NFL sports analyst Adam Schefter shares how growing up on Long Island affected his career
As one of the most trusted sports analysts in the country, ESPN’s Adam Schefter would have you believe that behind the camera, he’s just a regular guy, and fame and celebrity haven’t changed who he is. That the journalist he was on the South Shore is just as normal as the NFL analyst he is today on the North Shore. And he’s right; he is that modest.
Schefter grew up in Bellmore and loved every minute of his childhood on Long Island. He attended the University of Michigan for his undergraduate degree before attending graduate school at Northwestern University.
“When I went away to school and then accepted a job in Denver, CO, I realized there are other great places in the world and I see Long Island in a different perspective,” says Schefter. “I loved Long Island growing up and I love living here now.”
Schefter moved back to New York from Denver in 2006, and was living in the city when he met his future wife, Sharri, who lived on the North Shore.
“In all honesty, my grand vision was to get a taste of living in New York, which I had never really done as an adult, meet someone and take them back to Colorado with me,” says Schefter. “My wife actually grew up in Bellmore around the corner from me, but we didn’t know each other as kids.”
Of his simple life at home, Schefter enjoys spending a lot of time with his family, which includes his wife, teenage son Devon, 8-year-old daughter Dylan, and four labradoodles—Maggie, Ella, Bailey and Benny. His favorite dining spots on the North Shore include Bryant & Cooper, Toku and Abeetza Pizza on Glen Cove Road, which he religiously orders from.
Now, Schefter is busy breaking the latest NFL news in Bristol, CT, several times a week, but years ago, it was a job he never thought could be his.
“I never gave real thought to being a sports journalist because it’s such a cool profession. I always thought other people did those jobs,” says Schefter, who played basketball and ran track at John F. Kennedy High School, but never played football. “I always wanted to play but was never allowed. My parents didn’t think a 5’ 8” little guy should play football.”
When he got to college, Schefter tried to get involved in a variety of teams and organizations, but found it hard to find his comfort zone. When a fraternity didn’t accept him, he sought out the football and basketball offices to see if they needed help with equipment. When they told him no, the next door that opened was the student newspaper.
“The Michigan Daily took me in and it’s by default that I wound up in journalism. My whole career is purely accidental,” he says, adding that so much of what he loves about journalism is finding out secrets before everyone else. “I love hearing things and knowing things; whether it’s a team hiring a coach, drafting a player or putting a new contract out, that’s the world I operate in and I feel blessed, privileged and honored to do so.”
On the first article he ever wrote, Schefter vividly remembers being scared to volunteer for one at the student paper.
“I remember my first article was about alumni on the 1956 Michigan team and where they were now,” says Schefter. “To see my name in print for the first time as an 18-year-old college kid, you’re holding the newspaper and your name is there…it was surreal, intoxicating and addicting. I had a moment of ‘wow, I want to do this again.’”
Not only did Schefter discover journalism by accident, he also found football by chance as well. While in Denver, after an internship and spending two years sending out résumés, Schefter wanted the chance to cover baseball as Colorado was getting a baseball team. Some didn’t think he was qualified, so they put him on the football beat instead.
“Growing up I loved all sports; the Islanders, Knicks, Jets and the Yankees, but I wish I had enough foresight to see how popular ESPN and fantasy football would become,” he says.
Fortunately, three men in Schefter’s life did have the foresight to see how much of a mark the native Long Islander could have in the industry.
“When I was in college at Michigan, there were three guys who helped me in different ways and served as my mentors and guiding lights,” says Schefter. “One was Thomas George. He worked at the Detroit Free Press and The New York Times. He was always pushing me to go into this and telling me that I could do it.”
Schefter’s second inspiration was his writing coach and professor Don Kubit, who fueled his passion to go into journalism and do it for a living. The third man? None other than famed author Mitch Albom, whose writing Schefter says “has always blown me away and left me in awe.”
“I was Mitch’s research assistant. I idolized him in college and got to work for Mitch my in my senior year,” says Schefter, who helped with the book The Fab Five.
“Those three men put me on the right trail. I would hope that they would be proud of me now,” said Schefter, noting that he got the chance to meet up with one of his mentors at an event. “Last year, the Detroit Lions had a charity dinner honoring player Joique Bell as well as someone in the Michigan area who has done a lot of work in the community. The award winner was Mitch Albom and the keynote speaker was me.”
Among his many accolades, the sports analyst and author launched a podcast in January called “Know Them From Adam,” featuring lengthier interviews.
“The podcast is my chance to interview people and really get more personal about lessons they’ve learned and advice they’ve given,” says Schefter, who has so far spoken with Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, ESPN senior NFL analyst Chris Mortensen, former Dallas Cowboy Troy Aikman and musician John Legend.
“I hope it’s successful and that people like listening to it.”
In 2016, Schefter got the chance to be a part of something that is not only very close to his heart, but his family’s as well when ESPN produced a special segment about September 11, 2001. The special featured Sharri, who opened up about losing her first husband Joseph Maio in the terror attacks, leaving behind 2-year-old Devon. Schefter narrated the special.
“Just how well my wife handled that and how great the ESPN producer who did the piece was, I mean that piece really resonated with people,” he says. “They deserve all the praise.”
With a book on 9/11, ESPN and his podcast, Schefter always finds time for philanthropy. His wife is a Type 1 diabetic, and Schefter does a lot of work for JDRF, a charitable nonprofit dedicated to funding type 1 diabetes research.
From the South Shore to the North Shore, Schefter says he never set out to build a reputation, but simply tries to work hard every day.
“I pride myself on building trust with people; I’ve been doing it for 27 years now,” says Schefter. “My job has become my passion, and it’s a job I love and am proud and honored to do, but I’d like to think that 16 years in the newspaper business has kept me humble.”