By David Pavlak
It began with a letter.
Spring break was finally here, and after searching for ‘The Rider News’ paper ideas, the sports editors had come up with one that seemed too good to be true. Would the well-known ESPN analyst and Rider alumnus, Richard “Digger” Phelps, really want to do an interview with his old college newspaper?
“What’s the worst that can happen,” we thought.
One week after I sent the letter, my phone rings from a number I was not familiar with. The mysterious number would be Phelps, calling to set up an interview because he was interested. After leaving a voicemail on my phone, the door for a great opportunity had just became open.
“Hey David, it’s Digger Phelps here from ESPN,” began Phelps. “You assumed I wouldn’t call you. You got me red alert at any time!”
He was right. We didn’t expect a phone call; at least not this quickly.
While the interview was in progress, I was able to get a real picture of the classiness that Phelps possessed. He was detail-oriented, humorous, professional and very friendly. I feel grateful to have been given the opportunity to speak to someone who I have watched on the television regularly during the college basketball season. Getting to know the man behind the highlighter was a more interesting story. Knowing that Phelps is doing more than just basketball is refreshing. There is no sense of him being “Hollywood,” because of his ESPN status. It was refreshing to know the young adult who attended Rider, and who later went on to end the dynamic win streak of the UCLA Bruins, did not forget the people who could always use some help.
Looking back on the experience, it’s one I will never forget, and hopefully will not be the last time my path will cross with Digger.