Media Scene

Shannon Spake branches out from NASCAR to the NFL sidelines

Shannon Spake of Cornelius, who is moving from ESPN to Fox Sports
Shannon Spake of Cornelius, who is moving from ESPN to Fox Sports

People get into media jobs in various ways. Shannon Spake arrived in a U-Haul.

She packed up after graduating from Florida Atlantic University with a communications degree and drove to Manhattan. She papered the town with resumes and worked as a waitress at Outback Steakhouse until she managed to get an entry-level job at Nickelodeon.

It pays to take a risk: Less than two decades later and after 10 years with ESPN, Spake is moving to a new job with Fox Sports that will, among other assignments, put her on the sidelines of the NFL.

Spake, who turns 40 this weekend and lives in Cornelius with her husband and 6-year-old twin boys, will also cover college football and basketball for Fox. She is expected to contribute to Fox Sports 1’s Charlotte-based daily show “NASCAR Race Hub.”

“There’s so many different layers to it,” she says. “I feel like I want to keep growing and I felt like this was the place to do it with the opportunities they gave me.”

Spake grew up near Fort Lauderdale, Fla., as a sports fan, particularly the Miami Dolphins. In her New York phase, she worked in a variety of jobs including associate producer of CBS’s “The Early Show,” which led to a job as production assistant on HBO’s “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel.”

Her family moved to Charlotte and she joined them. In 2004, she landed a job at WCCB (Channel 18) as a morning show producer and began doing segments on camera. Then she joined C-SET, the Charlotte Bobcats’ short-lived regional network.

She went to Fox’s old Speed network as a reporter and contributed to “NASCAR Nation” and other shows.

In 2006, she started at ESPN and moved up from motorsports to sideline coverage for college basketball and football, reporter for the 2015 NBA Draft and Final Four championships for “SportsCenter.”

“I learned on the go at ESPN,” she says. “I was so green when they first hired me. I had to learn how to do everything – produce, sit in the truck, hold the camera. Now I feel like I’ve been thrown in the deep end and have to show what I’ve got.”

Spake says her goal with every broadcast is to deliver to the viewers inside information that she gleans from her close-up vantage point. “I try to give them something their ticket can’t buy,” she says.

Spake admits that even as a grownup, she couldn’t believe it when she got to cover basketball games with the University of Kentucky or report from the sidelines as UNC played Duke. “I’d have to pinch myself,” she says.

Her new assignment with Fox may open other doors. Still on her wish list: work a Super Bowl or cover Olympic swimming.

She seems to have the stamina to go whatever distance she wants, on camera or off. That U-Haul that got her to her first adventure is far in the rear-view mirror, and in personal challenges, she just completed her first 70.3-mile Ironman event.