For over half of her life, Maria Taylor has been a sports enthusiast. Whether playing, broadcasting, or analyzing, she participates in sports at the highest level. Maria was a dual sports athlete in volleyball and basketball throughout high school. When she began at Georgia, Maria continued to play volleyball and played basketball for one season. After she graduated, she began working with International Management Group (IMG). After Maria spent some time with assorted networks covering women’s volleyball and basketball, she found herself working full time with ESPN. She covers women’s volleyball and men’s and women’s basketball along with college football for ESPN. The past three years, she’s been with SEC network, and for the first time Maria can be found on College Gameday and the ABC Prime night game.
DUAL SPORT CAREER
Maria came to UGA to play volleyball. She was “burned out” on basketball and wanted to strictly focus on volleyball. The funny thing is Coach Andy Landers and the Georgia women’s basketball program had recruited her to play basketball also. When she got to UGA, she missed basketball. Maria couldn’t play basketball her freshman year because she had to wait for her volleyball scholarship to become basketball one. She played basketball only her sophomore year because volleyball training and tryouts for national teams were during basketball season. Maria loved playing both sports, and she is still connected to both teams. Actually, she now loves working with Coach Lander’s with ESPN.
Coach Landers was a huge mentor. Maria was planning on going to play volleyball overseas after college, but he told her to stay and go straight into broadcasting. He said her future was in broadcasting and not to delay the progress she had already made in the field. She listened and stated that she owes him a lot for it. Also, Carla Williams was so great to Maria throughout college. Maria excitingly broke the news to me that Mrs. Williams just accepted the athletic director position at the University of Virginia making her the first African American women to ever be an athletic director of a power five school. “She empowers her student-athletes. She was always willing to open up her door and talk to me about anything, and I just absolutely loved working with her and being around her. She has always been there for me too,” Maria said.
When Maria arrived at UGA, she planned on majoring in Biology because she wanted to be a team physician. A fellow volleyball teammate and best friend of Maria’s, Angelica Partridge, a broadcasting major, persuaded Maria into taking a broadcasting class. Maria loved the class! She actually switched her major from biology to business. Then switched it again to broadcasting. “It took me awhile to get there, but once I got in the major, I loved it and knew that I wanted to work in sports,” proclaimed Maria.
FAVORITE SPORT TO COVER
Maria is a guru in all of the sports she covers and loves all of them, but her favorite would have to be women’s basketball. She claimed, “It’s always had a big spot in my heart.” As a kid, she loved watching the athletes who played the game. They were always people she aspired to be like. Now covering the sport and being involved with the NCAA tournament, she is right there with ladies who play the game. The sport is very special to her. She did say, “As far as the energy and excitement surrounding a sport, it’s definitely college football. I mean you really can’t beat it! The kind of commitment I see in college football is certainly something that I don’t see in probably any other sport.”
SUPERSTITIONS AND RITUALS
Maria loves music! When she was in school here, she always listened to music. She really liked any rap that was popular at the time like Jay-Z. Now when preparing to broadcast, she listens to gospel music! “Because I’m getting old, I don’t need to get pumped up. I need to be calm by the time I get to the show,” claimed Maria.
“I am a cat-lover!” pronounced Maria. She used to have a three-legged cat named Max. She said Max was the best cat she ever had because he followed her around like a little dog. She is also obsessed with sweets. Maria could forgo any meal and just eat cake or cookies. Sour Patch Kids are her favorite candy. When College Gameday shows up to the site of the game on Thursday, the host college gives her a pound bag of Sour Patch Kids, and she claims they’re gone by the end of the show on Saturday. Finally, Maria is a big traveler. She loves seeing new cultures, tasting new foods, and learning new things.
ANY ADVICE FOR ME?
Maria is full of knowledge and the advice she gave me will always stick with me. One of the main things she told me is to get my name out there. She said it is super, important for me to tell different people what I want to do. The way Maria entered broadcasting was Craig White, former UGA associate athletic director, told Comcast Sports South that Maria was interested in being a volleyball analyst. She had previously spoken with him about being a broadcaster in the future, and he got her one of her first gigs. Maria believes that if you make yourself known people will want to help you in reaching your goal. Another piece of advice she provided was to intern and shadow different people in sports. She also told me not profess all of my knowledge into one sport. You need to be knowledgeable in every sport.
THOUGHTS ON GEORGIA FOOTBALL
“Georgia football is amazing right now! I am absolutely obsessed with the success that they’re having.” declared Maria. She has loved watching Coach Kirby Smart take over. After a few losses last season, the team still stayed dedicated to him, and she has been very pleased with the defense. She said they’ve got that “Dawg” in them that hasn’t been there in the past. She believes that they’re very disciplined which has also carried the team this season. Maria thinks that on the offensive side of the ball we’ve grown too. She loves watching Jake Fromm play. “It’s fun to see a kid who is just loving what he does. This has been his lifelong dream!”
Maria was such a pleasure to talk with. I cannot thank her enough for taking time out of her busy schedule to talk with me. If you don’t watch College Gameday on Saturday mornings, you should tune in to watch Maria’s segment. Her behind the scenes interviews with players, coaches, and other people involved with college football are something you don’t want to miss.
Here is the audio of my full interview with Maria Taylor:
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