Mon. Sep 24th, 2018

Richmond Weaver’s Long Road to Sports Radio

“(Deshaun) Watson takes the snap, rolls right, looks to the end zone…Hunter Renfrow caught it! Touchdown! Touchdown! Touchdown! With a second left, Watson hits Renfrow and Clemson grabs a 34-31 lead!” 

That was the infamous call by Don Munson of the Clemson Radio Network as the Tigers clinched the 2016 National Championship over Alabama, it’s second in school history. At that moment, the lives of Dabo Swinney, Deshaun Watson and Hunter Renfrow changed forever. Until eternity, those three names will be synonymous with the greatest moment the Clemson program has ever seen. But what if I told you a father of three in Greenville, SC would also experience a life-altering moment from that play? A story that would change the fate of a medical device salesman into hosting both a podcast and a local sports radio show. 

A proud Clemson grad, Richmond Weaver was frustrated during most of the national championship game. During the tensest moments of the game, he was dealing with a nightmare television scenario at his home. While his daughter had friends over to watch the game in another room, Weaver’s TV was three seconds behind in the action. His daughter and her friends signified the play to come by their loud cheers before he even saw it. Not exactly ideal when your team is playing for a championship, but as Clemson approached the line of scrimmage down three points with six seconds left, Weaver said he only wanted to hear his daughter scream for joy. 

As Watson’s pass entered Renfrow’s arms, Weaver initially reacted the way you’d expect any sports fan that’s been waiting 35 years to see their team win a national title. There was joy, there was jubilation, but there was also one prevailing thought that struck and hit deep: He needed to start a podcast. In Weaver’s mind, the gut-wrenching game he had just watched proved that anything is possible. Though he was in his mid-40’s, it was time to chase the passion that had been on his mind for several months. 

Weaver admits that he gave up on his dream at the first sign of adversity. From his high school days, all the way through college and then into his 20’s, he had the burning desire to be a basketball coach. For a short time, that dream was realized as he spent three years as an assistant at the Division 1 level, one at Fairleigh Dickinson and two at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. Through his large list of connections, Weaver thought he finally caught his big break in 1996 at the age of 25 after being promised a job at Auburn as an assistant. 

Turns out, the coach he was replacing decided not to leave the school. As fast as it had come together, Weaver was now out of a coaching job. Sure, other positions were available at the D2 and JUCO ranks, but none of them were the D1 coaching position he thought he deserved. 

His pride and ego got to him. Instead of coaching that season, he accepted an opportunity as a pharmaceutical salesman. He took it and never again realized his dream of coaching. Weaver wondered how he could preach to his kids about following their dreams and passions when he left his behind way too soon. 20 years after walking away, he knew he wanted to get back into sports, somehow, someway. 

A little over a month after the podcast idea hit Weaver hard during Clemson’s national championship win, he realized he never cashed in on something he had won at an auction. The prize, was a visit to the ESPN Upstate studio to see how a functioning sports radio station worked. The description to bidders promised the chance of even sitting in as a co-host for a segment. After being the only bidder, Weaver toured the studio and eventually co-hosted numerous segments with Mark Sturgis. He was instantly hooked and knew it was for him.

Sports podcasting or radio had never been a dream of his, but this was his way of getting back into sports and chasing a passion he left behind. Now, more than ever, the burning desire of starting a podcast was on his mind. Turns out, Sturgis was impressed with his co-host for the day, especially since he’d never done it before. As Weaver walked out the door that day, Sturgis made a remark in passing, “have you ever tried doing a podcast before?” 

Weaver knew it was God speaking to him.

Today, Rich Take on Sports is a podcast centered on how much sports has impacted, built and inspired coaches, players, media personalities and others in today’s world. Now through 68 episodes, the extensive guest list ranges from Mark Schlereth to Dwight Gooden, Digger Phelps and many more, all with different messages on how sports helped shape their life and successes. 

Through out his journey of trying to build a successful podcast, Weaver continually kept in contact with Sturgis. That led to opportunities as an occasional co-host with the two paired on the same show at ESPN Upstate. Sturgis continued to like the duo so much, that he invited Weaver to regularly co-host the show with him for three days a week. The father of three that was just trying to spark a passion was now hosting both a podcast and a sports radio show. 

Though the lucrative payment of 50 dollars a show wasn’t enough to draw Weaver away from his medical sales job, the climb in the sports radio business continued as ESPN Upstate wanted to expand his role by adding him to the 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. slot. He’s there every week day, as a co-host of The Huddle with G-Mack and Lonzo. 

I’ll use a quote from the late Sean Adams: “The dream is free, the hustle is sold separately. Go to work.” There’s probably not a quote that more accurately fits Weaver’s journey from a college basketball coach, to medical salesman to podcast and radio host. 

TM: What if I told the kid that wanted so desperately to be a D1 basketball coach, that he would someday be a podcast and sports radio host? 

RV: That you’re a liar. No way, this would have never been on my radar at all. 

TM: I think when some people start a podcast, they get frustrated because it takes a while to gain momentum and get listeners. Did you experience any of that? 

RV: I still struggle with that, Tyler. Initially, I would get consumed with not having very many downloads and focusing more on numbers, rather than focusing on content. I’ve tried to have a complete mind shift that, just focus on content, have guests sharing their stories and it will build. I do remember getting specific emails at times from people that I didn’t know. They were describing how they enjoyed the podcast and that was just another affirmation to me that I needed to keep on going. That’s the mindset that I have. But I still struggle with wishing the podcast was bigger, but that’s just human nature. 

TM: How do you get so many big names on your podcast? 

RV: I wish I could tell you. Other than perseverance, I’ve been in sales for 20 years, since I got out of coaching. In all reality, I was even selling when I was coaching with recruiting. For whatever reason, I’ve just had this ability to connect with people. For me, it was just all about reaching out. Some of it is having connections, which helps. But I started seeking out opportunities that I could meet some people and establish new ones. I went to the South Carolina Football Hall of Fame induction ceremony and that’s where I met Levon Kirkland. When I approached guys like that, I just told my story. In terms of I had a passion for sports, I was in coaching, got out of coaching, I regret it and now want to share stories that have some type of connection with sports. That’s how I started going about it. I’ve met people on social media, there’s just a myriad of opportunities that have found me since I started the podcast. 

TM: Now that you’re chasing a passion, how has that changed your everyday attitude? 

RV: It’s really allowed me to embrace the simple fact that it’s okay to fail but it’s not okay to not try. You have to try. Let God run you down different pathways and be able to understand that no matter what it is, life is not passive. You have to reject passivity. That’s what it’s showed me each and every day. If you continue to stay active and you continue to have faith and trust in God, then you can half the courage, confidence and conviction to walk into the unknown. One of the things that I love about the podcast and the radio, is the connections that I’m making. Regardless of where they lead, it’s just a connection that’s what energizes me. 

TM: What would you say to someone who was once in your position, in terms of wanting to do podcast, but just can’t get the motivation to try it? 

RV: Just press record and start. That’s the biggest for me, was rejecting the passivity. Life is about activity and being active. You just can’t worry about what the outcome is, instead, worry what the content is. You just have to start. I kept telling myself I wanted to start a podcast, but after I got enough clues, I finally started. Literally, after I pressed record and did the first episode I thought, well, we’re going. It hasn’t stopped since then. 

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