- Thursday, 08 August 2019
- Written by Earl Vaughan Jr.
When former Jack Britt High School standout Eric Mac Lain became an All-ACC lineman at Clemson University, his major was health science and his plan was to follow in the footsteps of his parents in the medical field.
But from his Britt days to his years at Clemson, Mac Lain had frequent positive encounters with the media and was always a good interview. The stars aligned and the next thing Mac Lain knew, he was offered the chance to come to Bristol, Connecticut and interview for a job with ESPN’s new ACC Network.
On Aug. 23, he’ll make his first appearance on "The Huddle," a studio program that will air each week on the new network on Friday evening and Saturday morning previewing that week’s ACC football games.
“What a cool thing for a young man to be able to pursue with this great company on an awesome network with its launching and us being the ground zero,’’ Mac Lain said. “It’s just a great opportunity and I can’t wait for the launch.’’
It was during his time at Clemson that he began to realize a medical future might not be his best choice. “When I figured out how much school that took after the fact, I kind of changed my mind and got my master’s in athletic administration,’’ he said.
The offer from ESPN came at Clemson’s National Championship game with Alabama earlier this year in Santa Clara, California.
Mac Lain got a text from an ESPN representative who wanted to meet and talk with him. He initially blew it off as just another request for an interview to get his opinions on the game.
He had been sightseeing in California with his wife and her family, until the ESPN representative finally pinned Mac Lain down for a meeting hours before kickoff.
The talk at first was about the upcoming game, but then the representative offered to fly Mac Lain to ESPN’s Bristol headquarters to audition for a job with the new ACC Network.
“I wasn’t pursuing a different career at all,’’ Mac Lain said. “I just stumbled into it.’’
Other than being interviewed by reporters for print and television, he’d had no previous TV experience. He had done some work hosting a postgame radio show for Clemson football that provided game analysis and commentary on other ACC games.
“You never really know which interview did the trick or who threw my name in the hat where,’’ Mac Lain said. “I knew all along something like this could happen.’’
He said he shares that same message when he speaks with college or high school students or church groups. “You create your brand with social media and all the opportunities you’re going to get as an athlete,’’ he said. “It’s cool to be an actual story and an actual example of that.’’
The show Mac Lain will help host, "The Huddle," will be anchored by Jac Collinsworth. Collinsworth has been the regular host of ESPN’s NFL Live since early 2018.
Joining Mac Lain and Collinsworth will be former Georgia and Miami, Florida, head coach Mark Richt and former Florida State quarterback E.J. Manuel.
“I love this team we have put together and the chemistry we already have,’’ Mac Lain said. “It seems like we have been working together for five or 10 years, but we just met a month ago so it’s really cool.’’
Mac Lain said the challenge for him in preparing for the show has been to expand his knowledge beyond his alma mater. “It’s an entire conference, not just one school,’’ he said. “I’m going to be faced with knowing the key players and the role players people may not be familiar with.’’
Mac Lain said his goal will be to avoid speaking in technical terms and draw a picture anybody can understand. He thinks the coaching and playing backgrounds of himself, Richt and Manuel will be an asset to the show.
“Just being able to dip inside of a player’s helmet or a coach’s headset, what was happening at this moment or what is this guy thinking,’’ Mac Lain said. “I think viewers will really appreciate that.’’
Mac Lain currently calls Charlotte home, but although ESPN has a studio there where it does production for shows on ESPNU and the SEC Network, Mac Lain will be flying to Bristol and the home office every weekend during the ACC season to do "The Huddle."
“We are very excited to get rolling,’’ he said. “It’s been a really cool thing to get to know these men and women throughout the network.’’
Eric Mac Lain points to the historic ESPN logo during his trip to Bristol, Connecticut for audition with ACC Network.
Athletic events will be an important part of a year-long celebration at Fayetteville Academy as the school marks its 50th year of being open in 2019-20.
Current head of school Ray Quesnel said the reason for coordinating the celebration with the school’s athletic side is common sense.
“Traditionally, most of the time our alumni are on campus revolves around athletic events,’’ he said. “We wanted to capitalize on the fact we usually have them here anyway.
“We want this to be for our current students and families but also for 50 years of Fayetteville Academy students and families.’’
The festivities begin on Friday, Aug. 9, at 6 p.m. with the annual alumni soccer game, pitting this year’s Academy boys soccer team against players from previous years.
“We are expecting a big crowd for that,’’ Quesnel said. “We’ll parachute in the game ball and we’ll have other surprises.’’
A free hot dog and hamburger cookout will also be held.
The next big event will be the alumni basketball game on Tuesday, Nov. 26, which will include recognition of this year’s class of inductees into the school’s Hall of Fame.
Homecoming will be observed at a basketball game in late January or early March.
The big event will be a weekend long anniversary observance March 27-29. A formal gathering of some kind is tentatively scheduled on Saturday, March 28. There are also plans to possibly hold alumni games in spring sports like baseball, soccer and tennis.
• Village Christian Academy athletic director Harold Morrison announced earlier this month that the school would not field a football team this season.
“At this time, it is apparent that we do not have enough players to have a football team,’’ he said. “It is our priority and goal to continue to plan and evaluate our program in preparation for the future.’’
Morrison said the Sandhills Titans club football team has invited the remaining Village football players to join their team this fall.
The announcement of no team for the coming season is the latest setback for the Village football program. The North Carolina Independent Schools Athletic Association previously cited Village for recruiting and offering impermissible benefits to players.
The penalty included forfeiture of all football wins in 2017 and 2018 along with state runner-up and state championship finishes.
• Former E.E. Smith High School football standout Junior Smith has been named to the East Carolina University Hall of Fame.
Smith is East Carolina’s all-time leading rusher with 3,745 yards. He was three-time honorable mention All-American and first team All-South Independent. He is the only player in ECU history with three consecutive 1,000-yard rushing seasons.
He averaged 5.1 yards per carry during his Pirate career from 1991-94.
Pictured: Ray Quesnel
Here’s a brief recap of how Cumberland County’s players fared in the annual East-West All-Star football and basketball games held earlier this month in Greensboro in conjunction with the annual North Carolina Coaches Association Clinic.
Basketball: Wake Forest-bound Alex Scruggs of E.E. Smith High School was named Most Valuable Player for the East girls’ team as she led her squad to an 81-78 victory. The East built a comfortable 48-35 lead at halftime but had to hold off a strong West rally to get the win.
Scruggs hit nine of 14 shots from the floor and one of three 3-pointers for a game-high 20 points. She led the East in rebounding with eight. East teammate Kendal Moore of Pine Forest, who’s headed for N.C. State, also stood out with 17 points. She made six of 14 shots, two of six from 3-point range, and grabbed three rebounds. Scruggs and Moore both started in the game.
Terry Sanford’s Kate Perko, who will attend Meredith, scored two points and had four rebounds.
Pine Forest’s David May got the win as head coach, his final game as a head coach as he will be stepping into an assistant’s role next season.
In the boys basketball game, Brion McLaurin of Seventy-First and his East teammates had a tough night as they lost to the West 119-80. McLaurin was one of four East players in double figures, coming off the bench to score 11 points on four of nine shooting from the field. He made his only 3-point attempt. He was the East’s No. 2 rebounder with six.
Football: The East’s Kyler Davis of Seventy-First and Dante Bowlding of Terry Sanford both started and contributed to a dominating 20-8 win over the West All-Stars.
Davis earned a spot in the East-West All-Star game record book when he threw an 81-yard touchdown pass to Lamont Murray of Pamlico County in the first quarter. That broke the record for longest completed pass in game history by two yards.
Davis finished with five completions in nine attempts and no interceptions for 116 yards.
Bowlding started in the secondary for an East defense that totally throttled the West. The West team got no first downs in the game and finished with minus 15 total yards, including minus 36 rushing.
The only touchdown the West scored came on a fumble return in the first period.
Also enjoying the win for the East was Seventy-First head coach Duran McLaurin, who served as an assistant coach on the East staff.
From top to bottom: Alex Scruggs, Kyler Davis