Growing up, Virginia offensive lineman Tyler Fannin always envisioned himself in a suit and tie, behind an oversized desk on the set of SportsCenter, rattling off stats and scores from games across the country.
This summer, he made his broadcasting debut and it was more of a learning experience than even he expected. Fannin interned with the Charlottesville Tom Sox baseball team as on-air talent and a play-by-play announcer.
His first game behind the mic was going swimmingly until the umpire behind home plate threw his hands in the air and yelled “balk” not once but three times in the same inning. Finally, Fannin covered his mic with his hand and leaned toward the color man seated to his left with a question. “What is a balk?”
“I had never really watched baseball until this summer,” Fannin said. “It was fun to learn. I always thought baseball was pretty boring, but I turn it on a little more often now.”
Fannin doesn’t know if he wants to eventually end up in front or behind the camera, but he has his sights set on ESPN. His mother thinks she’ll one day see him on the set of College GameDay, but with the Cavaliers well into fall camp, his broadcasting career is on hold for now.
Instead, he’s focused on competing with Air Force transfer Victor Oluwatimi at center and solidifying the interior of the offensive line while its leader, Dillon Reinkensmeyer, continues to work his way back from an injury.
“With more competition, it brings more fire out of everybody,” Fannin said. “So, I think it’s a good thing that we have more depth and more people fighting for spots.”
Through Virginia’s first six fall practices, the starting offensive line has looked like this: Ryan Nelson at left tackle, Chris Glaser at left guard, Oluwatimi at center, Fannin at right guard in place of Reinkensmeyer and 6-foot-10 sophomore Ryan Swoboda at right tackle.
Players are rotating in and out after just about every snap, and the coaches are still in the very early stages of tinkering with a starting five. But overall, it’s a tight-knit group, much of which has played together for at least two seasons.
“We can be as dominant as we want to be,” Oluwatimi said. “Coach [Bronco] Mendenhall says every team in the country is racing. It’s a race between every O-lineman in the room, and if the center isn’t playing well, coach might move a tackle to center and get us out of there because we’re not upholding the standard.”
Fannin impressed the coaches last spring and looked poised to handle the snaps as a freshman, but a foot injury in fall camp cost him the entire season. It turned out to be a blessing in disguise.
“It was really upsetting, but it gave me a chance to really learn the offense,” Fannin said. “Instead of moping, I took the time to sit down and really learn the motions, quarterback reads, all that stuff. I think it helped me overall.”
He said rising to the challenge Oluwatimi presents daily in practice will pay off, too.
“We feed off each other. We sit next to each other during film and talk through any mistakes we make,” Fannin said. “I think instead of butting heads constantly, we’re more working together to make sure the interior of the line is solid.”
After the season, Fannin will get back to chasing his dream of anchoring SportsCenter. Until then, he’ll settle for tuning in to see highlights of Virginia’s running backs galloping through gaping holes.