FAIRFIELD — If you are tuning into ESPN programming for the NFL, chances are you will see Dan Orlovsky among those analysts debating anything about the sport.
With training camps opening soon, news is ramping up in the NFL. So Orlovsky, the Shelton native and former UConn and NFL quarterback, will be on air to speak plenty about the upcoming season.
On Thursday morning, Orlovsky discussed his ESPN role — among other things — as the guest speaker at The Patterson Club for “Kolbe Conversations Edition No. 3: Let’s Talk Football.” It was a fundraiser for Kolbe Cathedral High School, a private school in Bridgeport.
“I don’t want to ever get into the media world of being somebody who thinks they can say anything that they want since they are on television,” Orlovsky said. “You’ve got to say what you’re convicted about. Saying something gets you into trouble. … I think a lot of people get into this industry and they are scared to be wrong, especially in the social media world because when you are wrong in the social media world, it spreads quickly. I think if you are scared to be wrong, you’ll never be convicted to be right. I want to be one of those people that (people say about), ‘That dude wasn’t scared to be wrong.’”
The trip to Patterson is a short one for Orlovsky from his home in Westport, where he is husband to Tiffany and father to four, including triplets. That and a full schedule at ESPN keeps him busy.
He had to get home right away on Thursday to expand more about quarterback Baker Mayfield being traded from the Cleveland Browns to the Carolina Panthers. He has a setup in his office to do remote TV work.
Orlovsky, 38, also does color for a college football game each Saturday. And soon, the network will officially announce what has been reported for months: Orlovsky will be a part of a backup Monday Night Football team broadcasting a handful of games this fall, then five per season beginning in 2023.
“This is the greatest accomplishment in this part of my career,” Orlovsky said. He said it will be No. 3 overall, behind being drafted in the fifth round by the Detroit Lions in 2005 and leading UConn to its first Division I bowl victory at the 2004 Motor City Bowl.
Orlovsky said he looked at other broadcasting options this past spring, speaking with FOX, CBS, Amazon and “a bunch of the big gambling entities” before deciding to stay with Bristol-based ESPN.
“I had conversations with everybody. I was sitting there going, ‘OK, we are going to tap into everybody and see what grabs my attention the most and what really do I want to do the next couple years and the next step, 10 years from now?’” Orlovsky said.
Orlovsky spent his first four NFL seasons and last two with the Lions. His career-high starts was seven in 2008. In between, he played for Houston, Indianapolis and Tampa Bay. Orlovsky retired following the 2016 season.
Those days in film study for the opposition have served Orlovsky well in his current occupation. During the season, he is picked up for a drive to ESPN’s New York City studio for “Get Up” appearances or to Bristol for other shows. On those rides, and in his spare time, he is constantly reviewing NFL game films from the last weekend.
As he noted on Thursday, that all started watching film as Shelton High’s starting quarterback. He led the Gaels to the 2000 Class LL state championship his senior season, defeating Greenwich 22-8 at West Haven High.
He can still recall the weather on that championship Saturday almost 22 years ago (“it was 2 degrees”) and he remembers who he threw touchdown passes to. And of course, there’s the satisfaction following the hurt from finishing 9-1 as a junior and not making the postseason.
“I remember losing to Cheshire my junior year and being distraught because we knew that would keep us out (of the playoffs). The expectations were to win a couple (titles),” Orlovsky said. “We knew the journey it took to get there. That’s what made it so special. That was a magic time in my life.”
Orlovsky spent time working with Jim Mora at ESPN. He is excited about how the new UConn football coach has brought some excitement back to a program that has fallen on hard times.
Orlovsky feels the football team’s success will be tied into the men’s basketball team’s success in the Big East Conference, as it was when he was the starting quarterback for the Huskies.
“One thing Randy (Edsall, the previous coach and Orlovsky’s coach at UConn) did so well in the first go-around that was a little different than the second one, was he really found kids with that unmeasured desire to get to the NFL,” Orlovsky said. “(Mora) has tapped into the transfer portal, has become a big part of college sports, and I think he is doing a really good job of that.
“At the end of the day, all of the excitement that seems to be swelling up in the program, you got to go out and produce a better product. One of the things so cool about my time there (2001-04), there were so many people so proud of being a UConn football fan. I think you got to get those people back.”
Orlovsky is unsure where the college landscape goes from here and how it will affect UConn. He does think it will be less about the conferences and more about “super groups of teams” forming together. Also, he noted the success of the other UConn programs like women’s basketball, baseball and hockey, that make the school a viable option.
“But you have to be realistic geographically,” he said.
Orlovsky said his wife once found a notepad of her husband’s when he was around 12. It read. “I want to be on television talking about sports.”
“I don’t remember thinking about it,” Orlovsky said.
Orlovsky considers himself to be a big picture thinker, always looking ahead to what’s next. Someone who likes to educate the ESPN audience rather than saying something just for effect.
“I want to get people to understand there are other great coaches than Bill Belichick and other great players than Tom Brady,” Orlovsky said. “I really want to teach people how cool the game is, how smart the game is and how challenging the game is.”
By Joe Morelli | CT Insider