U of SC alumnus Alyssa Lang is a rising star at ESPN, SEC Network



Alyssa Lang on the set of SEC Now.

Alyssa Lang on the set of SEC Now.

ESPN Images

ESPN analyst Alyssa Lang slips into a plastic chair on a desk bearing the name of fellow analyst Paul Finebaum outside the Wynfrey Hotel’s Ballroom C.

It’s day two of the SEC Football Media Days in Hoover, Alabama and Lang has just stepped away from the broadcast set tucked away in the back right corner of the great hall serving as the event’s base.

While the SEC Media Days have been reduced due to COVID-19 restrictions in 2021, there is still a layer of controlled chaos in the matter. Journalists run across the carpet covered in various blue and brown geometric patterns with as much order and organization as a stampede of elephants.

Writers hold recording devices and notepads in each hand, while TV reporters carry tripods under one arm and cameras slung over their shoulders.

The bright lights of the SEC Network stage are just around the corner from the table Lang is seated at and just close enough to hear Finebaum pitch predictions on the upcoming football season as ESPN cameras roll.

“Being here now is really just a dream come true,” Lang said as a smile from ear to ear graced his face. “And I hope I don’t wake up at any point in the next two years.”

Lang relishes the spectacle of the annual event. There is even a level of comfort in it. The SEC Media Days, in Lang, are a yearly reminder of the days when she ran to the second floor of the Wynfrey Hotel as an intern and later as a weekend sports presenter at WLTX in Colombia while she was undergraduate student in South Carolina.

“She’s someone who, if you can imagine one of your daughters at home that you grew up with in high school, it’s Alyssa Lang,” Roman Harper, SEC Network analyst, told The State. “She’s one of the coolest people … in the work environment I can imagine.”

Lang lands in broadcasting

In just six years, Lang has become one of the faces of the SEC network. She hosts studio shows, provides secondary commentary during the football season, and on that day helps anchor ESPN’s coverage of SEC Media Days.

But for someone who has been propelled into the national limelight not far from graduating from college, there is gratitude and appreciation in their voice.

Lang is aware of her place as part of ESPN’s college football roster, but she also maintains the reality and effervescent personality that those at Columbia so vividly remember.

“He’s the same person I remember,” WLTX athletic director Reggie Anderson, who was one of Lang’s first bosses, told The State. “Some people throw themselves into the big moment and forget the stages of the road to get it there. And she was the (same thing).

That Lang landed as one of the leading young voices in college football is as much fate as it is fluke.

At a parent-teacher conference during her high school years, her public speaking teacher approached her mom and dad with the belief that she could stay on as a broadcaster. Lang delivered his class speeches with grace and ease. There was no underlying panic or fear that usually accompanied children his age speaking in front of classmates.

“I never really thought about it,” she conceded. “(But) when I was doing my speeches in class, my friends would say, ‘Oh no. I am going to throw up. I am so nervous. I’m sweating.’ And I was always like, ‘It’s okay.’ It never really made me nervous.

Lang was in love with football as a child. The fall weekends of his youth were spent hiking from his Charlotte-area home to Blacksburg for Virginia Tech football games, where both of his parents were alumni.

As an elementary school student, she even challenged her classmates on the rules of the game.

“I’ve always had a fight at the lunch table about college football,” Lang said with a laugh. “And I would come home and say to my dad, like, ‘That kid in third grade didn’t even know what security was and I explained it to him.’ “

Aside from his Hokie roots, Lang landed at Columbia as an undergraduate student in South Carolina. The feel of a DRY environment, she said, was different. However, the passion she had grown used to at Lane Stadium was comparable.

Lang eventually got a trainee job at WLTX his second year in South Carolina. This was then turned into a full-time job as a weekend sports presenter while she was still in school.

Every day had a rhythm. Mornings were spent in class (including a first year English seminar with USC legend Jadeveon Clowney). The afternoons were then reserved for time spent at the station to Clemson, to Williams-Brice Stadium and to Wake Forest in pursuit of stories and scoops.

“It’s a situation where if something happened where she had a class and she couldn’t go and shoot something or she couldn’t go to a certain event, that would be great,” Anderson said, “because I didn’t want her to fail.

On the way to ESPN and the SEC network

Roman Harper leaned back in his chair in astonishment.

A 10-year NFL veteran and former top security guard in Alabama, Harper has spent a lot of time on important stages. But watching Lang – who was swapping beards in the air with Arkansas coach Sam Pittman – brought on a semblance of astonishment considering how easily she tiptoed through the interview.

“She’s one of the first people I got comfortable with on set,” Harper said, “because she made it that easy.”

Now that she is entering her fourth football season with ESPN, Lang has become a mainstay of the SEC Network’s college football team.

After graduating from South Carolina in 2015, she continued to work full time at WLTX the following year. A spell covering the Jacksonville Jaguars, among other responsibilities, for First Coast News followed.

Towards the end of her sophomore year in Jacksonville, Lang received a text from a friend at ESPN whom she had met in college. They were curious if she would be interested in auditioning for a role in the network. Lang replied in the affirmative.

A few weeks later, she traveled to Charlotte for the audition. The trip was accompanied by a six hour flight delay. Lang finally landed around 3 a.m. – just five hours before his meeting.

The hearing came and went. Lang readily admits that she thought she bombed it. A handful of months passed. Another call from ESPN arrived. The work was his.

“I cried at work,” Lang said. “It was the happiest day of my life.”

Lang has since held various positions at SEC Network. ESPN announced last month that it and fellow analysts Dari Nowkhah and Peter Burns have agreed to multi-year contract extensions.

Anderson still maintains regular communication with Lang. His 10- and 12-year-old sons also always point out when Lang and his fellow former WLTX employee turned ESPN star Matt Barrie appear on their TV screens.

Lang says there are layers to his role with ESPN that still don’t feel real. After all, she’s still just a few years away from carrying a tripod and camera around the Wynfrey Hotel.

On this day, however, she is the star perched at the Anchor’s desk.

Ben Portnoy is the author of football beats for the South Carolina State Gamecocks. He has received the Associated Press Sports Editors award five times and has been recognized by the Mississippi Press Association and the National Sports Media Association. Portnoy previously covered the State of Mississippi for the Columbus Commercial Dispatch and Indiana football for the Journal Gazette at Fort. Wayne, Indiana.


Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.