Danyelle Sargent Takes NFL by Storm

Danyelle Sargent is the only African American female host for NFL Networks. (photo credit: Bobby Quillard)

If ever there was a Black Girl who Rocks! it is Danyelle Sargent.  Her star is on a meteoric rise through the male dominated arena of sports and it doesn’t seem to be letting up anytime soon.  When you think of sports broadcasters, the first thing you don’t think of is women. But Sargent’s experience, professionalism, and passion for sports kept her in the field (no pun intended).

Sargent holds major bragging rights for breaking ground at NFL Networks as their only African American female host at this time.  The 35-year-old Alpharetta, Georgia native has come a long way from her small town sharing her love for sports with her dad.  But, surprisingly enough, as a little girl, her dad immersed her in sports with the exception of football.

Danyelle Sargent on set at NFL Networks.

“I grew up a sports fan. My dad was a big sports fan,” she said with a smile. “He started out taking me to major league baseball and basketball games from a little girl and then he started me in sports.  I played basketball, ran track, played softball, everything, you name it.”

But it wouldn’t be until college that her passion for football would be sparked. At Florida State University, she would get her first taste of the football world.

“My dad wasn’t a football fan, so I didn’t know that much about it.  I fell in love with it at Florida State where football is king,” she laughed.

After graduation, her first job out of college was for a local TV station in Tallahassee, Florida, doing graphics for the morning news.

“I remember typing lunch menus at 4:00 in the morning. It was funny, but I wouldn’t change it.”

But her career took off after she began her television career at WGXA,  a local Fox affiliate in Macon, Georgia, then with Metro Sports in Kansas City, Missouri.  Suddenly, the Red Sea, also known as the sports world, parted with the same tenacity as in the Old Testament and welcomed her in via the ESPN Network.  Sargent’s first big break came in 2004, when she joined ESPN as an ESPNews anchor.  While with ESPN, Sargent also appeared on ESPN2’s “Cold Pizza,” and twice served as co-emcee for the NCAA woman of the year awards.

“There was only one other African American woman anchor at ESPN.  But there were no producers.  That’s where you don’t see women,” she explained.  “A lot of women want to [host] if they’re pretty, or fans of the game… it’s trendy. They’re always looking for one African American here and there.”

Her rising star landed her at Fox Sports Net in 2006. Sargent joined as the only female anchor of “The Final Score,” a daily hi-lite show.  While with Fox, she also spent time as a fill-in anchor on Totally Football, hosted FSN’s BCS breakdown, and worked as a sideline reporter for Fox’s coverage of the NFL.

In 2010, Danyelle appeared in 10 episodes of Comedy Central’s “Onion Sports Dome,” a parody of ESPN’s “Sports Center,” as fictional sportscaster “Melissa Wells.  But she would soon become an even hotter commodity and a rare pick for NFL Network. And she is all too aware of what that means.

“At NFL network I’m the only African American woman.  I try to open the door for the next one that comes through the door after me. I want [young African American women], to see a different kind of beauty than what most are used to.  I hope it opens eyes and doors to give them a chance to do what I’ve done and more than what I’ve done.”

Sargent came into the sports arena without the guidance of a mentor that looked like her to glean advice and suggestions from as she navigated the male-dominated terrain.  But, watching Robin Roberts helped her in deciding that’s what she wanted to do.

“Most people don’t realize that Robin Roberts started out in sports. She’s had a dynamic career and she’s been so open about her illness,” she said. “When I started, there were Robin Roberts and Pam Oliver.  They were the only two I could look to and say that’s what I want to be like.”

Sargent is quite complimentary of both women, but would love to use her position to make a difference for minority women.

“There will be one African American woman, well there wouldn’t be two. There are no producers.  That’s where you really don’t see women.  Just ‘cause you have one doesn’t mean that you can’t have another or a Hispanic woman. I don’t want to be classified as that, I’m a sports anchor and I work as hard as the other guy no matter the sex or color.”

She also writes a blog at DanyelleSargent.com, where she often makes parallels between sports and everyday life while giving an insider’s view of the sports world.

“I always think of this article that I read that said, ‘Ninety percent of female CEO’s had participated in sports at the high school level,’ “she explains. “I thought that was interesting.  Playing [sports] teaches you so many life lessons. Beyond learning defense it teaches you leadership, how to follow, how to rebound after defeat.  What happens in a basketball or football game can transfer right over to not getting a promotion from a job or completing a project the way you thought you would.”

Danyelle is a force to be reckoned with that has it all and she wants other girls to leap into everything they do with the same unlimited spirit.

“Believe in yourself!  Because with any job, especially this job, you’re going to be judged publicly and people will say things positively or negatively, so you have to find your confidence in yourself that no one can take away from you,” she stressed. “Persistence is key. When I applied for my first job on TV, I mailed out 100 resume tapes and no one responded. It would’ve been easy to give up, but I knew I wanted to be a sportscaster on TV. But you have to have that persistence because this is a very competitive job field.  I just want girls to see me and say it’s possible; she’s a mom, she has a career, and she’s married.”

The Florida State grad currently splits her time between Southern California and Arizona.  Sargent is married to former NBA head coach and current Arizona State University men’s assistant coach, Eric Musselman. The couple has one daughter, Mariah, who is already beginning a career in basketball and has a love for sports.

-J.C. Brooks

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