FRANK FRANGIE: Phyllis George blazed a trail which now runs through Jacksonville

FRANK FRANGIE: Phyllis George blazed a trail which now runs through Jacksonville

By: Frank Frangie

I was sad to hear of the passing of Phyllis George last night. As many have mentioned since, she truly was a pioneer in sports broadcasting as her place on “NFL Today” back in the day paved the way for so many talented female sports broadcasters who came after her.

It was really cool to see so many of those prominent broadcasters honor her last night on social media. From Holly Rowe to Erin Andrews to Laura Rutledge and so many in between, many of the ladies of sports broadcasting said thank you. For that matter, so did many of the men in our field.

It hit particularly closely for me because one of the things I am most proud of regarding our radio station, 1010XL, is the commitment to discovering young women in our industry and helping them develop, grow and succeed in a business that so often can be, and has been, a boys club.

That is a tribute our general manager, Steve Griffin, whose goal since we lit the lamp in 2007 has been to help find and develop young broadcasters and help them pursue their dreams. He has been committed to diversity from the get go, whether that means race or age or gender. Likewise our program director Chadd Scott.

I still remember vividly, a few years after we launched the station, thinking I would like to have a woman on the show. Wasn’t sure who that would be or should be, but felt like it was time. We had done so on shows I hosted on previous stations and thought it was time at 1010XL.

Then on one Christmas Day, we were at my in-laws home in Tampa watching a replay of the high school football championship games on Sun Sports and Jessica Blaylock was working the sidelines. Jessica had been a family friend since her high school days. In fact, back then, she was our go-to babysitter.

So my wife sees her on TV and immediately said, “there’s Jessica. That is the answer. She should be the woman on your show.” You should call her. I did, she was interested. Went in to Steve’s office the next day and made the recommendation. And, of course, the rest is history.

Jessica truly paved the way at our station for many to come after her. She had a degree from broadcasting at Florida, yet walked into our place committed to paying her dues. She learned the business. She began as a producer on my show. She later became a full-time part of the show, grew into our full-time Jaguars beat reporter before moving to South Florida to cover the Marlins, and now the Panthers of the NHL, for Fox Sports Florida and has been there ever since.

She is a rising star in the business.

Her success convinced us we HAD to remain committed to helping find and develop young female broadcasters. Some (Amanda Borges, Jordan DeArmon, Lauren Rew) came to us as experienced broadcasters from stations all across the country; others (Donna Murphy, Lauren Brooks, Mackenzie Thirkill, Blythe Brumleve, Taylor Doll) got their starts with us. Tera Lageman, a terrific, veteran TV news broadcaster, came back into the workplace to try her hand at sports.

Some moved on in the business. Some remain with us. But the bottom line is we are better for the terrific female broadcasters that have been part of our radio station.

On my show alone, we’ve had Jessica Blaylock, Amanda Borges, Tera Lageman and Lauren Brooks as show regulars. Blaylock is a star covering baseball and hockey. Borges moved on to New York to cover the Rangers of the NHL, then to the West Coast to work for Yahoo and how hosts a terrific San Francisco-based podcast. Lageman, the most experienced of the group, was fantastic on our show, but realized her busy family life and consulting business was going to make it tough to do sports radio full-time. She continues to work at Channel 4 from time-to-time as a reporter and anchor.

Brooks remains on our show where she has been since the fall of 2016 other than six months hanging out with our morning show guys, Dan Hicken and Jeff Prosser. DeArmon, Thirkill and Doll all had fun with the morning guys. Brooks was great with those guys, too, but I fought to steal her back.

There is more to success in our business than having someone pave the way or getting a break. You have to work at it, to learn and grow and grind. That is why Blaylock is such a star covering pro sports in Miami and Borges is established in San Francisco, why DeArmon was able to land broadcasting jobs in both Chicago and Atlanta after leaving us, why Thirkill does such a good job working the sidelines for Orlando Magic games for Fox Sports Florida.

Murphy, like Brooks, has been a mainstay on “Helmets and Heels,” our Tuesday night show featuring all female hosts, since its inception in 2014, and and is one of the staples of our radio station in many ways. Doll joined that show recently and her enthusiasm was an immediate hit. Both have done sports updates on the station throughout the day.

Brooks is the perfect example of commitment to this business and how that commitment and hard work can pay off. She had a successful and lucrative career out of the business and by age 30 was well on her way both professionally and financially.

But she knew that wasn’t the end game. She knew she always wanted to be in sports broadcasting and, specifically, sports radio. Despite not having gone to school for it. Despite not having any experience in it, other than being a diehard sports fan, an avid listener and having a terrific command of the language.

So she left her job, took a part time job at our station, and did anything that was asked of her. She produced both of our midday shows, “XL Primetime” and “Jaguars Today,” worked as our Jags beat reporter before we hired Hays Carlyon, worked sidelines for high school games, did sports updates for years, did “in the crowd” hits for our Jaguars broadcasts and continues to host Helmets and Heels and our Jaguars kickoff show, which airs for two-hours before the Jags radio network takes over on game days.

And she puts up with knuckleheads like Carlyon and me in the afternoon.

She truly went from walk-on, to utility backup player, to landing a job as a key co-host in afternoon drive time. THAT is a success story.

We are proud of the women who have come through 1010XL as well as the ones who remain. They are stars. And perhaps none of them, like so many on the national landscape, would have had that chance had Phyllis George not crossed the barrier many, many years ago.

RIP Phyllis. You will be missed. …

It was awesome watching all those FSU-Miami games this week from years gone by. Some of them were agonizing for Seminoles fans, I get it. The wide rights still sting them like it was yesterday. But NO rivalry in my lifetime — absolutely none — produced the level of talent and play that one did year after year after year. It was amazing seeing how many great NFL players played in that rivalry first. …

If you have not yet followed Super 70s Sports or Rex Chapman on Twitter, you’re doing it wrong. They are totally different, but both totally awesome. Get to it now. …

Every time I see one of these Jaguars Zoom pressers — this past week it was tight end Tyler Eifert and then coach Doug Marrone’s weekly Friday one — I’m convinced they are way more confident in their team than anyone else is.

Marrone actually is very funny. Great storyteller and you can tell, at least at this time of year, that he is very laid back. Kudos to the Jags PR folks for keeping them coming. They have been terrific. …

Speaking of the Jags, not at all surprised they have decided to move offensive lineman Will Richardson to left tackle full time and try rookie Ben Bartch at right guard. I thought Richardson was better at left tackle, playing in place of injured Cam Robinson very early last year, than he was at guard, where he alternated with A. J. Cann. And I just think Bartch is a guard. THAT one could be very interesting. …

So baseball has a plan to come back. And the union is balking. What a shock. It isn’t rocket science, folks — the two sides agreed in March that players would get prorated salaries based on how many games they played. But that was when all assumed fans would be in the stands when play finally started.

Now that they are planning to play without fans, owners say they can’t afford to pay as much without fans, let’s discuss further. The union essentially said, “too bad, you committed to it already.” Sheesh. …

Not much of a fan of new country music, but the band Old Dominion is really good. OK, they really aren’t all that new, been around four or five years probably. But for me, when a band makes it to AXS-TV, that is sort of when it starts. …

If you haven’t played Jax Beach Golf Course since they redid it a few years ago, get out there. It is fantastic. …

I’m not a NASCAR guy, but I probably will watch today more than usual. And I can’t wait for the charity golf today. Yes, I’m chomping at the bit to watch a made-for-TV charity event. …

I hate that tonight will be the final night of “The Last Dance.” Boy, that was fast wasn’t it. Didn’t it just start. …

Shot hoops with some buddies yesterday. Played H.O.R.S.E. Might have tweaked my back a bit. —- Yes, tweaked my back playing H.O.R.S.E. Quit laughing. …