Georgia State alum Tiffany Blackmon’s post student-athlete career took a different route than most. The former women’s soccer defender that played for the Panthers from 2003-2006 now reports for the NFL Network.
Since joining the network in 2015, Blackmon has been assigned to field reports around the country, but she got her start in media by interning with the communications department for Athletics at Georgia State while she was a student.
How does it feel coming from Georgia State to where you are now on a national platform?
Blackmon: It’s great. I had a great experience during my time, I guess many years ago now, back at Georgia State and I was given a lot of opportunities to be put in a position to succeed with a lot of the professors that I had there. I was with Andree Grogan for a little while. She got my foot in the door at the Weather Channel to get my first start but having that background at Georgia State really helped to prepare me to now be in the position that I am in at NFL Network.
Oh and Doug Barthlow, I had a great time in his class. He actually helped me get started by helping me find an internship, which I eventually did with the Georgia State Athletic Department, but it was really cool being in his class as well. So it was definitely Barthlow and Grogan that really helped to set me up to take those next steps and kind of tell me the reality of the business that I’m in. How cut throat it is and how you really have to start from humble beginnings and that was a really cool experience to have.
How was it for you, balancing student-athlete life and also a student pursuing journalism?
Blackmon: You know, I get asked that a lot and I guess I never really thought about it back then because it was just what I did. So I was never thinking, ‘Oh, I’ve got too much homework and studying stuff to do..or, I have too much practice, I can’t find a way to juggle both.’ You kind of just do it. I didn’t know anything else really. I played soccer for most of my life and I was still balancing my normal school work in high school, so making that transition to college wasn’t that tough for me.
So it’s just the same thing, but on a different level?
Blackmon: Yes, a much grander level, because you’re getting to school early, you’re getting through preseason, you have practice every day and games on the weekends. I think my senior year, we were on the road a crazy amount because we were getting a new facility. A new soccer field was being built for us, so we were gone quite a bit, but I guess I just never really felt like anything was any different.
Do you think, personally, that student-athletes should get paid?
Blackmon: Oh, goodness..that’s a tough question. I do. I do think that they should be compensated, more than they are. I guess football’s always the biggest thing that comes to mind, so I’ll touch on football. A lot of universities, football is the money maker, that’s what everyone looks at it as. For the amount of money that, I’m just talking about football here, for the amount that those guys sacrifice, really being so physical, not to say soccer wasn’t because I had my fair share of concussions and stuff, but for the amount that they sacrifice and the amount of money that they are bringing into the school, I think that they should be compensated. I know there’s a lot to be made over guys choosing not to play in the bowl games because they don’t want to get hurt and be able to go to the next level and play football in the NFL, I think they have every right to do that. If you’re not being compensated in college, why risk your future where you do have the potential to make millions of dollars and be able to support your family.
What about the basketball programs like Duke or UNC?
Blackmon: That’s true as well. I do feel like, and again just focusing on football, but I do think that with all sports, you should be compensated. Especially, mentioning Duke, obviously everyone knows the rich history they have there with their basketball program, but I do think athletes should be receiving more. Obviously, education is great. You can’t beat getting an education, maybe a free education or being compensated in some way to help make up what you have to pay to get that education, but once your playing career is over and you’ve given your blood, sweat, tears to this University, I think it would definitely be nice to have something to fall back on, considering the school’s bringing in so much money.
So it’s Black History Month. Were there any black journalists that inspired you along your path growing up?
Blackmon: I would definitely have to say Pam Oliver’s one of them. Given when thinking about the biggest females in the business, she was one of the first. Robin Roberts is great. Going back to Pam, though, it was so refreshing for me, my first season at NFL Network, she came up to me. That was a pretty awesome moment for me, the fact that she was so warm. She really made me feel comfortable. It just really meant the world to me that someone I grew up watching and eventually wanting to emulate would come up to me and tell me that I’m doing a great job and that she wanted to meet me. Now, I’ve seen her several stops since then and that’s been very cool for me, running into her at games, we share the same dog walker now [laughs], she helped me out. Pam is someone I definitely looked up to, I just love them all. Like Stuart Scott. You can just go through the list of names. John Saunders was amazing at his craft. There’s just so many people, looking at the women: Pam, seeing Robin Roberts, those are definitely the people that- I know I’m probably leaving somebody out, but seeing that they could do it, I always felt like I could do it. Even beyond the race factor, I just always felt like I could do it.
What advice would you give to young, aspiring journalists now?
Blackmon: The best thing that I could say is- everybody has a path in this business and everybody’s path is totally different. At the end of the day, you have to worry about yourself. I see situations where there have been younger people or maybe people with less experience, climb the ladder faster and I’ve seen other people be bitter about those people. So if I’m working really hard, grinding in Lake Charles, Louisiana and then another friend of mine all of a sudden skyrockets to NFL Network or ESPN that didn’t do everything that I did? Carry the camera, shoot, write and edit. All that kind of stuff, I think that people have a tendency to be really negative about that, but you have to look at your own path and all that stuff that I did? Made me better. I appreciate the hell out of our photographers, out of our audio guy, because that’s stuff that I had to dabble in all of that and I respect what they do. It takes a team to make everybody, especially at this level, look good. So my biggest piece of advice is just not to look at everybody else, worry about yourself and that’s why I feel like I’ve had success.
I think one period in time I remember I got bitter about a friend getting something over me when I first started. I talked with my mother about it or something and it really kind of struck a cord and you just can’t. If you get caught up in what someone else is getting in front of you or doing, you’re not going to get anywhere.
More Ter-iff-ic Facts
- Blackmon has two dogs, one was adopted from Houston and the other was adopted from Atlanta.
- She mainly covered the last two reigning NFC Champions in the Carolina Panthers and the Atlanta Falcons.
- She ran into former Georgia State SID Charlie Taylor often on NFL sidelines around the country.
- She emphasized that her communications internship taught her how to interview subjects and turn the interviews into stories at Georgia State.