Nick Cellini

Finding Your Passion: Nick Cellini's Story of Sports Broadcasting

Season  1Episode  842 MinutesJanuary 3, 2024

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Step into the riveting world of sports broadcasting with podcast host Jeff Hopeck as he sits down with the legendary Nick Cellini, the dynamic voice behind the mic at 680 The Fan in Atlanta.

Get ready for a rollercoaster ride through Nick’s illustrious career as he unveils the secrets behind his success, including the cherished memories of bonding over sports with his father, a passion that has fueled his journey for over three decades.

Tune in as Jeff and Nick uncover the thrilling narrative behind Nick’s extraordinary career and his unwavering devotion to the world of sports.


Key Takeaways from Nick:

  1. Be humble and learn from your mistakes. We all make them.
  2. Persevere in the face of adversity. Stay strong. Stay focused.
  3. Be true to yourself. No. Matter. What.

 


Tune in to hear more inspiring stories from fascinating individuals.

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Timestamps:

1:46 The table with his father.
3:04 Childhood sports idols.
5:59 Mentors and following footsteps.
9:14 Getting hands-on experience in broadcasting.
12:02 Fight or flight mentality.
16:11 Transitioning to radio from TV.
17:16 Drifting through life and blaming.
22:43 Salaries in professional sports.
26:05 The NFL being mediocre.
26:53 Player safety and tackling techniques.
29:21 The college football playoffs.
32:02 A pivotal point in life.
36:00 Overcoming career setbacks.
38:51 Interviewing the wrong guy.


Transcript:

So I just, I stay busy driving Uber and it would be, it would be funny. One guy asked me one time, weren’t you, weren’t you Nick Cellini? I said, well, I still am. I haven’t changed my name. I think he met you. You used to be on the radio. Yes. I used to be.  Yeah. I’m still him though. Just not on the radio anymore.

Welcome to another episode of Interesting Humans. Today I have with me Nick Cellini. Many of you know him as a, a born and bred Cleveland boy done good. Sports Broadcaster for 680, the fan out of Atlanta. Nick’s going to share some incredible, insights today into his career and his journey, but my favorite and why I wanted to have him on the show is he talks about how he replicated the feel of being a young boy sitting at the table with his dad, reviewing.

Sports Games. And he’s gone on to replicate that for the next 30 plus years of his career, right from Nick’s mouth. I’ve never worked a day in my life, and he’s going to help us understand why. Nick, thanks so much for being here today.

Jeff, appreciate it. I don’t know if I’m interesting, but I am a human, so that’s a good start.

This is awesome. Well, we’re, it’s going to be such an awesome episode today. goes back to a sentence that I read online about you, Nick, and I love it, and I gotta admit, I envy it as well,  where you have done with your life something so remarkable, whereas you say,  You talked sports with your father at the table as a young kid, and all these years later, you’ve been able to basically do the exact same thing and make a great career out of it.

So, good for you, and I’m so glad you’re on the episode. I think we’re going to have an incredible story here today. why don’t you start off and just tell us about, get us back to that table with your father.

Well, I mean, I think, Jeff, we were doing Sports Talk Radio before anybody knew what Sports Talk Radio was.

My father was, a guy that Worked in a factory, was a union steward, if you will. He kind of ran the factory and also had a bar. So it was easy to get tickets and sports was always big in his life. And we would go to games and the following day we would break down that game like they do today in Sports Talk Radio at the kitchen table.

A lot of times in the morning, a lot of times in the afternoon, you know, middle of the day, everybody was running around, but you best believe in the morning and in the afternoon we were talking sports. The only thing that was missing was us taking calls at the table.

What were your favorite teams in that era of your life?

well,

my father loved the Indians. Loved baseball. I mean, and the Indians were bad back then. So, you know, in September they’d still be playing out the string and he’d be in the other room listening to the Indians on the radio while the Browns We’re playing, I’d be like, dad, what are you doing? They’re out, they’re out of contention.

Ah, they got a couple of prospects I got to know about next year. I, when I was a kid, I loved the Browns, the Browns, first and foremost, Browns, Browns, Browns, Indians and Cavs, pretty much in that order. I was obsessed with the Browns though, when I

was a kid.  So it was sports for your family from day one.

No question. No doubt. What were the, what were some of the favorites?

well, I mean, high school football was always big up there and I, I just always heard stories about my oldest brother. I’m the baby of the family. My oldest brother, 17 years older than me. And he was kind of like all city. He was great.

He was one of those guys that was just naturally great at everything he did when it came to sports. So the stories about him really first and foremost. in my house were the stories that I probably heard more so than any other story, and then it was Jim Brown. Jim Brown was a close second. My father over and over said, I’m telling you, he’s the greatest player that ever played this game, and he’s the greatest player that ever will play this game.

So those were the two main ones. My brother and Jim Brown in

my house. And Jim Brown, right. So what did, what did like, growing up look like?  Household, school, how, what kind of student?

well, I went to,  a small Catholic school. I grew up in a small neighborhood on the East side of Cleveland. And back then Cleveland, they were known, you know, kind of like Chicago, New York, they were known for their ethnic neighborhoods.

So we grew up in one of the two Italian neighborhoods, kind of a six block radius. And really it was sports. I mean, everybody in the neighborhood, we played sports, you know, behind the church, during school, during recess, we play kickball, we play football. in the fall, we would shovel the driveways and we would play basketball and hockey in the wintertime.

And obviously in the springtime, once the weather broke, we would play baseball. We would just go behind the church and play baseball for hours. I don’t know how many kids do that anymore, but it was a very, a lot of people came straight from Italy that lived in my neighborhood. And there were a lot of blue collar guys like my father as well.

And, and everything revolved around sports, but I will say this. My father, never graduated from high school, went into the army, fought in World War II. My mother was a homemaker. She didn’t graduate from high school either. So it was imperative that we got good grades. So believe it or not, people that listen to me today probably won’t believe this, but believe it or not, my grades were very, very good throughout grade school, throughout high school into college.

That’s awesome. All right, what did high school look like for you then?

High school, I was the same size that I am now when I was in eighth grade. I stopped growing. So I was fortunately, I was pretty highly recruited coming out of eighth grade for football. So I ended up going to a school, Benedictine High School.

They were my eighth grade year they won state and then my ninth grade year they won state. And I went there for a couple of years and then we moved out of the city. We moved out to the Eastern suburb. So I transferred to a public school out there and continued to play football. And I played football, basketball, baseball.

It was just, you know, I took it for granted. I thought everybody played sports. Everybody just went to school and had fun.  it was an existence that I, I figured out somewhere down the line that not a lot of people, had the chance to, be a part of. And I went off to college, a small school, Mount Union College.

Decided to play football there as well. So

at this point in your life, any mentors to speak of?

One of my biggest mentors was my brother, Vince, who’s eight years older than me. when I was young, my, my brother, Jim, in  1973, I was only five when he moved down to the city of Atlanta. So my brother was in the household with me and my brother, Vince, and I just kind of watched what he did.

And I give him a lot of credit because in our old neighborhood, a lot of people weren’t thinking about going to college. But he was, and he had his mindset on what he wanted to do. He always wanted to be a guy that,  played in college, went to college, graduated from college and was going to be in the world of television.

And he did it. So I just watched him and I said, you know, ignorance is bliss sometimes, Jeff. I said, if he can do it, I can do it. So I, I just followed in his footsteps. He was probably the biggest mentor growing up in my life.

Yeah, that’s awesome. So college then for you, did you get recruited, did you play sport and what did all that

look like?

Yeah, I I decided to play football on a much smaller level. I don’t think I could have played there today. We’re talking about mid 80s and you know, you would see the occasional 300 pounder. I played offensive line, I weighed about 260 when I played. Now would I have passed the drug test? We are being honest here, probably not, but I was about 260 when I played.

I loved it. You know, my, my body still reminds me that I played football to this day. I can’t imagine how guys that played in the NFL feel when they get into their fifties like I am, because I played at a small school and I got a bad shoulder, I’ve got a bad hip, I’ve got a bad neck. Believe me, I, I face it every day.

But like I said, college, college was the time of my life. lived in a fraternity, old rat infested mansion I lived in. And it was, I’m telling you, I can’t imagine having a better time. My friends and I that I went to college with, we, we get together and we talk about it to this day and we can’t believe we’re fairly responsible adults now when we think about where we were in our late teens and early twenties.

I’d say to anybody willing to listen, going away to college, maybe it’s not for everybody, but it was the time of my

life.  That’s awesome. Any, any advice? It’s that Nick now would give to young Nick back then.

Patience. Be patient. Not everything has to happen overnight. Not everything is going to happen overnight.

And remember, boy, I used to roll my eyes every time my father would tell me this. Everything happens for a reason. I would say, yeah, I know everything, everything really does happen for a reason. You are where you are in life because that’s where you’re supposed to be. Don’t look back and regret anything.

You became the person you became. because of the mistakes. Your mistakes, I think, shape you more than your successes. And, and it took me a long time to figure that out, but it’s something I definitely believe now with all of my heart. Yeah.

All right. So, so you graduated college? I did.

Degree? I did.  my degree was in communications.

I was an English minor in communications. You know, I just kind of knew what I wanted to do with my life. I worked at the, the campus radio station. I didn’t play my senior year of college because I was just, my shoulder to this day still bothers me. It was too banged up. And then I stayed an extra semester as well.

So I became the play by play voice. for the, football team. So I still got to do,  sports related things, even though I wasn’t playing anymore. So yeah, ended up graduating and, yeah.  like I said, just knew what I wanted to do with my life.

And okay. Was there an internship in there somewhere along the way?

So,

yeah, there wasn’t an internship, but My brother was working at the local, at the time it was the CBS affiliate in Cleveland. he was an anchor on weekends for sports and he was a reporter during the week. So when I was home, I would work there on weekends and I did that for like four years throughout college.

So even though it wasn’t an internship, I think I got more experience just kind of being there and being around it, more so than if I would have had an internship. I was, I think I was more actually hands on.

Right. Now, was your love for radio? Was it for television at this point in your life? Either?

Both?

I want to say it, it was radio and I’ll tell you why. I was actually thinking about going to law school. I had a history professor. Tell me that this could be your future. And he, he believed in me for some reason. And I was, I was on the verge of applying at John Marshall Law School up in Cleveland.

And one of my first job interviews was at, it’s WTAM now it’s 1100 AM. It’s a, it was 3WE at the time. 50, 000 watt station, clear channel, which means you could hear it throughout the US, all 50 States and half of Canada was their pitch, but we were the flagship station for the Cavs, the Indians, and the Browns.

And I went in there to kind of work behind the scenes, you know, play commercials, run the board, they call it for Indians games. And at that point it was, I’ve never done drugs, but I can say that I’ve heard stories about people saying they always chase that first high. That first high is something you can’t even describe.

That’s how I felt when I walked into that station that day and I looked around. I said, I, I have got to be a part of this. And here I am 34 years later, still a part of it.

What, so what was it like, like the very, very first time that they pressed a button and you knew that you were going to be, I guess it was live, right, at the time?

Well, it still is. But yeah, live radio,  like, were you nervous? Were you? Terrified.

Absolutely terrified. Because you just, you. You don’t have, when you’re that young, it’s like anything. It’s Malcolm Gladwell, you have to have what, 10, 000 hours. Is that what he says? Yeah. So it’s like anything, you just have to have the experience.

And when you first start doing something like that, I think you’re trying to be someone you’re not without even realizing it. You’re imitating some of the people that maybe you listen to. And you’re not yourself. I cringe when I listen to some of those earlier tapes. I’m like, I don’t know how anybody hired me.

I wouldn’t have hired me, but you know, you, you just, you, yeah, you’re, you’re very nervous, you’re unsure of yourself and it’s. Yeah, it’s nerve wracking, there’s no question about it.

So what,  from a pivotal standpoint, what changes  in, in a career like yours that you go from whatever scripted and tight to  now, whatever the word is you use now for yourself, like more of finding your personality?

What happens there? You just wake up one day and it happens?

I think it depends who you work with. I work with a guy that I’ve worked with now for 30 years, Chris D’Amino, and I think he’s one of the most talented guys. And he’s a tough guy though. He’s not going to give you, he had a name in the city of Atlanta.

And when I first started working with him, nobody knew who I was. And you, it’s one of those sink or swim situations. You, you have to battle through it and say to yourself, I got to figure out a way to fit in here or I’m not going to stay here. And I think that’s, I think that’s something at the risk of sounding like the old guy yelling at clouds.

I think that’s what’s lost in the younger generation. It’s this fight or flight deal. What am I going to do? How am I going to be a part of this? Am I going to fight to be a part of this? And then you just kind of find your way and you figure out what works, but you have to stay true to yourself. I compare it to what I figured out was, if you watch Curb Your Enthusiasm, that’s Larry David, but he’s turned up 20 notches.

I think anybody successful in what I do, it’s who you are. It’s the core of who you are, but you just crank it up. So it’s gotta be based on who you really are, because I think if it’s not, people are going to eventually see through that. I think that’s, that’s the one thing I figured out.

Where would you say in your career you figured that out?

probably  20 years ago, I figured it out because I was working with Chris for like three years and I just said, listen, I gotta figure out a way  to last. And I finally started leaning on my experience, how I grew up and how I was raised and storytelling and And making people laugh. And I, I think once I started making people laugh, I kind of relaxed a little bit and everything kind of fell into place at that point, but you know, it’s tough.

A lot of people in this business spend their entire career being insecure. And if you’re insecure in this business. It’s going to eat you up. We’re all going to make mistakes. We’re all going to get things wrong. We’re all going to be called out on things, especially in this day and age of social media.

You just have to figure out a way to fight through it and be self effacing. Be humble when you make mistakes.

So what was the, okay, what was the journey then? You graduated, you had a job lined up. Right. Take us, take us through the first couple of years out of college and what that all looked like.

Okay.

So the first couple of years of my life in the world of. The media, I was making 7 an hour and I was also landscaping during the day. My friends that have known me here at 680 the fan back at 790 the zone as well. So here we go. Here’s the story. I cut grass and I engineered games, but that’s what I did.

And I just kept working because I knew my future was going to be in radio and slowly but surely.  I got a shot to do more things full time on the air and go out and be a reporter as well. So I was able to kind of break free of everything else. And it’s, it’s strange. It’s like, I’ve always known when it was time for a change in my life.

So about three years. Into the job, eh, two and a half, three years into the job. I thought to myself, you know what? I wanna do some television. And I just started cold calling local stations, and the more I did it,  finally I was able to break through and get my foot in the door at the NBC affiliate up there.

So next thing you know,  I’m doing television in 1991 and it was, It was quite the journey going from radio to TV. I’ll tell you that the first time I ever did TV, and I’m sorry if I’m rambling because I remember the story that the stories come to mind as I start to talk about it. Yeah, this is great.

So the first time I’m on television, I I’m anchoring, right. And I  had never anchored before and they kind of threw me into the fire. So I put makeup on, so I put makeup on everywhere, but around my eyes. So I looked like a raccoon. So I’m, I’m on the set. And Connie Deacon was the anchor at the time with me.

And I tell her this all the time. We were friends on Facebook. I said, you helped me that day. You didn’t have to, but you did. Like I got lost in my script and she’s taking, turning pages. It’s like, she’s a school teacher or she’s like my mom helping me out. It was a, it was really, really hectic in those early days of TV.

I’m just glad there’s not social media or there wasn’t social media then. Cause I would’ve got killed. Absolutely murdered on social media. I mean, that’s, that’s how bad I was. I was terrible. I didn’t know what I was doing, where I was going. It was, it was challenging to say the least.

And then, okay, so  what happens next?

Well, I’m there, yeah, I’m there for three years and let’s just say that I kind of got, if you’re young, a lot of times you get a little full of yourself and I did. I, I thought that I was more important than I was and, you know, I started running around the nightlife and, people were seeing me out and about and my, my reputation wasn’t the greatest in the world because I was out, I guess I never did drugs, but I was always out drinking in the bars and which is not really, in a smaller town like Cleveland, it’s not really something you want to be doing.

So my reputation was kind of bad. At that point. And after three years, my contract wasn’t renewed. So back to radio, I went, I went to WKNR at the time, which was a sports talk station. But the idiot that I was at the time, the 27 year old dummy that I was, I felt like this was beneath me. Big mistake. Don’t ever think anything is beneath you.

That’s another lesson I learned in life. I didn’t embrace it fully. And next thing you know, they, they let me go there. And I was kind of drifting for a while after that. So things got a little scary after that.

And okay, so you’re let go. Is it something lined up after

that, or? No, I got nothing lined up. I start working You just let go.

Yeah, I’m gone and I, at the time I have my, my oldest boy is what a year and a half at the time. So I’m drifting. I mean, that relationship comes to an end. I’m drifting through life. I’m living with a couple of buddies and I just keep pounding brews and I’m drinking and I’m mad at the world. I’m blaming everybody else.

That’s, you go back to what, what the. The older self would tell the younger self, don’t blame everybody else. Take responsibility. I didn’t do that at the time. And it just got worse and worse and worse. And I was working for progressive insurance at the time, hating my life, working a real job for the first time in my life.

And I hated that. And,  my brother was already living in Atlanta at the time working for CNN and they were starting up a new network down here called CNN sports illustrated, you know, kind of like a 24 hour, like ESPN news is they were like ESPN news. So we said, come on down.  You’ll. Worked behind the scenes and I came down and started doing that, getting my way, back into the business,  in the city of Atlanta.

That’s the reason I came down here in November of 96. Okay,

so November 96, Olympics, I mean, a lot going on in Atlanta at the time. Were you fired up for it? Or was it like, ooh, we’re going down south?

I was, I was scared. You know, I’d never, aside from being an hour away from home in college, I, I’d never lived outside of.

Cleveland, Ohio, you know, it was, it was scary. I remember, you know, saying goodbye to family and friends and I had tears in my eyes. I drove down with my sister. I just wasn’t sure what my life was going to be. You know, I had to move in with my brother and his family for, you know, a couple of months trying to find my way.

And  in April, so I get down here in November of 96. And then in April of 97, 790, the zone starts. And I find out there’s a new sports talk radio station in Atlanta.  And I go interview for that. And next thing you know, I’m, I’m back in Sports Talk Radio and I start hosting a show on the air and, you know, I’m kind of, kind of up and running again.

But like I said, still very, very, I, I talked about earlier people being insecure in this business, still a very, very insecure person, not sure who I was, what I was all about. And, yeah, it manifests itself in different ways. You know, I was, I was known as the angry guy on the air back then. I would yell about a lot of things and be angry about a lot of different things.

And, and a lot of people will tell me now, I miss the old Nick. I said, don’t tell that to my wife. She doesn’t miss the old Nick at all.

Right. So in that little, there was a little lull. So 96 to 98 until 790 started,  there was no YouTube.  How did you sort of keep the ax sharp?

You know, you would just. Go to the newspaper stand and buy a USA Today and buy an AJC and, and do your best in the primitive ages of being online to try to figure out.

It’s so easy now. I mean, I have a system now, now where I go on Twitter and I find all the websites and I cut and paste and piece together notes and then I write the show based on my notes. You know, you forget back then it wasn’t that way. You’re kind of, you’re almost flying by the seat of your pants.

Back then. So it’s hard to kind of have a tight show when you’re, you’re not really sure what’s going on at that point. You know, sports talk radio, definitely in its infancy at that point.

So.  You’re on the, I mean, you’re on the air for a couple of hours at a time. Mm hmm. You got three, four hours. Yeah.

Right. So the, I get the process is a little bit different now. Um,  what is that, what is that like? Like, are you ever just stuck? Sometimes you’re like, well, wait,  we’re done and we have another hour. Or,

you know, if you, if you listen to Chris and I, a lot of people will say we go off script a lot and we just kind of drift, the other day I’ll give you just a microcosm of what the show is.

So we’re talking about the orange bowl and Chris asked me, are those real oranges in the orange bowl trophy? And I go, you know, I don’t know, but there was nothing worse to me than a bad orange. I said, the perfect orange is the orange that the skin is thick. And you peel it right off and nothing’s leaking.

And he says, you know, now we’re going on for like five to seven minutes here. And he says, you know, yeah, that’s true. And, but I’ll tell you what’s worse. The grapefruit, when you peel the grapefruit and then you can’t get the skin inside of the skin off the grapefruit. And I said, yeah, but there was nothing worse than no matter how bad it is, if it is broken, the seal is broken and then everything is leaking and then it’s sticky, it ruins the entire experience.

And then we get into. We get into my wife not being able to pick out fruit. I said, there’s nothing worse than someone you can’t trust picking out fruit. So case in point, we’ll just go off on this tangent. 10 minutes later, we’re like, how did we even get to where we got to?  We’re trying to describe what we are is, is probably best put by saying my brother Vince came up with this.

He said, you guys are like those two old guys that sit in the balcony on the Muppets. We’re just sitting up there judging everybody. Talking about everybody. We, yeah, we have all the answers. Just ask us, we’ll tell you. We got everything figured out.  So we never, I mean, we, we always, we always feel like we left a lot on the floor.

We’re very, like I said, we talk to each other more than we talk to our spouses on a daily basis, if you think about it. So there’s never, we’re lucky. There’s never been a situation where we go, Oh man, we got four more minutes in the second. If, if nothing else, we’re late. Every segment, cause we don’t shut up.

Right. We’re

the polar opposite. You probably have a lot more. You probably have a lot more things you want to talk about. Okay. Let’s talk about some topics that are going on. Current sports topics. Give me a couple that come to mind. Big ones, some of your favorites, some. Yeah.

I mean, Shohei Itani, 700 million.

And then you got what? 680 million of it deferred. If you’re a Braves fan, you’re a little bit worried about that right now. So what’s next? How, how high can we raise the bar? Whoever thought we’d see. A 10 year, $700 million deal. Someone making $70 million to hit a baseball. It’s, it’s crazy. Right? The way the salaries are right now.

I mean that’s, that’s one of the big stories. And then, you know, here in town with the Falcons and Arthur Smith, is he gonna keep his job? Is he gonna lose his job? Because right now the Falcons. They’re in the worst place you can be right now. They’re irrelevant to the world of the NFL. I’m looking forward to, in a morbid way, morbid curiosity, if you will, how many people are going to be at Mercedes Benz Stadium for a Christmas Eve game.

My partner, Chris D’Amino, says the over under is 15, 000. That’s not what Arthur Blank wants, but that’s, that’s where they are right now. So those are just That’s reality. Yeah. Those are a couple of the big stories right now.

Okay. Any rumors on who’s going to come in for that new head coach position?

You know,  they have to get a quarterback first and foremost, because what they have right now, a quarterback’s not working.

Someone brought up Mike Tomlin today. Is he going to leave Pittsburgh? Would he come here? Do you bring in a college guy? D’Amino said, my partner, talk to Kirby Smart, offer him everything and then some. But I don’t know if he’s willing to come here and try to run this franchise. It’s just, it’s such a mess right now.

That I, everybody wants a shot to coach in the NFL, but I just don’t know where you start. Although I’ll say this when Bobby Petrino left the Falcons. Way back when, going into the 2008 season, they didn’t have a coach, they didn’t have a GM, and they didn’t have a quarterback. Well, they got Mike Smith, and everybody said, who’s Mike Smith?

Nobody knew who he was, myself included. Thomas Dimitroff from New England, then they draft Matt Ryan. Well, lo and behold, they win 11 games that first year and make it to the playoffs. So if you make a couple of right moves, That’s how quickly in the NFL you can turn things around. So as hopeless as it seems right now, I was here working in this town when all that happened and I didn’t think that was going to happen, but it did.

But it did. So

if you’re, if you’re a team owner, what are different ways you can approach that 700 million?  like, can, can they be saying like, we’re gonna sell enough jerseys, this thing’s gonna be so viral, so many, or, or how are they looking at that number?

Yeah, it’s interesting because the bill’s gonna have to be paid sooner or later.

Like I said, all of it except for six hundred, all of it, I mean, he’s making two million dollars a year, so six hundred eighty million dollars is gonna be deferred for ten years. You gotta pay that bill eventually, and they also have an outstanding, television Contract, you know, it’s like an 8 billion deal.

So that’s going to help them as well. Then you sell rights to Japan. There, there’s a lot of different ways. Now you can do that if you’re the Dodgers. You know, not every team can do that. The Braves can’t do that. They don’t have the TV deal. Liberty Media owns them. They’re not a single entity, so they, they can’t afford to roll the dice like that.

They have to be more creative. And they spend a lot of money, but they can’t do it like the Dodgers do it.  not a lot of teams can. There’s the Yankees, the Dodgers, maybe the Giants. There’s a handful of teams. That can do it. The Braves are not one of those handful of teams.

Yeah. We had, we had Randy Cross on a couple episodes ago.

He actually, his live, episode will launch today. Every Wednesday we launch a new one. So he’s coming on.  he brought up something interesting about that comment about the NFL being mediocre. Just be curious to hear what you think about What do you think about that?  It

is mediocre and, you know, especially if you ask an old school guy like Randy, who played for one of the all time greats in Bill Walsh and played with one of the all time greats in Joe Montana, the thing is now you don’t practice.

And if you practice, you can only practice a handful of practices in pads. If you’re not practicing what you do, yeah, the product’s going to suffer. And I think that’s the biggest issue right now. If you can’t go out there, I’m not saying you kill one another, but put pads on, work on technique, work on tackling.

All of those things are no longer worked on in the NFL. And he’s right. That’s why the product. is where it is today. I get it. Bigger, faster, stronger. You have to protect these guys, but, but the end result is the product is suffering. Watch tackling. It’s as bad as it’s ever been right now because people can’t practice it.

Right. So they’re talking about, I’m curious to hear your thoughts on it, that hip drop tackle stuff. What do you think about

what should that be? I mean, I get it. I understand why you want to protect the players, but I mean, where do we leave it now? You can’t hit anybody low. You can’t hit anybody high.

Like  the Monte Casey, the Steelers player got. He got suspended for the rest of the season for a hit he had in that Colts game. I mean, if a guy’s going over the middle and he’s leaving his feet as a receiver and you’re a defensive back, I, I, the defenseless receiver deal, if you’re trying to catch a ball,  I get it.

You’re putting your body on the line, but as a defensive player, I’ve got the right to try to separate you from that ball. I just don’t know where the line is drawn. You’re playing this game and you’re going to get hurt playing this game because of the way it is. That’s how this game is. You’re going to get hurt and I understand you want to minimize risks and I get it.

Head injuries, no one should go head hunting leading with the crown of the helmet, but you got to find a way to bring a guy down and you know, we used to work out at the same gym and I’m sure you saw Jamal Lewis. When he was playing running back for the Ravens. Imagine tackling that guy and thinking about, gee, where do I hit this guy?

No, you’re trying to survive. It’s like trying to tackle a freight train.  You know? Can you imagine? Oh, no,

no. I know. Just a monster. Oh my goodness. Tony Villanova. Well, you remember Tony. Yeah. Absolutely. Tony was on. Just had Tony on yesterday. So he had the most interesting stat. I had no clue. So he’s, he’s focused now on just NFL, NFL, combine.

He holds, so XPE holds eight  of the 12 records in the 40 yard dash.  Wow. Eight, eight of 12. Yeah. I

did not know that. That’ll do wonders for your business. So good for you, Tony. They’re going to come to you because they want to be fast. Right.

And he, I had no clue before he came on the show, but he’s also working right now with Kelsey, the big Taylor Swift, you know, he’s like the middle of that.

So, he, it’s just something so interesting about working with these guys on movement instead of speed. So they get to a point in their career where he’s helping them stay in the NFL longer. Yeah. And I Do some case studies. It’s cool.

I actually was dumb enough to train with him, years ago down there, do that shred mill.

And I finally, I was like, listen, I, I can’t move and I’m not playing in the NFL and I appreciate what you’re doing for me, but I’m gonna, I’m gonna go back upstairs and lift weights. I can’t do this anymore. Their

stuff was, yeah, it was incredible. He, the shred and the shred mill still doing great. He said he got an order for 300 last year or so.

Cool.  all right, moving on.  What do you think about college right now?

I think the playoff, yeah. I think the playoff’s gonna be great. I feel bad for Florida State. You know, wrong place, wrong time. And I knew it was gonna happen. I knew as soon as their quarterback got hurt what was gonna happen. And unfortunately, listen, it’s a business, right?

I mean, you wanna watch Alabama and you wanna watch some of these teams play. You don’t wanna watch a team that lost their quarterback out of the ACC. I’m not saying it’s fair. I’m saying it’s a business. And thank goodness now we’re finally expanding the 12 teams. Next year, but you know, someone’s going to be left out.

Someone’s not going to have their bye week. Someone’s going to have to play in that first week, no matter what you do. Someone’s going to be unhappy, but when you’re arbitrary like this and it’ll be arbitrary again and subjective next year, people say the best team, the most talented team, it’s all subjective when you’re in a room of 13.

That’s, that’s the issue. Is it better than what it was? Yes, it’s better than what it was. Could it be much better? Yes, it could be much better. And I’m hoping that we take a major step in the right direction next year with this 12 team playoff.

Any, any predictions on what this year looks like? Who wins?

Yeah.

What do you think? It’s hard to go, it’s hard to go against Nick Saban once he gets that foot in the door. I mean, I, I know that Georgia beat him a couple of years ago and they weren’t a part of it last year. I’m, I think Saban is, is gonna be holding that trophy again. When all is said and done, Georgia fans aren’t gonna wanna hear that, but that, that’s what I think’s gonna happen.

Yeah.

Th almost 30 days with him knowing who he’s.  Who he’s up against. That’s a bad thing. Oh, that’s a

bad thing. Jim Harbaugh, that’s a bad thing.

For him, right. Exactly. All right. You mentioned something in the beginning about not, not ever having to work. You never worked a day in your life. So that’s true.

I mean, that statement, I hear it all the time. Can you verify

it?  That’s the way I feel. Yeah. I mean, as, as I get older, I appreciate things a lot more. I walk in, you know, we’re, we’re set up our stations in the Battery. So we’re right across the street from Truist Park. We’re right next to the Roxy. So as I walk into work every day, I just kind of  take a moment to soak in the surroundings every day and go, this is, I get to work.

Not only that, you know, I, my show starts at 11, I’m done by about 2, 2. 30. Then I get to go to the gym. I get to go watch my kid play baseball, basketball, what have you. I don’t have a real job. I work four hours. And again, I got to put the show together at night, but I’m not, you know, I’m not digging ditches.

So my, my lifestyle is thankfully fantastic. I get to spend time with family. I get to do what I love. Absolutely. I, I try to be appreciative and maybe I wasn’t when I was younger. I try to be appreciative of it every day now. And you know, you take your lumps over the years. And, and that forces you to appreciate things a lot more.

Okay, so, looking back, pivotal, pivotal points in your life that would, that would sort of help define who Nick is today.  Any of them come to

mind? well, the one is, I, I think I became one of the first members of Cancel Culture on social media. I told an off color joke, did an off color bit about Steve Gleason.

who is battling ALS, who turned out to be one of the most fantastic people in my life, big picture. But I did that, bit on the old 790 The Zone. This is 2013, June of 2013. And I got fired the next day. And we’re talking about now I was doing two TV jobs. I was working at seven 90. I was probably making about 250, 000 a year, gone, all of it gone.

Just like that. So what do you do at that point? You know, you lash out initially, which I did, which was really stupid. And you. Become defensive and then you don’t have a choice. You, it’s like the stages of grief. You start to think back and go,  yeah, maybe it’s the fault of the man in the mirror when all is said and done.

So, you know, I felt bad. I, not only did I lose my job, I got everybody around me on the show fired. So it was my stupid idea that got everybody fired. So  I’ll, I’ll fast forward to. About a month later, I decide to go to the city of New Orleans where Steve’s family is. I get to have dinner with his brother in law.

I meet his father in law and they say, look, we, we get it. It was a bit, you didn’t mean anything by it, but in a way you raised awareness for ALS. So we thank you for that. So I had dinner. I, I toured the, he was building at the time, one of the only two facilities, ALS facilities in the whole country, where you can live as independently as possible.

So I toured that with his father in law. About a month later, I got a phone call or get an email from Steve. And he says, listen, we appreciate everything you did and we, we want to kind of have you come back to New Orleans. We’ve got some ideas for charity. So I’m going to have my, my friend Tony,  call you one of our marketing agents.

So on Saturday evening, around six 30, I get a call it’s the middle of the summer from  an unlisted number. And this guy’s going on and on, listen, we want you to jump out of a plane without a parachute and we’ll catch you. We want you to wrestle a lion, all this stuff for charity. And I’m thinking to myself, okay, somebody’s pulling my leg.

So I hang up politely. I end the call and I hang up and  about half an hour later. His friend Tony calls me back and he’s with Steve and they tell me, listen, we, we know that you meant no harm. It started with a prank. We figured we’d end it with a prank. welcome the team Gleason. So here’s a guy that’s battling for his life, wants me.

To feel comfortable. And if that doesn’t open your eyes to being humble and just moving forward and understanding that everything happens for a reason. And if you’re humble and you’re truly apologetic, for what you’ve done, then you’re beyond help. No one’s going to help you. So for me. That was the pivotal point in my life.

And I think to this day, I mean, we’re talking, like I said, that’s 11 years ago. Now I’ve never been the same and there’s not a day that goes by. I don’t think about it, but there’s not a day that goes by in a weird way. I say, you know, I think this may have, cause I was on the go, I was chasing it. My wife was traveling, she was chasing it.

You know, at the time my son was four years old and he was, you know, staying with my mother in law all the time because we were busy chasing it. I don’t know where I would be. It forced me to slow down and it forced me,  and.  I don’t even say force me, but it made me appreciate once I got my foot back in the door and started working again,  what this business is and how fortunate I am to be able to do this for a living again.

I think that, that made me slow down and just appreciate everything for the rest of my life. I think that’s how I’m going to look at things. So that to me, if there’s one pivotal point, it started out so terribly, but there’s, there’s another side to that story where if, if you meet with the right people and you realize your mistakes and you admit your mistakes, I think you can change, and case in point, here I am now.

That’s remarkable. Wow. Great, great story. So then what happened? So now you have another lull. So you had that lull back in 96 to 98.  just walk us through what that was like. You know, at the time you’re fired, right? Yeah. I’m gone.

Boom. Yeah. Okay. And then the next day, my, my daughter and my son are in town.

We have to, we’re going, we plan the speech vacation. So I’m, I’m on vacation and I’m still trying to make it right. I’m still trying to chase everything, get my job back, battling instead of just sitting back, letting it go. And realizing sometimes you just gotta, you just gotta let things play itself out.

the thing that saved me was the fact that my son and I were still close to this day, although he’s 14 now and he’s too cool for school. But at the time, you know, he was, I was his world and I didn’t have a choice. I had to get up every day and make sure he was okay. And get him off to pre K and pick him up from pre K.

Cause my wife was traveling at the time and I had to, I had to be there. I could not feel sorry for myself. I could not go, I’m going to go belly up to the bar and get drunk and blame everybody, which is something I probably would have done 10 years prior to that. And because of him, I, he doesn’t even realize that he got me through.

My toughest time in life. I also drove Uber, which was a great experience as well. I didn’t know my way around the city all that well, but I figured I got to get out and do something. I can’t just sit at home. Right. So let me just drive Uber. It’ll help me, you know, aside from working out, it’ll help me pass the time.

my biggest fear was I’m just going to go start getting hammered every night. I didn’t want to do that because it wasn’t fair to anybody. Right. So I just, I stayed busy driving Uber and it would be, it would be funny. One guy asked me one time, Weren’t you, weren’t you Nick Cellini? I said, well, I still am.

I haven’t changed my name. I think you met, you know, you used to be on the radio. Yes. I used to be. Yeah. I’m still him though. Just, just not on the radio anymore. So yeah.

And then what happened? Was it a phone call?

You know, everybody got hired here at 680 The Fan that I used to work with and I was the last in line and they fought to get me in here and they, they started having me fill in a little bit here and there just to see, you know, which way the wind was blowing and everybody was really supportive of me coming back.

And so I got my foot back in the door and,  I got hired back. You know, I was only off. Full time for like a year, year. So I, June of 2013, I was back full time by October of 2014, which, you know, by the calendar, isn’t that long, but when you’re not sure where you’re going, that’s 10 years in radio life, that’s an eternity.

So I finally made it back in and I started working with a guy I used to work with. And, and it’s interesting, you know, you, either you have chemistry with somebody or you don’t, and we’ve got chemistry. I think we work hard. We show up every day because we don’t want to let each other down. You know, we don’t want to be bad teammates and that’s how we feel about each other.

So yeah, I mean, by October of 2014, I was back here working and I, the perspective, I’m no longer that angry guy. I’m, I’m kind of the guy that just kind of sits back and lets everything play itself out. I’ll have my quips here and there, but. Yeah, I’m back here and, I’m just, just so darn lucky to be doing what I’m doing.

Right.

Any, any major bloopers, like favorite bloopers anytime in your

career? Yeah, I’ll tell you a quick story. I was doing sidelines, Mississippi State was playing, I want to say it was Clemson in the Peach Bowl years ago and Mississippi State rallied. To win the game. So Wayne Madkin was their quarterback.

He wore number eight and one of their receivers wore number nine. So I think I have Wayne Madkin at the end of the game. I’m interviewing the receiver. I’m not interviewing Wayne Madkin. And the kid played along. I’ll give him credit. But after I was done, thanks Wayne. Great game. I saw him walk away and I went, oh no,  I just interviewed the wrong guy on live radio.

Yeah,  that happened. That actually happened.

That’s great. Oh my God. Yeah.

Happy New Year’s everybody. The idiot just talked to the wrong guy.

What a story, man. That’s awesome. All right.  Final question for you, man. You’ve been awesome. Thanks for just stacks loads of nuggets here today. This has been very encouraging to hear.

so the world’s crazy right now. Obviously  it’s hard to even say a sentence now without getting judged at every single angle.  arguably the toughest time to grow up as a, you know, as a, as a teenager,  just, just difficult from every angle, any, any sort of heartfelt,  to advice to, to teens that are out there and, you know, what doesn’t even matter what they’re looking to pursue in their career, but you’ve seen a lot more than the average person.

You’ve heard a lot more, you’ve been through a lot more than, you know, the average person, even your age and any kind of advice you’d give there.

Yeah, it’s funny you say that, Jeff, because I do have a 14 year old and I tell him, be true to yourself. If you feel like something isn’t right in your gut, it’s not right.

If you feel that way, don’t worry about peer pressure. If you, I tell him all the time, if you’re in trouble, you’re in a bad spot somewhere, just let me know. I’ll come and get you. Take Uber, do whatever you have to do, but stay true to yourself. Don’t try to be something you’re not, because if you’re something you’re not, sooner or later, that’s going to get you in trouble.

Stay true to yourself. Know, you know, everybody’s got a, a gauge inside of them. They know right from wrong. And if you know right from wrong and you’re true to yourself, I, I think it may not be, like I said earlier on the timeline that you want, but I think everything then falls into place because you figure out that there, there’s a greater power, whatever it is you believe in.

There’s a greater power that’s, that’s making sure that if you do the right thing, you’re going to get rewarded in the long run.

that’s incredible. Well, thanks again and it’s, this has been awesome. Thanks for jumping on. Greatly appreciate it folks. Nick Cellini. Nick, if somebody wants to watch, listen, they might be out of state and who knows, they might be out of country.

just. Quick, are you on Twitter? Where, where, where can they see you and connect and all that?

So, at Chilini Nick, my name in reverse, on social media, at Nick Chilini on Instagram and my name on Facebook. And then you can also listen to our show, Chris and I, on 680 The Fan, 93. 7 FM, so AM and FM. And then we got the Fan app, which is free to download as well.

And you can listen to us whenever you want. That’s the beauty of, modern times. You got cancel culture, but you’ve also got great technology.

That’s awesome. All right, for everybody out there, don’t forget to leave a review. Thanks for tuning in. Nick, thanks so much for being here today.

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