Top Fox NFL play-by-play announcer, and former SNY reporter, Kevin Burkhardt makes the call to do some Q&A with Post columnist Steve Serby ahead of his first Super Bowl assignment next week.
Q: How would you characterize your style?
A: I get excited. I’m an excitable guy. Going to these games every week, I’ve got endless amounts of energy, and I think hopefully that comes across on TV without being annoying (laugh). I think I’m a guy that brings a lot of energy and likes to have a lot of fun.
Q: What drives you?
A: I think what drives me is continued improvement, and to be able to enjoy what I’m doing. As someone who’s been on quite the journey — it took me a while and some twists and turns to get here — I just really try to soak it in and enjoy every moment, and enjoy what I’m doing, because it’s not real life when you get to show up and call NFL playoff games for a living, right? It’s just not. I’m just trying to smile and enjoy it, and hopefully that comes across on TV when you’re watching.
Q: Who are your favorite interview subjects?
A: Aaron Rodgers. … I could talk to him all day. We have our production meetings with him, and we’ll go an hour sometimes and just talk football, or talk around the league, talk everything, and it’s just like he’s so open, and it’s really enjoyable. He helps us out a little bit too with some of the things we’re gonna see in the broadcast. Doing the Mets for eight years, it’s hard to pick one. … David Wright was the best every day.
Q: How would Aaron Rodgers play in the New York market?
A: I think the New York market would love Aaron Rodgers, because he lets you know exactly where you stand (laugh). There’s nothing better than someone who gives you time and is honest with you, right? I think he would be a complete hit sensation playing on Broadway, if you will, like the Jets fans are hoping.
Q: Give me a scouting report, as an announcer, of your partner Greg Olsen.
A: I think the beauty of Greg is that his mind is constantly working and thinking forward. That starts during the week when we talk, he’s always got these incredible thoughts and detailed thoughts about the game and what he’s going to look for and what we might see. He’s always like hitting me on the arm, like, “Hey, let’s not forget this.” Or we go to commercial and he’s hitting me on the arm, he’s like, “Hey, we gotta talk time strategy here.” His mind is a beautiful thing.
Q: What makes him effective as your sidekick?
A: He’s a pretty great dude, and it comes across on TV, and then you mix that with the fact that he could take very complicated NFL things, and make them understandable — whether it’s an NFL diehard or a person who’s watched football once in their entire life. I think that’s what makes him great, he talks to everyone who’s watching.
Q: Give me a scouting report on Greg Olsen as an NFL player.
A:. He’s the perfect tight end, right? Tough as nails, beard, hair flowing out of that helmet, can run and separate and can knock you down on a block too. He’s a prototypical 21st Century tight end.
Q: Do you think that knowing Greg as you do and having covered his high school games, at Wayne Hills in N.J., has enhanced your chemistry with him?
A: I think it definitely helps that we have a history. But I think it’s also that we just get along so well. I knew him as a kid, I knew his father, I knew his brother. And then when you get together down the road and we see each other in the NFL years ago and now, I just think we get along. I think we’re a couple of North Jersey kids — I’m a little older than him — but it feels like we’re on the playground just shooting the breeze and talking ball. That’s what it feels like when I’m with him on the air or off the air.
Q: Was he a good interview when you covered his games?
A: He was really good. His dad was a coach, he was great. The dad would have us in his office during the week for like production meetings, really. Greg and his brother Christian, who I covered at the time who was the quarterback, were both great interviews. Even then, he was awesome to talk to, mind-blowingly awesome for a kid that young.
Q: How has he persevered through watching his 8-year-old son, T.J., need a heart transplant?
A: I think his relationship with his whole family has made them able to persevere and handle it. You feel it when you’re around their family. That’s what sticks out to me is just like this giant hug between Greg and his whole family. … It’s special. Not every family’s like that.
Q: Describe T.J. Olsen.
A: He is a tough, resilient kid. If you’re in the room with him, and you didn’t know the story, you would never know anything happened to him. He doesn’t show it, he doesn’t look like it, he doesn’t pretend anything happened to him, he’s just a great kid who thankfully has a normal life.
Q: How much pride do you take in being able to be the orchestrator, the director, the point guard that sets Greg up perfectly?
A: I want to be the offensive line that plays well and no one talks about me … but it allows the quarterback to have a great game and throw for 400 yards and have four touchdowns and everyone talks about him. If that happens, I’m overjoyed, and it’s like my greatest bit of pride doing this job. I love it, I take great pride in it.
Q: Tom Brady’s 10-year, $375 million contract with Fox: How does it impact you and Greg?
A: Well, let’s put it this way: All the years of covering sports when you ask an athlete a question and then their answer is, “I’m really only focused on the next game” — I never understood it until this year, because I truly have not thought about it, because I just can’t. I am focused on the next game, which — oh, by the way — happens to be the biggest one of my career. That’s how I’ve handled it the whole way, and I sure as s–t ain’t gonna change now on the precipice of a Super Bowl.
Q: What are your favorite Super Bowl memories?
A: When I was a kid, and my parents always had a Super Bowl party for me and my friends, from the time I was younger till the time I was in college while I was still living at home. Those are my favorite memories, of making all the snacks and then we’d go out and play Nerf football in the street at halftime, and gorge ourself and watching the game together with my family and my high school buddies.
Q: What is the best Super Bowl ever?
A: The Giants ending the Patriots’ undefeated run was obviously an epic game [Super Bowl XLII].
Q: What is your favorite SNY sideline reporter moment?
A: The kayak in San Francisco my first year was hilarious. I was trying not to fall in McCovey Cove, with Keith [Hernandez] yelling at me from the booth. When I was in a lab coat, I tried to teach the audience about sabremetrics, (laugh), as absurd as that was.
Q: Favorite Mets memories?
A: Johan Santana’s  no-hitter is an obvious one. Being there for the [Mets’] first one was amazing, and the emotion with him coming back from that shoulder-capsule surgery, I was nervous and sweating sitting next to the dugout just watching it seeing if he can be able to get there. Unfortunately, they didn’t have a lot of winning years when I was there, but I saw some pretty great superlatives, right? I saw Jose Reyes win a batting title, I saw R.A. Dickey win a Cy Young, which was another remarkable story.
Q: Who are announcers and broadcasters you admired growing up?
A: All of them is the easy answer. Early on, it was Pat Summerall and John Madden. I lived for Sundays, and seeing them come on with the open from the stadium and kind of getting us in there. Later, it was Joe Buck in the same role. And then for baseball, it was Bob Murphy and Gary Cohen. I listened to the Mets games on the radio as a kid all the time. We didn’t have cable television, they weren’t on free TV very often. So those guys were the soundtrack of my summer.
Q: Why didn’t you feel pressure replacing Joe Buck?
A: I think No. 1, we’re friends, and he couldn’t have been more supportive for the entire time I was at Fox, and then when he left, was ultra-supportive of me. And then you get to this point in life and you get to this point being you … they wouldn’t have hired me if they didn’t like me, so I’m not gonna change now, right? I’m not gonna change the formula now. I get excitable energy, but I don’t overthink it. Those decisions are out of my hands. I think that’s just kind of been my philosophy, just go and let it rip and have fun.
Q: What were certain people like in your production meetings: Bill Belichick?
A: When you get him going, he’s got unbelievable stories. My favorite Belichick story is when he would talk about practice battles with Mark Bavaro and Lawrence Taylor. I could have sat there for eight hours. I wanted my parents to be there so bad, ’cause my parents were diehard Giants fans and I’m like, “God I wish I could stream this to my mom and dad right now, they would eat this up.” It was so good.
Q: What was Tom Brady like in the production meetings?
A: He’s always been fun and engaging.
Q: His legacy?
A: It’s hard to imagine anything other than the greatest to ever do it.
Q: Jerry Jones?
A: He’s obviously been a visionary for the league.
Q: Lions coach Dan Campbell?
A: I think Dan is a lot smarter than people realize because of the biting kneecaps press conference. For him it’s like don’t judge a book by its cover.
Q: Brian Daboll?
A: Daboll is just the guy that you want to hang out with. He is the same to every single person he meets, which is a real skill, and it’s a real show of a good human being. He’s just a great dude.
Q: Tom Coughlin?
A: He was the best, man (laugh). … Emotion on his sleeve. I think it was a crazy finish against Dallas like on a Sunday night or Monday night the week before. It was more like a game-management — what are your thoughts going forward? — type of thing. So, Coach starts answering the question, and then as he answers the question he starts getting pissed about the loss (laugh). And he’s recapping the whole loss from last week. He was the best, man, he would just get so fired up over stuff, it was great.
Q: Describe Andy Reid in the production meeting.
A: Andy’s pretty much what-you-see-is-what-you-get. He’s always amazingly cordial, he’s generous, and that personality that you see, the, “Hey, I’m gonna go coach my team to a Super Bowl and I’ll have a cheeseburger after the game.” … that’s who he is with us … he’s Andy. He’s the same guy every time, and he’s great.
Q: Patrick Mahomes?
A: He’s entertaining. He really thinks about your questions and answers them. It’s not just like, “I’m gonna spit out clichés.” He gives some time and thought to what you’re asking and will give you like a real answer.
Q: Nick Sirianni?
A: He’s like this super-cool young dad ’cause he’s got these young kids who’s just hanging out, happen to coach a football team that’s in the Super Bowl. His vibe is, like, so chill. I feel like we’re on the couch sitting back about to watch a Netflix movie when we talk to him. It’s like a hangout with Sirianni.
Q: What do you think of Sean Payton as coach of the Broncos?
A: I think it’s a perfect fit, and everyone that wrote off Russell Wilson, we’re gonna find out.
Q: Describe “Mike and the Mad Dog.”
A: I lived for “Mike and the Mad Dog,” and then getting a chance to work with them [Mike Francesa and Chris Russo] was a career ***** life **** highlight. I was so excited and nervous the first update I ever gave on the show, it was at 5 o’clock on a Friday afternoon. I always tell friends this: They’d be going at it on the air about something, and then it would be like a break, and they’d come out, and they would just continue arguing in the news room. It’s almost like they didn’t even realize that they weren’t in front of the mic anymore.
Q: Describe hosting a studio show with Alex Rodriguez, David Ortiz, Pete Rose and Frank Thomas.
A: I’d say it’s a circus, and I just happened to be the ringleader.
Q: Describe A-Rod.
A: He just took the initiative right away to jump in and want to be great.
Q: If you could call any game in NFL history, which one would it be?
A: The Ice Bowl [Dallas at Green Bay 1967 NFC Championship]. Besides the fact it’s iconic, I just think weather games are something else.
Q: If you could call one game in MLB history, which would it be?
A: Game 6, ’86, [World Series; Mookie Wilson-Bill Buckner], that’s an easy one.
Q: Who was your favorite Eagle growing up?
A: Ron Jaworski.
Q: Did you go to the Vet?
A: I had season tickets for a while, believe it or not. When I got my license, I drove down there because they were terrible and they had tickets available, so I bought tickets. That was like my first jersey.
Q: What is it like calling a game and watching Mahomes?
A: You just have no idea what is coming. I’m as on alert as I ever am doing a game because you just don’t know what kind of f–ked up formation they’re gonna come out in and crazy-ass play and what Mahomes is gonna do, so you can never stop paying attention for a second.
Q: Describe Jalen Hurts’ evolution.
A: He is a flat-out full dual threat. It’s very similar to Josh Allen’s rise, it’s just an incredible jump from his first year starting to this year.
Q: Tell Chiefs fans why they would be wrong thinking you might be biased on Super Sunday.
A: (Laugh) I have not thought one time ever of having to root for or root against a team calling a game. The only thing I ever want is a close game.
Q: How would Olsen have fared selling cars at Pine Belt Chevy in Eatontown, N.J.?
A: He would know every last detail about the car, when they say if it’s a souped-up package, he would know exactly what came with it.
Q: So he would be a better car salesman they you were?
A: Maybe he sells more cars, but I did have the No. 1 customer service rating in the store, no joke.
Q: Describe your time at WGHT in North Jersey.
A: That’s where it all began for me. I didn’t know what the hell I was doing. I was this kid out of college and I was gonna do high school sports and I was doing promotions and I was doing standup remotes. … We’re outside of a store, like at a grand opening, I’m handing out free Frisbees (chuckle). We tried to make it like the WFAN of high school sports. There was a stage engineer, his name was Tom Niven, and he just meant so much to me, because, God rest his soul, he was so smart. … He had this way of just giving me sage advice all the time, and we became really good friends, and he’s one of my first mentors.
Q: Describe the Frontier League’s Jersey Jackals.
A: Those are some of the best times of my life, making $25 doing a baseball game. It was just a blast doing minor league baseball right in my backyard where I grew up essentially.
Q: You did Nintendo play-by-play?
A: We filled up cassette decks, cassette tapes left and right, calling Tecmo Bowl and baseball stars on Nintendo. I may have called more Tecmo football games than I have NFL games in 10 years at Fox. It’s close.
Q: Who was your boyhood idol?
A:. My dad, first and foremost.
Q: Best Jersey Shore memory?
A: Just playing Skee-Ball with my mom, dad and brother. And getting all those tickets to get like the spider rings.
Q: Three dinner guests?
A: Larry David, Jerry Seinfeld, Dave Chappelle.
Q: Favorite movie?
A: “The Usual Suspects.”
Q: Favorite actor?
A: Denzel [Washington].
Q: Favorite actress?
A: Kate Beckensale.
Q: Favorite singer/entertainer?
A: I’m a Jersey guy, I’m not an animal, so Bon Jovi, that’s easy.
Q: Favorite meal?
Q: What do you think of Chiefs versus Eagles?
A: In my eyes, you’ve got the two best teams in the league, with who’s been the two best quarterbacks all year long.
Q: Do you have any superstitions?
A: I have two, actually. I drink Dr. Pepper, like, by the gallon during games, and it’s funny ’cause I don’t really drink soda outside of that much at all ever. And then the other thing is just before the game, maybe 10 minutes before we go on the air, we have a football in the booth, and that’s ironic ’cause we have a Hall of Fame tight end in the booth, but I throw the football with Mitch, my spotter, every game for like five minutes. It’s just become a thing and have been doing it for a long time, and it’s like a way for me to kind of get out all that nervous energy and just kind of get the flow going.
Q: Did you ever dream of calling a Super Bowl?
A: All the time. When I announced those Nintendo games, it was Tecmo Super Bowl, but it was always like, yeah, the Super Bowl. Did I ever think that I would actually get to do it? I mean … no (laugh). No. I never obsessed over it either, but even as we talk today, it’s surreal, right? But yeah, I thought about it all the time when I was a kid.
Q: It’s getting closer to kickoff. What do you expect your emotions to be? What’s gonna be going through your gut?
A: I’m gonna do the best I can to take it in and just really absorb where I’m at. I’m just gonna look around the stadium and smell it and take a couple of deep breaths and really just appreciate what I’m about to do. I do that most weeks anyway, but I think for this particular one it might be an extra beat just to really look around and just kind of pinch myself and realize how cool of an experience and an opportunity. There’s no doubt, I’ll definitely do that.