Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I wasn’t an excellent student growing up, and, quite honestly, I was aimless for most of the high school. In my senior year, one of my English teachers, Mrs. Iobst, sent this essay I wrote about going to a baseball game with my dad to the local paper. They liked it and asked me to write some features on athletes at my school for them. I’m still not sure I knew that this was the thing I was going to do for the rest of my life, but I enjoyed it, and it was cool to feel like I was good at something.
I didn’t immediately go to college. I worked a bunch of odd jobs — attendant at a car lot, janitorial, plastic shop, landscaping, concrete — and for a while figured I’d settle into something and do that for the rest of my life. Everyone around me did, but I had this bad habit of not showing up to work. I hated every one of those jobs, and I’m not the kind of person who is good at forcing himself through bad things. So, I eventually went to college, initially as a non-degree student (remember, I was aimless in high school), and decided to pursue journalism.
While in college, I worked for the student newspaper and got hooked on a Scout.com website, where they paid me $500 to cover the Erie SeaWolves. That’s $500 for the whole season. Each week, they wanted a notebook and a feature, but I attended every game and soaked up everything I could from the guy working the beat. I loved it. I used those clips to get out-of-town papers to hire me to cover their NBA D-League teams when they came to Erie that winter. Those were the league’s early days, and there was a surprising amount of places still willing to pay for coverage.
One of the papers was the Springfield Republican and MassLive.com. I worked a bunch of games for them, and the following spring, I saw an ad on SportsJournalists.com about how they needed someone to cover the Red Sox during the first two weeks of spring training. I reached out, lied, and said I’d be down in Florida for another reason and could handle that for them. They gave me the job. I bought a flight out of my pocket, paid for my hotel, and went down to cover the Red Sox.
It was a crazy move to make, and I would tell anyone considering doing something like that they are insane and allowing someone to exploit them. The younger version of myself wouldn’t have listened. I was desperate and hungry. My time was spent answering phones at my local newspaper and praying they would send me out on an assignment. When they did, the stuff I was getting was cross-country skiing and golf. I felt like this was a chance to get some decent clips. I was willing to pay for them.
So, that ended, and I went back to covering the SeaWolves and answering phones. Around May or June, MassLive.com asked me to fill in as their Red Sox blogger while the other guy took some time off. I accepted. Things went well, and a couple of months later, they asked me to start blogging about the Patriots. I jumped on the opportunity. With that connection, I started driving from my home in Pennsylvania to Foxborough for games. It was nine hours one way, which is a pretty rough commute.
I did this for a few weeks, including an away game in New York, before they eventually had me move out there. I was a freelancer, but they promised me a certain amount of money each year, and I ended up exceeding that pay each of the first two years. In the third year, I was hired full-time when MassLive.com began to move to the forefront of the operation.
After four seasons covering the Patriots, I had the opportunity to head down to New Orleans and cover the Saints.
Can you share the most exciting story that happened to you since you started doing this?
Many exciting things happen in this job, which is one of the best things. I’ve covered Super Bowls and all kinds of different sporting events. But the moments that stand out the most are just being able to talk about football with the people who make the news. Listening to Sean Payton talk about offensive philosophy or being able to ask Tom Brady why he does something a certain way are the most exciting moments.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them thrive and not “burn out”?
What works for me is always to find new things to be curious about if you’re excited about what you are doing and find new ways to tell stories.
None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a person you are grateful for who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
Ian Rapoport of NFL Network helped me get my job in New Orleans. Without him, I don’t know where I’d be right now. He’s had an incredible influence on my life.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
After Hurricane Ida, we started a fundraiser with the subscribers at NewOrleans.Football and ended up raising $30,000 toward relief efforts. But none of that was about us. We did promote the effort, and the community did the rest.
Do you have a favorite Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share a story of how that was relevant to you in your life?
“I would go 0-for-30 [from the floor] before I would go 0-for-9. [An] 0-for-9 means you beat yourself, you psyched yourself out of the game. … The only reason is because you’ve just now lost confidence in yourself.” Kobe Bryant said that once, and it stands out to me. You never give up and can never hold yourself back. As long as you’re determined to find a way to succeed, you will eventually get there.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
They can follow me on Twitter at @nick_underhill or on Instagram at @neworleansfootball.
Anything specific you’d like to have mentioned in the article?
We launched NewOrleans.Football in 2020 as an independent news source focused on covering the New Orleans Saints. The website is one of the first of its kind, where a journalist started his subscription-based news outlet to compete with traditional media.