Scottsdale, AZ - February 10, 2023 - Old Town Scottsdale: Louis Riddick on the international set of Super Bowl LVII. (Photo by Phil Ellswofth / ESPN Images)
Nothing went the way Louis Riddick wanted it to, until it did.
Now the 54-year-old Riddick, a Quakertown, Pa. native and Gloucester County resident, is doing exactly what he wants and doing it rather well.
Riddick played high school football at Pennridge High in Perkasie and his college ball at Pitt. He also played eight years in the NFL. But that’s not how you know him.
Not long after his final year of playing — in the XFL for Orlando — he became an NFL scout, first in the pro department of Washington and later with the Eagles where he was the director of pro personnel from 2010-12. You probably don’t know him from that, either.
Where Riddick became known is on ESPN where he went from studio talent and NFL draft analyst to the Monday Night Football booth to now one of the network’s top college analysts.
None of that was planned. And even Riddick himself can’t believe how it happened or where he is today.
“I wasn’t thinking either personnel or media,” Riddick said of his post-NFL career. “I had an economics degree from Pitt. I was thinking I would somehow — everyone likes money — be involved with a big brokerage house, be affiliated with Wall St. somehow, managing retirement funds.”
Being a scout, being on TV, they weren’t even dreams because they were never even considerations.
“Personnel was never a thought,” Riddick says rather emphatically. “As a player, you develop a feeling that (personnel) people, who weren’t talented enough to play the game, sit around and scrutinize you. So I hated those guys. I always had the feeling they were trying to replace me and come to find out when I became a personnel person that’s exactly what they were doing, trying to upgrade the team any way they could. That’s their job. So I didn’t want to do that.
“As far as TV, I was always fascinated by the great commentators whether it was Keith Jackson doing college football who was the standard when I grew up, or Frank Gifford, Howard Cosell, or Dick Enberg. I thought that would be cool to be able to do that, but I never thought when I stopped playing that I would do that.”
He didn’t. He spent over a decade with the people he hated.
“I sat around for a couple of years [after he was finished playing] and it was time to transition into my second job, working in a brokerage house or manager or whatever it was going to be,” Riddick said. “I wasn’t in a rush. I wanted to figure out what I wanted to do.”
• • •
Two years before all of that he had received a call from long-time personnel man Ken Herock, who he knew from his playing days with the Falcons and Raiders. Herock was now in Green Bay and worked with Riddick’s cousin, Will Lewis, a scout for the Packers.
“He asked me if I wanted to get into personnel,” Riddick said. “He said he admired how I approached the game as a player and thought I would make a good scout. I told him, ‘Ken, I hate you guys. This is not what I want to do.’ He said, ‘Well, think about it.’
Two years later there was another phone call. This time from another veteran personnel man, John Schneider, the current general manager of the Seattle Seahawks, then with Washington. That made Riddick think even more.
“John called and said ‘Your cousin Will and Ken Herock said I need to talk to you. Both of them think you would be a great scout.’”
Riddick gave in, met with Schneider, and . . .
“The next thing I know I’m packing up my stuff and telling my wife we’re moving to Washington,” he said. “She said. ‘I thought you hated those guys.’ Yeah, go figure.”
Riddick worked in Washington from 2001-07 and moved to Philadelphia in 2008. He left the Eagles and the personnel world after the 2012 season.
A year later he was at ESPN.
“Before, let’s say, my parting ways in Philly, I started paying more attention to what was going on in the media,” Riddick said. “What storylines were being spread? What kind of spin would writers put on stories? I became more and more intrigued by who were the good ones, who were the ones I thought were [not good]. So, when I left Philly, I thought about staying in personnel but to be honest I was tired of all the BS.”
• • •
It wasn’t as easy as he thought to get into the media. He tried and failed a few times. The NFL didn’t even allow him to attend their annual Broadcast Bootcamp held every year in South Jersey.
“They told me I wasn’t a big enough name,” he said. “I was crushed.
“Everywhere I looked I got shot down. So when people ask me now how to get started in the media, there is no blueprint. It’s opportunity, luck and being able to take advantage of the opportunity when it happens. That’s what happened to me.”
That same cousin, Will Lewis, who helped him get into personnel, helped him get into TV. ESPN was starting a show called “NFL Insiders”. Lewis knew some people involved and thought his cousin would be a perfect fit. He was right.
After a 20-minute phone conversation, Riddick was asked to come up to Bristol for an audition. It went well, but not as well as he hoped it would. At least not financially.
“They offered me $800 per show with no guarantees,” he said. “I took it because the first time I did it, I was hooked.”
So was the network. He was hired in August and by late October he was offered a real contract. Six months later came another contract.
“It exploded,” Riddick said. “It just exploded.”
Riddick made his name doing NFL Draft content. He worked the draft on radio in 2014 and then caught a break the following draft when Hall of Famer Ray Lewis had to back out of doing the live TV broadcast.
“I got a call, ‘You’re supposed to be doing radio, right? Get on a plane now, you’re doing TV. You’re replacing Ray Lewis.’” Riddick said.
“When I get there all the main guys are there, Chris Berman, Jon Gruden, Mel Kiper, they’re all freaking out. ‘Are you ready? What do you need?’ I was like, ‘I have everything I need just tell me where I have to be.’ The first round is ready to kick off, and Boomer just looked at me and said, ‘Hey Riddick don’t (mess) this up.’”
“My phone was blowing up during the show, so either I suck, or people liked what I was saying. I had 85-90 texts and they were all telling me to go on Twitter that people loved me. My whole life changed from that point. It was one big assignment after another.”
Riddick went from the studio to Friday night college games and then to Monday Night Football in 2020 with Steve Levy and Brian Griese.
“Throughout my career at ESPN I always wanted to do the biggest, most watched, most impactful, most important events that I possibly could,” he said. “So, after the draft I had my eye on calling live events, because live events is where it’s at, it’s where the money is, it’s where the eyeballs are.
“When Gruden left Monday Nights to go back to coaching, I let it be known I wanted an opportunity to do that. I kept bugging them. Doing Monday Night Football is about as big as it gets. It was surreal for me. And during the ‘COVID’ year, it was even more surreal.
“Every game before kickoff I would just stand there with my headset off, and just listen to the crowd and smell what the vendors were cooking. I’d say to myself, ‘You got to be kidding me.’”
Through it all, there were times when he thought about going back to personnel. He interviewed for general manager jobs with a half dozen teams.
“I thought I had a job,” he said. “I was disappointed. (But) I wasn’t searching for jobs. I got attention because of what I was doing and saying on TV.”
This season Riddick is on the second MNF crew with Chris Fowler and Dan Orlovsky. And he works a top college game every Saturday.
“I couldn’t be more fired up,” he said.
Oh, and he continues to live in Gloucester County where he has since he worked for the Eagles.
“When I went from Washington to Philly, we were looking for a house in the Philly area, West Chester, Exton, somewhere around there. We couldn’t find anything. Our real estate agent said there were nice places over the bridge in Gloucester County. I said, ‘New Jersey?’”
“We’ve been there ever since.”
The only time the same two teams have met in consecutive Super Bowls happened in Super Bowls XXVII and XXVIII when the Dallas Cowboys defeated the Buffalo Bills in both games.
ESPN analyst Louis Riddick thinks it’s going to happen again, with the same result.
“It would be weird,” Riddick said of a Kansas City Chiefs/Philadelphia Eagles rematch in Super Bowl LVIII. “But I see it happening. They’re the two best teams. The only way to pick otherwise would be just to go against the grain.”
Kansas City came from 10 points down at the half to beat the Eagles, 38-35, in Super Bowl LVII. Can the Eagles reverse that this year in Riddick’s Rematch?
“I have to go with Kansas City, because of Patrick [Mahomes],’’ Riddick said. “You better start to document what he’s doing. It’s special.”
Since Riddick spends much of his time focused on the NFL Draft, we thought we’d get his opinion on this year’s choices for Rookie of the Year.
On offense: “He’s probably not going to win Rookie of the Year, but I think the one who could be the best player in this draft is Darnell Wright the tackle from Tennessee who went to Chicago. He’s a friggin’ monster. I said he could be All-Pro as a rookie and I’m standing by that. He has that Lane Johnson impact as a right tackle.”
On defense: “Here’s a guy who just needs to stay healthy, Nolan Smith [of the Eagles out of Georgia]. He could be the steal of the draft. For [the Eagles] to get him at 31 was ridiculous. That was malpractice on the rest of the teams to let him get to 31. He has Von Miller-type ability. He’s going to be a difference maker.”