The 2020 NFL Draft was a black swan event in pro football history. The COVID-19 pandemic shut down the world in mid-March, and all public gatherings were scrapped indefinitely.
That, of course, included the NFL Draft, which was supposed to be held on the Las Vegas Strip. Instead, it was held in Roger Goodell’s basement (and other homes throughout the country). A street festival morphed into a three-day virtual fundraiser, with proceeds benefiting the COVID-19 relief efforts of six national nonprofits.
In 2020, Trey Wingo was well into his third decade hosting the draft for ESPN and walks us through the once-a-lifetime broadcast event.
Trey Wingo Remembers the COVID-19 NFL Draft
Well, the COVID draft was just impossible, right? We had no idea if it was going to work.
Forty days before the draft, we had this whole thing set up in Vegas. It was a whole bonanza. And in 40 days, we had to go from this unbelievable, audacious show, to me being the only person in the studio and six analysts.
We combined NFL Network and ESPN because NFL Network was in Los Angeles, and the government wouldn’t let them open their studios. So they had no coverage.
The solution? Combine the two networks into one.
It was me, Louis Riddick, Mel Kiper Jr., Booger McFarland, Michael Irvin, Daniel Jeremiah, and Kurt Warner. And we had no idea if the technology was going to work.
And we’re told, “If something happens, just run with it.”
Well, I’ve long said the NFL lives with a golden horseshoe protecting the shield, and that was the case that year. It worked to perfection. Like we didn’t have a single glitch — even though none of us was in the same room.
That’s not to say there weren’t some stressful moments.
The bosses kept stressing to me. “Make sure when you talk to somebody, you say their name, so they know to answer.”
I followed that advice — with one exception.
There was one point, on Day 3, where I just said, “Hey, guys, what do you think about what just happened?”
That created a hesitation. And that was my fault. It wasn’t the technology’s fault. That was my mistake. Somebody started talking, then somebody else said something. It wasn’t great TV.
So I did a quick reset. “Oh, let’s try this again. Louis, what do you think about this?” Just like that, we were back on track.
Fortunately, that was the only glitch. It was unbelievable that that thing went off the way it did. It was a miracle. It was a miracle. It really was.
More NFL Draft Stories from Trey Wingo
- Inspiration, Intoxication, and Precipitation
- The Windy City Weather/Tyreek Hill Year
- Fly, Eagles Fly
- An Electrocution Scare in Nashville
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