This month's cover is graced by Field Yates, an NFL Insider for ESPN who contributes analysis, breaking NFL news and fantasy football for the network. We enjoyed catching up with him to know more about how he got into the industry, shows he's on and more about Fantasy Football.
ATHLEISURE MAG: What was the moment when you realized you wanted to work in sports?
FIELD YATES: For as long as I can remember, I wished to work in sports. I often joke that I had an early realization that my future in sports was not going to be on the field forever - my college career at Wesleyan University on the football and lacrosse teams - was inglorious. But, without hesitation, I always knew that I wanted sports to be a foundational part of my life. So much of my life has revolved and will continue to circle around sports, which I'm grateful for everyday. So while pinpointing a specific moment is difficult, I'm hard pressed to remember a time when I didn't envision a career in sports.
AM: We know prior to coming to ESPN, you worked in the front office on the staff for scouting and coaching. Tell us about your background and how you transitioned your career into joining the ESPN family.
FY: My career at ESPN was, well, not by design. My desire growing up was to enter into the world of football coaching, and after spending several training camps working with the Patriots during my high school and college years, I was hired by the Chiefs in 2009 following my graduation from Wesleyan University. My summers with the Patriots were a combination of scouting and coaching duties, learning the ins and outs of each while contributing in any way that was asked of me. I draw the parallel to learning a new language: for me, training camps were my football Rosetta Stone. Learning from an organization with incredible success was my foundation and my time in Kansas City (2009-2011) provided me with a chance to put my football education into action. Both were truly remarkable opportunities.
AM: What shows on air as well as on the podcast are you a part of and tell us about these as well?
FY: My role at ESPN has some elements of a utility player, as my assignments span across almost anything tied to football. During the season, I serve as the co-host of the Fantasy Focus Football podcast with the amazing Matthew Berry and Stephania Bell. Our show is live-streamed daily on Twitter, making it a bit different than a traditional podcast -- it's TV-lite. On Sundays, I appear on our popular Fantasy Football Now show, with in-season work on NFL LIVE, SportsCenter and any other football-related segments on other shows. My work also includes extensive ESPN Radio opportunities and some writing for ESPN.com.
AM: What is an average week like for you as we know you are at ESPN HQ as well as work out of Boston?
FY: During the season, my week lays out as such: I depart Boston first thing Sunday morning, arriving to Bristol by about 7:30 AM in advance of our meeting for Fantasy Football Now. From then until Friday afternoon, I remain in Bristol (I'm familiar with all of the local hotels near Bristol by now!), as our podcast airs every Monday-Friday. It's a blitz from Sunday-to-Friday, but one that seemingly goes by at the speed of light. Between TV obligations, the podcast, developing our weekly rankings for those who play Fantasy Football and so much more, there is rarely a dull moment.
AM: How do you take time for yourself with such a busy schedule?
FY: My goal is to carve some time each day for myself to unwind from the ever-moving football news cycle. I'm a morning person - always have been - so my days begin with a workout every day. It's a chance to decompress and set the tone for the day ahead. As a creature of habit, I know that bypassing on a workout in the morning will inevitably result in it falling by the wayside later in the day. Get up and get going is my mindset.
AM: What is it about reporting about football, focusing on fantasy sports and giving fans analysis that resonates with you?
FY: I truly believe the advent of fantasy football has led to make the sport relatable in a way that is incomparable. Hardly a day goes by when I don't hear from someone who has a question about his or her fantasy lineup or favorite team. That connectivity to fans, readers, followers, listeners, viewers, etc. is something I am truly inspired by. The appetite for football is insatiable; from the 17 weeks of the regular season to the playoffs, the draft, free agency and so much more, everyone seemingly loves football!
AM: What is your personal style when you're on the air, when you're podcasting and when you’re at home with friends and family?
FY: I aim to be myself above all else. That's the starting point for how I approach my work, as it's easy to see others in the world of reporting or podcasting and try hard to emulate their style. But that is what works for them; it's important to be authentically yourself in any walk of life. Style-wise, specific to apparel, my goal is to always look sharp: an outfit that you aren't trying to draw attention to, but an outfit that when people see it, they understand there was thought put into pulling it together.
AM: How do you stay in shape? What are 3 of your go to workouts?
FY: My workouts do tend to go into phases: sometimes they involve more weightlifting, while other times I place more of an emphasis on cardiovascular activity. But three workouts that you can never go wrong with: a run around the Charles River in Boston, any sort of core workout and a full-body exercise.
AM: What's on your playlist when you're working out and what do you listen to when you're hanging out?
FY: The world of podcasting is not one I live in simply as a host; I'm a huge consumer of podcasts as well. Be it the other fantastic podcasts we have on our ESPN feed (Adam Schefter or Mina Kimes football-themed shows) or anything related to the NBA - I'm a hoops junkie - podcasts are a perfect workout soundtrack for me.
AM: In Boston, where would we find you grabbing a drink/getting a meal, working out and shopping?
FY: Boston has such a great mixture of culinary options and I'm fully convinced its on the rise. Our local seafood is as good as and deserves to be advertised and the next time I ever grow tired of eating lobster will be the first time. During the summer, the Seaport area has seen tremendous growth, becoming one of the best areas to spend time in its mixture of top restaurant options, activities and shopping make it a can't miss Boston spot. For my favorite sandwich in the city, 3 Little Figs in Somerville is hard to beat.
AM: Let's talk Fantasy Football. How important is the draft and what are some tips if you are with a group you know well versus venturing out into new waters?
FY: The draft is supremely important in fantasy football, but it is unquestionably just the first step in the process. I always remind people, the team you draft is not the team you finish your season with! It's essential to be active on the waiver wire and fielding/offering up trades. Along those lines, the most important thing to remem ber in the draft is to find value; even if you start your draft with a surplus of wide receivers, it won't be long before someone with a dearth of pass catchers comes calling with a compelling trade offer. While NFL teams often draft for need in the NFL draft, draft is based for value in fantasy football!
AM: What are some surprises you've seen for this season?
FY: While I had an extremely optimistic outlook for Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen, his emergence into the best fantasy football wide receiver so far in the league has been tremendous to see. He does everything well, is consistent and represents one of the best values in this year's draft. On a non-fantasy side, the robust number of trades has been fun to see as well. NFL teams have often been hesitant to make trades when compared to what we see in other major sports league (i.e. NBA, MLB, NHL), but the spike in trades has been neat in the NFL. Teams are far more wheeling and dealing than we're typically accustomed to, as was evidenced leading up to the recent trade deadline (October 30th).