Jenny Dell speaks to UMass students as part of Homecoming week

By Ross Gienieczko

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(Alec Zabrecky/Daily Collegian)

(Alec Zabrecky/Daily Collegian)

National sideline reporter and University of Massachusetts alumna Jenny Dell returned to campus Monday night to speak to students about her career in sports journalism and the lessons she learned along the way.

“My three and a half years here at UMass prepared me so well for the career I was about to embark on,” Dell told the audience in the Student Union Ballroom. “It’s so important to get that experience. There’s so many people here that are willing to help you.”

And that career has had several notable stops.

After graduating a semester early, Dell – through connections she had with friends and professors – was able to land an interview with ESPN. She was hired, and seven days after graduating, began work as an off-camera production assistant. It was not until she was steered toward an audition by an unlikely source that she began her career on camera.

Matthew Berry, ESPN fantasy football guru, recommended she audition for Dell was hired, though she continued working full-time as a production assistant. On camera, she interviewed athletes and celebrities that came into the ESPN studio.

Dell stayed with ESPN until 2012 when Red Sox on-field reporter Heidi Watney left NESN. Dell said she never planned on interviewing for the job, but when her agency decided to include her on a list of clients that they submitted to the Red Sox, NESN liked her enough to bring her in for an interview. She was subsequently hired prior to the 2012 season.

Dell credits two important factors in getting her job with NESN. First, she acknowledged her strong references from ESPN and UMass. Second, she stressed the importance of being herself.

Staying true to one’s self was a theme Dell touched on throughout the night, as it is one of the biggest factors she attributes her success to.

“Just be you,” Dell said. “Just be confident, have fun and show your personality. If you’re not real, people can see through that.”

Transitioning from ESPN to NESN and the Red Sox was a big adjustment, according to Dell.

“You have to have fun with it,” she said. “In the end, I was watching baseball for a living, and I absolutely loved it. … It’s a lot of work, but it’s all worth it in the end.”

Dell spent two years with NESN before leaving after her relationship with Red Sox third basemen Will Middlebrooks became public.

Because of what she referred to as “perception of the situation,” Dell and NESN agreed that her departure from the Red Sox was “mutual” and that the situation was “probably not for the best.”

By the end of her time with the Red Sox, she had gained national attention. Shortly after her departure, she was hired by CBS to be a sideline reporter for the National Football League (NFL).

“I’ve learned a lot in the first two or three games,” Dell said. “Every week I want to go out there and do better than the week before.”

Dell spoke about other topics in a question and answer period, including her engagement to Middlebrooks, interviewing fellow UMass alumnus and current New York Giant Victor Cruz last week and the role of women in the NFL in the wake of several high-profile domestic violence cases.

“You want to have a female voice in any profession you’re in,” Dell said.

She praised CNN’s Rachel Nichols for her tough questioning of Roger Goodell in his press conference Friday.

Dell will be in England this weekend as she travels with CBS for the NFL’s annual London matchup featuring the Oakland Raiders and Miami Dolphins.

Ross Gienieczko can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @RossGien.