When Alpharetta native Maria Taylor introduces herself to hulking SEC football players, their typical response is, “You’re huge!” Taylor stands six feet two and was a four-year basketball player at the University of Georgia. As a sideline reporter, she uses her height and physicality to peer over linemen and muscle closer to the action. Since graduating from UGA’s journalism program, Taylor has moved from high school sideline jobs at regional sports network CSS to covering SEC games for ESPN. This month, the twenty-seven-year-old debuts as a studio host and analyst for the SEC Network, having signed a multiyear deal.
What do you say to people who claim the SEC’s football dominance is slipping? I don’t believe that at all. I would say from top to bottom, the SEC is strongest. Every now and then, another conference is going to have a great number one team. But week in and week out, having to play a really tough schedule that’s preparing you for the postseason, there’s no better conference than the SEC.
How are you prepping to work with fellow analyst Tim Tebow? I remember watching him and saying, “Oh, not again,” like when he broke Herschel Walker’s [rushing touchdown] record. As an athlete, you can appreciate what he brought to the field of competition. I know he’s going to bring that to broadcasting.
Is there more of an art to sideline reporting than TV viewers realize? Nobody is following us around and primping us or telling you what questions to ask. You have to keep your eyes open. You’re constantly going back and forth. I work out more during a full four hours of a football game than I ever do in my workouts. I’m trying to hear and see everything—or as much as I possibly can.
Does your own experience as an athlete help you as a sideline reporter? Absolutely. I’ve always loved basketball. When you’re playing pick-up basketball, you just kind of get used to being one of the guys.
This article originally appeared in our August 2014 issue.