“What is happening behind you?” NFL pundit Ian Rapoport began our interview.
He was referencing the shelf of Blu-rays and DVDs behind me.
“People still collect DVDs?” he continued.
This prompted me to ask about Rapoport's backdrop — the same one you'd see if you watch the NFL Network when he does a segment.
“It's pretty big. I have some stuff written that I don't want to show, but let me see if I can [show you],” he said of his office as he picks up his laptop to give me a tour.
He begins my personal tour with showing me the full backdrop that you'll see on the NFL Network. I then saw the camera that resides facing his desk for any of his spots on the channel. “I have a Mets pillow cushion in front of it so when I'm eating lunch, it can't see me,” he said. Ironic considering the face that the Pick is In documentary shows him eating BBQ a couple of times, but more on that later.
“I mean, it's a pretty big storage room that used to be a storage room and now is a fantastic office,” he concluded.
The lighthearted and fun aura that Rapoport exudes carried throughout ClutchPoints' interview with him. He was there to promote his new documentary, NFL Draft: The Pick is In (now streaming on The Roku Channel), but our conversation covered everything from his “Biggest Gossip” superlative given to him in high school, his “starring” role in Draft Day, and being caught eating BBQ in the documentary.
Ian Rapoport-NFL Draft: The Pick is In interview
CP: Early on in the documentary, I think you shared a superlative, “Biggest Gossip” or something like that. You were probably joking around, but I was curious though, outside of your career, was there ever a time that gossiping ever got you in trouble?
Ian Rapoport: I wasn't joking — I was voted “Biggest Gossip,” me and Deirdre Colligan, cause you know, superlatives are one male, one female, so it was me and Deirdre, who I still talk to to this day.
And it was basically the same thing I do now, which is finding out information, getting to a point where people can trust you, behaving the right way with that information, not burning anyone, sharing what you can share, collecting a lot of it and building relationships, and then when it's time to put some stuff out, you put some stuff out.
It has definitely gotten me in trouble. I think the high school me could probably learn a lot from the NFL Network me as far as what to share, but it's all a little tongue-in-cheek, but like not that much, because you learn so much about why it's so important to be the one that people trust — and never, ever, ever burn that.
That really has helped in my work life because so much of what I do now is you find out information, or if people tell you secret information, you touch base on it, you keep it to yourself until it's time. And the more you do that, the more people can trust you and the more information you get. And that's kind of how I do my job.
On the other side of it, it's really fun. There are some things, I think, where you find out too much information and you're sort of like, “Oh, I don't like this as much as I used to,” for instance. Like, if you find out that one of your favorite actors is, in reality, a real jerk, you're like, “Oh, that's sucks.”
It's never been like that for me for football. The more I find out, the more inside stuff, the more I want to know. I love knowing a lot of things [laughs], so this is, weirdly, kind of the perfect job for me.
CP: There's a few instances in the documentary when you're on the phone with a team during the draft — I think one instance was when the Titans were trading up. I assume you were getting that information as it was happening, but what are you hearing during moments like those? I imagine teams are very vague with what they're telling you.
IR: So if it was during the actual show, basically, the way it works is I spend like three weeks before the draft calling everyone. And when I mean everyone, I mean, I go through my phone and I call every single person connected to a team, everyone.
And you have conversations, you collect information, you share information. And when it gets down to the draft, the people I'm talking to are my producers. So I'm like, “Hey, this is about to happen. This trade is going through, here's what I think it is.” You never really know because nobody wants to risk the possibility that a team says like, “Actually, no, we're going to take that [player].”
So you never quite know, but I'm telling my producers like, “Hey, this is going to happen. Here's what I would say. I think it's important that I talk about this.” And they're usually like, “[If] you got news, we'll put you on,” because news is important during the draft. A lot of times I'm wired in both ears with my producer and then I'm talking on text to teams or agents or whoever.
One thing I always say, and I think people really understand my job, is [to] be very clear. [Say] like “We are trading to here.” Or, “Start calling, we're about to make a trade,” or whatever it is. It has to be so fast, that the clearer people are, the better.
When I first got the text about the Cardinals-Texans trade, it was literally this: “Texans trading up.”
And I was like, “Wow,” and I had to be like — you could see my reaction on the show, but [there] was an expletive in there — “Are the Texans trading up to three?” [They said] “Yes.” And at that point I was like, “Guys, we got to get me on, let's go.”
It's all very fast, but [also] very intense.
CP: You've been doing this for so long that, if somebody isn't clear, I'm sure you're probably pretty quick to be like, “Hey, I need an answer,” right?
IR: I am the world's fastest texter, yes. So my non-football friends who I have various group chats with, they always joke about how I respond so fast, cause that's like half of what I do.
I'll be waiting for something and someone will text me like “done” and you're like, “Did this deal that I've been waiting for get done?” Or like, “Did this trade get done?”Or it'll say “out” and you're like “Out what?”
So I will respond extremely quickly because what sometimes will happen if someone's doing a deal is they'll text fast and they'll put their phone down [so] I need to text back fast enough to where they're still holding their phone.
Like when I broke the Panthers-Bears trade to No. 1, the text I got from someone who was involved was “happening.”
That's what it said, “happening.” And it took me another seven minutes to [clarify], cause you cannot mess it up. You just can't.
[I had to be like] “Are the Panthers trading up with the Bears for No. 1?” [They said] “Yes,” and then I got to break it.
But it's like, these are the things that give me stress when someone will say something and it's like just vague enough where I'm like, “ahhh!” So anyway, that's my life.
CP: Has there ever been a case where you might have spoiled a pick or something or maybe jumped the gun on a pick?
IR: We are told, very clearly, not to — tipping picks is not allowed. We [the NFL Network] don't, ESPN doesn't.
A lot of times, I don't know [the pick]. There's a scene [in the documentary] where the Bills trade up over the Cowboys and I was pretty sure that it was a tight end because everyone thought the Cowboys were going to take a tight end, but I didn't know which [one]. If I knew which, which I didn't, I wouldn't say it, but I knew the position, so I was like, “This has to be a tight end” because everyone thinks this is what the Cowboys want.
As we learned, it was not what they wanted, but that's what everybody thought.
But I would never tip a pick because to me, it's like a ball being halfway in the hoop and you're saying like, “It's going to be good,” and viewers watching and they're like, “Why would you just spoil that for me?”
People come to watch the drama of the draft, and I don't want to be the one to ruin that. But, if there's something that I can report, I will tell you everything I possibly can about it.
CP: And you're used to having cameras on you — you're on TV all the time — but was filming this documentary different at all for you?
IR: They were so good. I didn't know what it would be like, I've never done anything like this before — I mean, I've done it away from football, but I've never done it with work stuff.
I think the main thing for me was, I love the draft. It is so fun, it's so exciting, it's so stressful, but it is so great, and the process is great. I love talking to teams, figuring out who they're going to pick.
There [have] been some instances where you're talking to a team and they're like, “Who do you think we're going to pick?” And you tell them and you'll hear like that silence for a second and you're like, “Wait a minute, did I just nail it? I think I might have.”
But that process is so fun, and they'll never tell you until after.
I wanted to make sure that came out in the show because I wanted people to like it, like I do. And I think they were so good and they were so easy that like, there were plenty of times where I said stuff and I'm like, “Did I say this?” I guess I must have, but I didn't remember because I forgot the cameras were there, you know?
They're there, but they're not. They just kind of hang out and they're not obtrusive.
I thought the whole actual process was awesome. Like I said, I've never been in one of these, but I have watched a lot of NFL Films stuff, Skydance is great, obviously, Roku is great as well, [and] you sort of wonder why the products are so good, but I got it — I got to learn why: Because the people are very professional doing it.
CP: The draft takes course over a weekend, and it's condensed into about a 90-minute documentary in this case. Is there anything that they don't show that's part of the process, or maybe just part of your process, that you wish was in there?
IR: You know, I think they did a really good job of showing all the really high points. I broke the Lamar Jackson contract [deal], but it was before the draft. So I was sort of hoping for that curtain call [smiles].
But I think the main thing is like, if you're a viewer and you're tuning in, you want the all-encompassing, “everything I need to know” about one of the most important nights in the NFL, and I thought it was great.
There was nothing where I was like, “Oh, like I said this great thing” and they didn't get it.
Now, they did show me eating a lot. I guess the only regret I would have is I had some other amazing meals in Kansas City, and that's the only one they showed, but I guess that's okay [smiles].
CP: It's been a while since I saw Draft Day, but I know you tweeted about it last year. Were you actually in the movie, or was it like archive footage?
IR: No! I'm in it. I'm in it. If you squint and look up to the top left of the screen, at least seven times, you can see me and the back of my head a lot, but a couple of times the side. Me and Daniel Jeremiah, at that point, we were sitting on the little desk at Radio City and they were filming at Radio City, so we are solidly in the background at least seven times.
I haven't gotten any other movie offers besides that. I was surprised, I thought we did a great job, but maybe eventually.
CP: What did you think about how the film portrays the draft process?
IR: I think it gets a lot of criticism… I kind of liked it. Everybody makes fun of me, but I kind of liked it. You know, there's plenty of things that aren't exactly the way it goes, like they have a chance at this player and they start researching them on the clock, and I'm like, “All right, if you're a team, that's three months of research,” you would have done that beforehand.
But the GMs do talk about trades like they did during the movie — like, they do. There's a lot of people joking about like, “Oh, someone didn't go to the quarterback's birthday party, so therefore he's not a leader.” Those are actually real conversations that people have.
I kind of liked it, [and I'm] not just saying that cause I'm obviously one of the co-stars [smiles]. It's Hollywood, so Hollywood does its thing, you know?
CP: I know you just talked about not getting any more movie offers, but if you had to pick somebody to play you in a movie, who would it be?
IR: Someone who I think looks a lot like me, I would say probably Richard Gere, but circa An Officer and a Gentleman. I think the resemblance is uncanny, and he's obviously a great actor. He's a little older now, so it wouldn't be apples-to-apples, but I would say young Richard Gere would probably be a great person to play me just because I think we look so similar.
CP: After your career is over, and I don't know when that would be, is going to the draft something as a fan you'd revisit?
IR: Yeah, I think so. It's just so dramatic and I think the NFL does such a good job of taking something that is really just a reading of names and turning it into this amazing show.
I have two small boys, 8 and 10, and I always think of it like: Would I like to take my kids there? And I think the draft is something as they start to learn more and more about football, that's something I think they would really enjoy. So I would think about it, I would love to take my kids there because I think they would get a real kick out of it.
CP: Out of all the ones you've gone to, which was your favorite location?
IR: Philly was my favorite location. They always put me in crazy spots. So in Philly, there was a nightclub/lounge that was overlooking the stage. And so you could see me in my seat, and then behind me was like 300,000 people and the draft stage. So every time they came to me, it was me perched up and then this amazing scene behind me — that was my favorite spot.
And then in front of me, which I could see, but I'm like so intensely working, is literally a nightclub — it was like a rooftop bar nightclub. So people are like dancing and singing and drinking and I'm there like working. It was surreal and hilarious [smiles].
That was my favorite one by far.
CP: I want to circle back to phones. While watching the documentary, I just kept thinking that you must have been using so much battery, so do you keep multiple phones on you?
IR: One phone, multiple charging devices. Like right now I'm having my phone charged as I talk to you. I always have a charger with me, my wife always has a charger, and then I always have one of those portable guys.
It's just never worth not having batteries. [The] first thing I do when I get to a place is I say, “Hey, what's your Wi-Fi?”
You know, my life is very stressful, my job is very stressful, so I do what I can to ease my stress. And making sure I don't run out of batteries is high on the list.
NFL Draft: The Pick is In is streaming on The Roku Channel now.