, N.Y., just north of New York City. He also is a regular on the Sunday pregame show during football season and reports from the NFL Playoffs, the Super Bowl and the NFL Draft, among others. And for those who can’t wait to get the news on TV, Rapoport tweets it to his more than 1.3 million followers (@rapsheet).
A native of Westchester County, Rapoport was a history major. He planned to go to law school, but enjoyed covering sports for Spectator and by sophomore year, he says, “I knew I wanted to give journalism a try.” He decided to give it two years, and if things weren’t working out, it would be on to law school.
Rapoport worked part time in the sports department of the Journal News, his local newspaper, and, shortly before his self-imposed deadline, landed a full-time job at The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Miss., where he covered Mississippi State football. “When I was interviewed, they kept asking me whether I really would leave New York and move to Mississippi, like they couldn’t believe anyone would do that. But I really wanted to give it a shot,” he says. And while he admits to “a little bit” of culture shock, he notes, “I lived in Starkville, a real college town, for two years and that’s where I met the woman [Leah] who would become my wife. So there was a lot to like in Starkville.”
From there it was on to The Birmingham (Ala.) News, where he covered Alabama football and the Crimson Tide’s famously controlling coach, Nick Saban. “Nothing could have prepared me for what became the craziest experience of my life,” he says. “Everything he said was a story, and everyone in the state wanted to read everything about him,” Rapoport says. “I went from a nobody to one of the most widely read writers in college football.”
After three years, Rapoport moved to the Boston Herald to cover the New England Patriots and their similarly controlling head coach, Bill Belichick. He did so for two years and also did some television work, including reports for the NFL Network, which caught the attention of editors there. “I was covering the Super Bowl,” Rapoport says, “and they asked me to come in and talk. I told them I didn’t know anything about TV, but they said, ‘ at’s OK, we’ll teach you.’”
Eaton says that he was attracted by the skills Rapoport developed while covering high-profile teams and demanding coaches. “He had very strong sports editors early on in his career. The time in Alabama made him a better reporter and New England is another good place to learn how to develop news sources. Those experiences made him a very solid reporter.”
Rapoport became a Dallas-based regional reporter for the NFL Network and after a year was promoted to the position of NFL Insider. Two years later, Rapoport and his family — which now includes sons Max (4) and Jude (3), who enjoy playing in his home studio — relocated to Rye, a 20-minute drive from where he grew up. “My goal always was to get back to New York,” he says. “It took a long time to get back here, but I’m extremely happy the way it worked out.”
Asked about his plans, Rapoport says he loves his job despite its consuming nature. “I’m the guy telling NFL fans what’s up, and to me, that’s fun.” He concedes that he sometimes misses writing, though, and says he’d like to write a book in the near future. But at the pace that news breaks around the NFL, that’s unlikely to happen anytime soon.
Alex Sachare ’71 is a former editor-in-chief of CCT. In prior careers, he was a sports writer and administrator.
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