Backstage with the FOX NFL Crew: Jersey Boys cover Giants-Lions

By Richie Zyontz
FOX NFL Lead Producer

Editor’s note: Richie Zyontz has been an NFL producer for FOX since 1994 and has been the principal producer for the past 20 seasons. He has over 40 years of league experience and has produced six Super Bowls. During the 2022 NFL season, he will provide a glimpse as FOX’s new NFL #1 team makes its way to Super Bowl LVII.

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ – 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 flair.

Let’s start in the broadcast booth with Greg Olsen, a multisport superstar at Wayne Hills High School, before we head to the University of Miami and NFL stardom. He currently resides in Charlotte, NC, but don’t be fooled, his jersey advantage remains strong.

Greg Olsen and Kevin Burkhardt reminisce about their old hairstyles

Greg Olsen and Kevin Burkhardt reminisce about their old hairstyles

During the broadcast of the Lions Giants game, Kevin Burkhardt and Greg Olsen looked back on their old hairstyles.

He called Sunday’s game with Bloomfield, NJ’s own Kevin Burkhardt, another local success story.

KB graduated from William Paterson University in Wayne, NJ, and then spent eight years as an athletic director at WGHT Radio in Pompton Lakes, where he called some high school football games, including several by Olsen.

Next came a sharp turnaround in selling cars, before opportunity as a field reporter at New York Mets games knocked on SNY, where he endeared himself to New York baseball fans (including mine, really). FOX Sports executives took notice as well, and soon after, KB became the baseball pregame show host and NFL play-by-play announcer.

And just like his partner, that pleasant exterior belies his stubborn Jersey roots.

On February 12, 2023, more than 100 million viewers will hear these two Jersey Boys call Super Bowl LVII on FOX from Glendale, Arizona.

what a night this will be! (Mandatory Frankie Valli reference.)

From Jersey Boys to NFL broadcasters

From Jersey Boys to NFL broadcasters

Greg Olsen and Kevin Burkhardt discuss the NFL crew and their relationship with New Jersey.

Bada Bing

Our production truck also has deep roots in New Jersey.

Director Rich Russo, a native of Long Islander, lives in Holmdel, a 45-mile drive from 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, look no further than associate producer Rich Gross.

A native of Haworth, Rich attended Northern Valley Demarest Regional High School while cheering on his beloved Yankees and Giants.

He joined our crew as a broadcast associate for the 2006 season and a year later worked with us on the Giants’ wonderful Super Bowl victory over the previously undefeated New England Patriots.

Rich has been a loyal and valuable sidekick for 17 years, handling his job with great skill and a Jersey advantage.

And while he claims to love the Jersey Shore, I’ve never seen him with a tan in all his years.

firedamp

John Madden used to enjoy cold and blustery Sundays as the perfect elements for football – or good batting weather as he called those conditions. And the churning November winds were in force Sunday afternoon.

This was our first opportunity to cover a Giants game, so our day started with all the Jersey boys on the crew posing for a wrapped photo. Truly a diverse group!

Members of the FOX Sports NFL crew gather before the Giants-Lions game in New Jersey

It was the start of a challenging week for our crew with an upcoming Thanksgiving game in Dallas on Thursday. But it’s a magical time of year, as Thanksgiving football conjures up so many wonderful working memories.

During the show we played an old clip that we hold dear – one of the hallmarks of Lawrence Taylor’s Hall of Fame career. It was Thanksgiving 1982; Taylor picked off the Lions’ Gary Danielson and brought him back 97 yards for a touchdown.

Thanksgiving moment: Lawrence Taylor’s pick six

Thanksgiving moment: Lawrence Taylor's pick six

Check out that “Thanksgiving Moment” from 1982 when Lawrence Taylor returned an interception for a game-winning Giants touchdown in Detroit.

Pat Summerall and John Madden chatting to Lawrence Taylor on the field – it doesn’t get any better than that!

reality check

This was a difficult game to outplay. Between the fast-playing teams and a multitude of injuries and penalties, it was difficult to find a rhythm for the broadcast. That’s the beauty of what we do; Some weeks all parts of the show fit together perfectly, some weeks they don’t.

And games often don’t run as expected.

We were hoping to show a video montage comparing Giants running back Saquon Barkley to one of his heroes, former Lions running back and Hall of Fame inductee Barry Sanders. But Detroit’s defense had a say by keeping Barkley at 22 yards. So much for this idea!

Now the Giants and our crew have a short week to prepare for the Cowboys on Thanksgiving Day – a day the NFL will honor John Madden.

I can barely wait for it.


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