ALL ACCESS: A lot of networks do TV interviews, but have you ever wanted to know the juicy details that never make air? You can tell a lot about who people really are when the cameras aren’t rolling. Here’s an behind-the-scenes look of how the interview of the Colts’ Dwight Freeney was set up for the “PROfiles’’ show, hosted by Laura Okmin.
He’s a five-time Pro Bowl player and a Super Bowl champion who is heading into his ninth season, so I was really excited about doing the “PROfiles” show with Dwight Freeney.
And as I began doing research on Dwight Freeney, I realized that I didn’t know anything about him. I mean, anything.
I knew Tom Brady called him the most intimidating player he ever faced. I knew he caused nightmares for quarterbacks and offensive coordinators, but beyond what I saw on the field, that was about it. I sat at my computer for hours looking … and looking … for “personality” pieces on Dwight, finally finding one that was done in 2002, his rookie season.
If it’s possible for a perennial Pro Bowl player to live under the radar, then somehow Dwight has made a pretty comfortable home there.
When I set up “PROfiles” episodes, almost all the players want to know who else is doing the show and what they did in their episodes. It actually gets competitive, which I love. They’ll ask me which show is my favorite and when I tell them, they’ll ask me throughout the shooting, “Is it better than his?”
The cool thing about telling other players about Dwight doing the show was every time I threw out his name, his peers were really curious about what I was going to do with him because no one really knew anything about him. More players told me that they couldn’t wait to see his show.
I told Dwight that and asked him if this was by design or if it’s simply that Peyton Manning soaks up the entire spotlight in Indianapolis. I loved the smile that crept on face (watch the show and you’ll see it) when he said, “Both.”
Yes, he said (with good humor and perhaps some disdain) that offense gets the headlines, but he told me one of the ways he stays so grounded is by being private, keeping some things for himself — a philosophy I find refreshing and maddening at the same time. Maddening because we spend so much time focusing on four or five guys who make headlines for all the wrong reasons. Then you have a guy like Dwight who doesn’t want any attention off the field and let me tell you, he should get it.
Mind you, he did get a taste of it during last year’s Super Bowl when you couldn’t go a minute without hearing about "Dwight Freeney’s ankle.’’
We (media) were sick of it and he was sick of it, while also being amused by it as well. He said he walked out on Media Day and saw a massive crowd around his podium and he stopped to take another look at the player’s name above it because he thought for sure it was going to say "Peyton Manning.’’
Still, he said even all of that attention wasn’t for him — but for his ankle — and said if Peyton would’ve gotten a hangnail, he (and his ankle) would’ve been bumped in a second.
Now before you wonder if Dwight secretly does want the spotlight reserved for his quarterback, let me tell you about the Crenshaw Colts. Our “PROfiles” show with Dwight was set up to go to his recording studio to talk about his record label and whether it is working out with him, but I felt like we needed more.
After 10 minutes of talking about ideas we could do with him, he casually threw out a football program that he sponsors in Crenshaw, Calif., though he said it was something we “probably wouldn’t be interested in.”
I asked him what his tie was to the area, considering he’s a Connecticut kid who went to Syracuse, and he said he had none. He told me, “Giving back to a community doesn’t mean it’s always your community. You give to those who are in need.”
That’s about all that Dwight told me. Then we showed up to an event in Crenshaw.
What he had failed to tell me is that they were honoring him. It wasn’t just one team, but an entire program for hundreds of kids who now have a place to go after school and on weekends in an area that’s infected with crime and gangs.
Dwight gave money for everything … uniforms, equipment … everything that was needed to get this program rolling. And it isn’t just football — it’s cheerleading as well as a communications department. The Crenshaw Colts have given over 500 kids and their parents a place to come together each week. The program has helped changed a community.
If I had given birth to this program it would be the first thing I would talk about to anyone who would listen. “How are you, Laura?” “Did I tell you about the program I started?” But I had to literally pull it out of Dwight.
He does wonderful things for communities — his and others — yet does not seek publicity from it.
But it’s not just football and philanthropy. Dwight attacks everything with the same gusto as a quarterback standing in the pocket. His workout and his diet are intense. I’ve spent time with a lot of athletes who are in tune to their body, but nothing like this.
He follows the Sari Mellman’s Dietary Progression diet which is based on your blood type. Dwight’s blood is drawn every couple of months and analyzed to determine what foods will work best for his body.
He knows exactly what weight he wants to be week-to-week — and game-to-game. If he’s facing a passing team he will weigh 262 pounds, but bumps it to 267 if he’s going against a running team. This is a man who has a plan and a purpose in everything he does.
I’ve had friends read these columns I’ve done, asking if I’m ever NOT going to gush about one of the players I profile.
Here’s the thing: I hope not.
The greatest thing about this show, for me, is that I get to pick each player I ask to do the program. My rule is, if I don’t want to spend a day or two with them, then how can I ask a viewer to invest 30 minutes to watch it?
I may have not known anything about Dwight Freeney before this show, but I think you’ll find out, as I did, that he’s worth the investment.
PROfiles with Dwight Freeney appears on FSN all this week. Check your local listings.