By Richie Zyontz
FOX NFL Lead Producer
Editor’s Note: Richie Zyontz has been an NFL producer for FOX since 1994 and the lead producer for the last 20 seasons. He has more than 40 years of experience covering the league and has produced six Super Bowls. Throughout the 2022 NFL season, he will provide an inside look as FOX’s new No. 1 NFL team makes its journey toward Super Bowl LVII.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Get ready, MetLife Stadium: The Jersey Boys are coming to town.
With all due respect to Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons, our FOX A-Team has a very Garden State flavor.
Let’s start in the broadcast booth with Greg Olsen, a multi-sport superstar at Wayne Hills High School before heading off to the University of Miami and NFL stardom. He currently resides in Charlotte, NC., but don’t be fooled, his Jersey edge remains strong.
Greg Olsen and Kevin Burkhardt reminisce about their old hairdos
During the broadcast of the Lions-Giants game, Kevin Burkhardt and Greg Olsen looked back at their old hairstyles.
He called Sunday’s game with Bloomfield, N.J.’s own Kevin Burkhardt, another local success story.
KB graduated from William Paterson University in Wayne, N.J., then spent eight years as sports director at WGHT radio in Pompton Lakes, calling some high school football games, including several of Olsen’s.
A sharp U-turn selling cars came next before opportunity knocked at SNY as a field reporter on New York Mets games, where he endeared himself to New York baseball fans (including yours truly). The executives at FOX Sports noticed, too, and soon thereafter KB became the host of the baseball pregame show and an NFL play-by-play announcer.
And just like with his partner, that pleasant exterior belies those hardscrabble Jersey roots.
On Feb. 12, 2023, more than 100 million viewers will hear these two Jersey Boys call Super Bowl LVII on FOX from Glendale, Arizona.
Oh what a night that will be! (Obligatory Frankie Valli reference.)
From Jersey Boys to NFL broadcasters
Greg Olsen and Kevin Burkhardt discuss the NFL crew and their relation to New Jersey.
Our production truck also has deep New Jersey roots.
Director Rich Russo, a native Long Islander, lives in Holmdel, a 45-mile drive to MetLife stadium in East Rutherford.
Technical producers Pete Chalverus and Dave Zulauf are Garden Staters — Pete from Princeton, Dave from Pelican Island.
Yes, there is a town in New Jersey called Pelican Island.
But if you’re looking for Jersey flavor, the search ends with associate producer Rich Gross.
He joined our crew as a broadcast associate for the 2006 season, and a year later worked with us on the Giants’ miraculous Super Bowl victory over the previously unbeaten New England Patriots.
Rich has been a loyal and valuable sidekick for 17 years, handling his job with great skill and a Jersey edge.
And while he claims to love the Jersey Shore, in all these years I’ve never seen him with a suntan.
John Madden used to relish cold and blustery Sundays as perfect elements for football — or good hitting weather, as he called those conditions. And the swirling November winds were out in force Sunday afternoon.
This was our first opportunity to cover a Giants game, so our day began with all the Jersey guys on the crew posing for a bundled-up photo. A motley group indeed!
Members of the FOX Sports NFL crew unite in New Jersey before the Giants-Lions game
It was the start of a challenging week for our crew, with a Thanksgiving game in Dallas looming Thursday. But it’s a magical time of the year as Thanksgiving football conjures up so many wonderful work memories.
During the broadcast, we played an old clip near and dear to our hearts — one of the signature plays of Lawrence Taylor’s Hall of Fame career. It was Thanksgiving 1982; Taylor picked off the Lions’ Gary Danielson and returned it 97 yards for a touchdown.
Thanksgiving Moment: Lawrence Taylor’s pick-six
Check out this “Thanksgiving Moment,” from 1982, when Lawrence Taylor returned an interception for a Giants’ game-winning touchdown in Detroit.
Pat Summerall and John Madden on the call with Lawrence Taylor on the field — it doesn’t get any better than that!
This was a difficult game to cover. Between the teams playing at a fast pace and a multitude of injuries and penalty flags, it was hard finding a rhythm to the telecast. That’s the beauty of what we do; some weeks all the pieces of the broadcast fit together perfectly, and some weeks they don’t.
And games often don’t go as expected.
We had hoped to show a video montage comparing Giants running back Saquon Barkley with one of his heroes, former Lions running back and Hall of Famer Barry Sanders. But Detroit’s defense had a say in this by holding Barkley to 22 yards rushing. So much for that idea!
Now the Giants and our crew have a short week to prepare for the Cowboys on Thanksgiving Day — a day when the NFL will honor John Madden.
I can’t wait.
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