The key to Curtis Conway’s rise in the broadcasting business is that he never assumed he knew everything.
Of course Conway knew the sport of football, having played it since he was 7 years old and then at the highest levels, at USC and in the NFL. He also knew he had a lot to learn about calling a game, or providing studio analysis, or even the parts of the sport in which he never was involved as a high school quarterback and college and pro receiver.
So Conway committed himself to learning, leaning on broadcast veterans and former teammates to further his education. He enters the 2015 football season with two plum gigs: studio analyst for Pac-12 Networks and radio analyst for the San Diego Chargers. He earned those jobs through hard work.
“Too often former athletes think because they played, or because they’re famous, listeners or viewers are interested in what they have to say,” said Matt “Money” Smith, who did games with Conway for Compass Media Networks. “Then they open their mouth, have nothing to offer and never think twice about it.
“From the first game we called together (USC vs. San Jose State in 2009), he was always looking to get better, to be better, knowing it wasn’t going to happen overnight. Years later, he’s still asking those same questions, and that’s why he continues to build an impressive résumé in his post-playing career.”
After his final NFL season in 2004, Conway got involved in real estate and other business ventures. He started doing part-time radio and TV work, and he discovered he liked it.
Conway initially resisted the idea of getting back into football because he wanted to show kids in his native Los Angeles that the sport isn’t the only way out. But the work drew him back in, and he set about becoming good at it. Conway sought advice from Charles Davis, James Brown and other pros.
“These are guys who gave me their number and told me to reach out anytime I wanted to,” Conway said while watching a recent USC practice. “They would sit there on the phone with me and break stuff down. The confidence came from those guys.”
Conway considers Davis his biggest mentor. Conway first approached Davis at a game, and they later worked together on NFL Network’s “Path to the Draft.” One day Conway told Davis and fellow NFLN analyst Daniel Jeremiah how much he admired their work. Davis stopped him mid-sentence. The compliments no longer were necessary; Conway had arrived.
Davis recalled the conversation in a phone call Monday.
“Dude, we’re done with that,” Davis remembered saying. “You’re out here for a reason. You’re a full partner.
“If it were a law firm, you’re no longer an associate, you’re fully invested with us.”
That was the moment Conway truly knew he could succeed in the business.
“Hearing praise from a guy like Charles Davis – oh my God,” Conway said. “It’s just like football. It’s just like when I got to the (Chicago) Bears, and Richard Dent and Steve McMichael basically gave me their stamp of approval … 12 weeks into the season.”
Although he is an established analyst now, Conway isn’t finished seeking advice and asking questions. He still quizzes former college teammate and current NFLN colleague Willie McGinest about defensive line play – and new Chargers colleague Nick Hardwick about the offensive line. Conway refuses to rely on his fame and past on-the-field accomplishments.
“Those people don’t last,” Davis said. “What Curtis did was build a base and foundation that would last. I admire him for that. He’s willing to put in the time.”
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