Stuart Scott, a longtime anchor at ESPN, died Sunday morning at the age of 49.
Stuart was born in Chicago, but he, along with two sisters and a brother, spent his formative years in North Carolina, where their father was a postal inspector who always had time to play after work. Stuart went to R.J. Reynolds High in Winston-Salem and then the University of North Carolina, where he played wide receiver and defensive back on the club football team, joined Alpha Phi Alpha and worked at the student radio station, WXYC. After graduating in 1987 with a degree in speech communication, Stuart was hired by WPDE-TV in Florence, S.C. He says that's where he first came up with the pillow metaphor. "People say I stole it from a movie," he told an interviewer in 1998, "but I first thought of that and said it on my first job ... I just liked it."
His career path took him from Florence to Raleigh, North Carolina, to Orlando, Florida, and in his pre-ESPN clips, you can feel his energy, hear his music and sense his on-camera charisma. At WESH, the NBC affiliate in Orlando, he first met ESPN producer Gus Ramsey, who was beginning his own career. Says Ramsey, "You knew the second he walked in the door that it was a pit stop, and that he was gonna be this big star somewhere some day. He went out and did a piece on the rodeo, and he nailed it just like he would nail the NBA Finals for ESPN."
He first met ESPN anchor Chris Berman in Tampa, Florida. "He stuck out his hand and said, 'One day I look forward to working with you,'" Berman said. "And I said, 'Well, I tell you what, we'll save you a seat.' And I'm really thrilled that he was right on. [Later] I said, 'Stu, maybe you were the Swami.'"
The person most responsible for bringing Stuart to Bristol was Al Jaffe, ESPN's vice president for talent, who was looking for sportscasters who might appeal to a younger audience for ESPN2. "One of the producers on a story we were doing on the Orlando Magic told me about this young guy he really liked. I followed up and found out that Stuart's contract was up soon. He sent me a tape, and even then, he had an amazing presence -- I felt the viewer would sit up and take notice when he was on the air."
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"A positive attitude may not solve all your problems, but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort." - Herm Albright