By Jeff Shearer
AUBURN, Ala. - For Ronnie Brown, the Auburn Sports Network’s new sideline reporter, it’s the right job at the right time.
“It’s perfect,” Brown says. “It’s a great time for me to get a chance to spread my wings in the broadcasting field.”
A father to 3-year-old son, Rhys, and 9-month-old daughter, Reagan, Brown’s new role will still allow him to be a hands-on dad.
“Just seeing these milestones,” he says. “You can’t replace this time. You can’t substitute being here, and me getting an opportunity to be around for a lot of the things they’re doing as they grow and develop their personality.
Ronnie Brown gives his son, Rhys, a tour of Jordan-Hare Stadium before Auburn’s 2016 A-Day game.
“It’s just perfect that I get to go back to Auburn to be a part of my alma mater in a different facet. At the same time, just being around home, going to games and having them go with me. It’s exciting.”
Recently retired after an 11-year NFL career, Brown soon will be roaming the sideline on the field where he produced ample thrills as an Auburn running back from 2000-’04.
“That experience of playing the game, and seeing things differently,” Brown says. “And hopefully, I can break it down to where there’s a good explanation for everything so the average fan can understand it.”
For the first time since 1990, Quentin Riggins will not be part of Auburn’s broadcast team.
Riggins was helping his daughter, Madison, an Auburn freshman, move in to her residence hall when the news broke that he was passing the mic after 25 seasons. Soon, his phone was flooded with congratulatory messages.
“I was very surprised,” Riggins says. “But I shouldn’t be from my Auburn family.”
Alabama Power’s Senior Vice President in charge of Governmental and Corporate Affairs, Riggins’ career success eventually limited the amount of time available for broadcast preparation.
“If there’s anything I’m going to miss, it’s not necessarily being down on the sideline, it’s the fellowship among Rod, Stan, Andy, Paul Ellen, now Ronnie. We’re all close,” Riggins says. “We truly are Auburn fans. We love Auburn, whether it’s softball, baseball or football. And we talk about it year-round.
“So, that’s going to be the biggest adjustment for me is going to not be able to talk to them off-air. That’s what I’m going to miss. The interaction with the broadcast team because they’re such professionals.”
Riggins was able to share his journey with his daughter, just as Brown plans to with his children.
“That’s a great chapter in my life, and I got to raise Madison up, and I’ve got great pictures of her when she was about 5 at the Auburn Network studios with headphones on her head. And also, I got them about three years ago, when she was 15, so she’s grown up with me with the sidelines, and with Auburn.”
Riggins looks forward to hearing Brown’s contributions to the team.
“He is such an outstanding person,” Riggins says. “But he also has such a wealth of knowledge that he’s going to be able to share with the Auburn fan base. He’s going to really transform the sideline position.”
A former All-SEC linebacker, Riggins says Brown’s offensive acumen will benefit listeners.
“When I started, Mississippi State and Vanderbilt were running the wishbone. Now, Mississippi State and Vanderbilt are running the spread offense,” Riggins says. “His football knowledge and insight are more modern and fit what’s really transpiring today.
“I think he’s going to be able to share with our folks, our fan base, just all of those nuances, to help them understand the game. Particularly, when you’re riding along the interstate, or you’re out there in the yard and you have your headset on, he’s going to be able to paint a picture and put you right there in the stadium.”
Riggins had already been part of Auburn’s broadcast team for a decade when Brown arrived on the Plains from Cartersville, Georgia.
“Quentin’s been such a staple on the sidelines,” Brown says. “The job he did for such a long period, he definitely set the bar high for me. Which is something I’m looking forward to. And try to step into those shoes. I don’t think I can fill his shoes, but I think I can offer my own analysis to it. And hopefully I can do just as good a job as he did. He did a great job for such a long time. That’s my goal. To come in and hopefully have the impact he had, doing what he did.”
To prepare for his career transition, Brown took part in the 2015 NFL Broadcasters Boot Camp in New Jersey.
“We tried to cover every base in terms of media and getting exposure. Seeing what we were good at. Seeing what we need to work on,” says Brown, who earned a communications degree at Auburn. “It was a lot more work than you would think. In terms of writing your own questions, interviewing people, how to look at the camera. It was a lot in a few days. But it was exciting and I learned a lot. It was a great experience.”
One of the first things broadcasters learn is to expect the unexpected. Anything can happen. But there’s one thing Ronnie Brown can count on in his new assignment. The full support of the man he’s replacing.
“I’ve loved watching him. I’m a huge fan of his,” Riggins says. “I was glad to talk to him about it. Share some insight. Encourage him to do it. It’s by far the best thing I ever did in my life, other than going to Auburn and playing football for Coach Dye. He’s going to be absolutely outstanding.”
Jeff Shearer is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @jeff_shearer