Former New Orleans Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma is headed to the broadcast booth this Fall as he joins FOX as an analyst.
But like most things during the Covid-19 pandemic, his path to the new gig wasn’t traditional.
“They actually had me do the interview via Zoom which was interesting,” he said. “I had to call a whole (NFL) game via Zoom.”
Fox officials told Vilma which game he’d be calling a day before the interview and Vilma prepared in the same way that led to him becoming a three-time Pro Bowler during his NFL career.
“I watched the previous film from both opponents prior to that. As I said, I'm a student of the game so that's really all I needed,” he said. “I just needed time to watch a few games of the teams, of their previous opponents, understand their schemes and then go from there."
Vilma is no stranger to calling games, having offered commentary for college games as well as NFL preseason matchups. But calling the game via video conferencing presented some completely new challenges for the former NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year.
“It was definitely different because you don't get the energy from your partner,” he said. “You will know when your partner wants to say something or your partner wants to interject or if your partner is just mum on something and you can kind of keep going.
“Kevin Burkhardt was my partner for the interview and that was probably the hardest part. I wasn't able to get the vibe or get any energy off of him, read his body language. “Fortunately, Kevin, he's awesome. You guys have heard him before, he's awesome at calling games so he made it very easy for me.”
Vilma said he’s looking forward to the real thing even if the stadiums look a little different with, most likely, limited fan attendence as franchises enact social distancing measures to ensure fan safety.
"Yeah, I've thought about it a little bit and candidly speaking, all my thoughts have been selfish from the perspective of, well, if they're not here that means they have to watch me on TV,” he said with a laugh.”I’ve kind of looked at it that way. I just left it at that and then was kind of like, alright well, I'd love to have the crowd and the energy of the game, but it's not so bad. They have to watch me on TV now."