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Jac Collinsworth echoing his father's path into broadcasting

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Cris Collinsworth and his son, Jac, sound so much alike, sometimes it gets confusing. Once after Jac did the introductions for a high school game over the stadium's loudspeaker, people came up to Cris saying, "That was so nice of you. Thanks so much for doing that."

Perhaps the only people who don't hear the similarity in their voices are Cris and Jac. "Everybody says that to me, but I can't hear it," Cris said. "You really can't hear yourself talk. That's what makes it bizarre."

Jac added, "I would say I never thought we sound alike to the degree everyone else does." The tall and lanky Jac, who also looks like a younger version of his father, is following in Cris' footsteps. Not as a NFL player, but as a broadcaster.

Jac is in his first year as a feature reporter for ESPN's Sunday NFL Countdown. Only 22, Collinsworth sees his role as coming up with non-traditional pregame show stories that are geared toward younger audiences.

Collinsworth's features have included tagging along with Detroit receiver Marvin Jones on his audition for American Idol. He did a segment on Calais Campbell doing prank calls on some of his Jacksonville teammates.

Recently, Collinsworth did a piece with Matt Ryan. The quarterback dressed up in disguise as a salesperson in the Atlanta Falcons' merchandise shop.

"Matt really has a great sense of humor that never really comes through," Collinsworth said. "We wanted to create something that was unique and different."

Collinsworth credits Countdown's producers for giving him plenty of latitude.

"They want these stories to be young, feel young," Collinsworth said. "They want me to pitch them ideas. It's not about them telling me where to go. It's been, 'You find an athlete that's fun and entertaining, come up with a concept, and go do it.'"

At one point, Collinsworth thought he might be on the other side as the athlete. However, back injuries derailed a promising high school football career.

Collinsworth, though, already was thinking of broadcasting after taking a filmmaking class as a freshman in high school. He recalled being part of a story about a school crossing guard who everyone thought was angry and mean. An interview showed the students a different side of the woman.

"I'll never forget the silence when we showed the film at an assembly," Collinsworth said. "I thought, 'Wow, this is the power of media.' That was the moment where I fell into love with this."

Cris says he saw the broadcast potential in his son at an early age.

"He did these announcements during high school where he would joke on people, bust their chops," Cris said. "Nobody left school until they heard Jac's announcements."

Jac continued to focus on broadcasting while attending Notre Dame. He eventually produced a popular ND Live program, featuring interviews with athletes and more.

Collinsworth's training also included asking his father numerous questions about the industry. His biggest lesson, though, came from just observing how Cris prepared for his broadcasts.

"Undeniably, he is a talented broadcaster, but I have never seen anybody work and study harder," Jac said. "That's what I've always tried to emulate most."

People in the industry took notice. Collinsworth quickly zoomed straight to the top with the offer from ESPN at the young age of 22.

"The quality of work that Jac has produced in such a short time is impressive. To find someone right out of college with his skillset and media experience is rare," said Countdown producer Seth Markman. "I'm just happy to be working anywhere," Collinsworth said. "ESPN is more than I expected."

Collinsworth knows that it certainly didn't hurt having his father's famous last name as far as opening some doors. He also realizes there will be people who think he got such a prestigious job because he is Cris' son. So be it, he says.

"There's always going to be chitter-chatter," Collinsworth said. "At the end of the day, if the work stinks, I'm going to be gone. If it is good, I'll be around. The only thing I care about is making the product good."

In addition to his ESPN duties, Collinsworth also hosts a Thursday night NFL pregame show with Pro Football Focus on SiriusXM NFL Radio. Cris joins the show when his schedule allows.

They always are special broadcasts for father and son, even though with the similarity of their voices on radio, it could be a challenge for listeners as to who is talking.

"When he's in the studio, he usually ends up telling stories," Jac said. "We have so much fun together. It's a great time."

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Two lives: The season finale for A Football Life will feature Lynn Swann and John Stallworth (NFL Network, Friday, 9 p.m. ET). It will examine how Pittsburgh hit the jackpot by selecting both future Hall of Fame receivers in the 1974 draft.

Don's son: A DVR alert for the upcoming Timeline: The Ice Bowl (NFL Network, Dec. 29, 9 p.m. ET). The film is produced and narrated by Don Meredith's son, Michael, who is a filmmaker. The younger Meredith adds a personal touch about the Cowboys quarterback on the 50th anniversary of the fabled Green Bay-Dallas game in 15-below conditions in 1967.

Week 16 announcer lineup

Saturday

NFL Network 4:30 p.m. ET

Indianapolis at Baltimore: Greg Gumbel, Trent Green

NBC 8:30 p.m. ET

Minnesota at Green Bay: Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth

Sunday

CBS 1 p.m. ET

Buffalo at New England: Jim Nantz, Tony Romo

Los Angeles Chargers at New York Jets: Ian Eagle, Dan Fouts

Miami at Kansas City: Kevin Harlan, Rich Gannon

Cleveland at Chicago: Tom McCarthy, Steve Beuerlein

Denver at Washington: Spero Dedes, Adam Archuleta

CBS 4 p.m. ET

Jacksonville at San Francisco: Andrew Catalon, James Lofton

FOX 1 p.m ET

Atlanta at New Orleans: Kevin Burkhardt, Charles Davis

Tampa Bay at Carolina: Kenny Albert, Ronde Barber

Los Angeles Rams at Tennessee: Chris Myers, Daryl Johnston

Detroit at Cincinnati: Thom Brennaman, Chris Spielman

FOX 4:25 p.m. ET

Seattle at Dallas; Joe Buck, Troy Aikman

New York Giants at Arizona: Dick Stockton, Mark Schlereth

Monday

NBC, NFL Network, Amazon Prime 8:30 p.m. ET

Pittsburgh at Houston: Mike Tirico, Kurt Warner

ESPN 8:30 p.m. ET

Oakland at Philadelphia: Sean McDonough, Jon Gruden

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