There’s never a dull moment when you cover the National Football League. Just ask Laura Rutledge, the St. Petersburg native who in recent years has become one of the faces of ESPN’s coverage of the league. In fact, in the middle of discussing how the NFL is never quite out of the news cycle during its offseason, she gets an alert on her phone.

“We just got breaking news on Aaron Rodgers, so it’s going to be a wild day,” she says of the announcement that the Green Bay Packers quarterback and reigning league MVP had just signed a new contract.

After breaking into the industry as a sideline reporter for Fox Sports, Rutledge joined the ESPN in 2014 and her star has only risen since. Not only does she cover pro football and serves as host of the daily program NFL Live, but she is well-known for covering the college game as well, specifically for her work as a host on the SEC Network. In that role she gets to cover the sport’s biggest schools like Alabama, Georgia, LSU and the University of Florida, her alma mater.

But sports wasn’t always what Rutledge was most passionate about. In fact, as a young teenager she gravitated more toward the arts and was highly trained in ballet, envisioning that she would carve out a career in the world of dance. But as her parents strongly pushed for her to apply to college, she began to realize that becoming a professional ballet dancer was likely not her destiny.

One fateful day while on campus at Florida and looking to make some extra money, she learned of a job opening at the college radio station. She stopped by to inquire about the position and was told it required covering sports. Little did she know at the time that it was the start of a journey that would eventually lead to her ESPN.

“Of course, I said yes [to the job]. And then I thought, I’m going to have to learn something about sports,” she says between laughs. “I was in a vulnerable spot. The thing I knew for so long, ballet, was no longer a part of my life. I needed something to pour myself into.”

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