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Gil Brandt carves out successful second career in media

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Gil Brandt (left) interviews NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. (Lisa Lake/Getty Images for SiriusXM)
Gil Brandt (left) interviews NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. (Lisa Lake/Getty Images for SiriusXM)

Gil Brandt was in a grocery store the other day when a woman approached him.

"She said, 'I follow you on Twitter,'" Brandt said. "Can you believe that?"

Actually, those instances happen to Brandt quite frequently. At age 85, Brandt, one of the legendary architects of the great Dallas Cowboys teams during the Tom Landry era, is enjoying life as a media star. Brandt is a popular fixture on SiriusXM NFL Radio. During the season, he hosts Late Hits every Wednesday (7-11p.m. ET) and Friday (8p.m.-midnight ET), and does regular segments on the channel on Saturday and Sunday mornings. He also uses his scouting acumen as one of NFL Radio's main analysts for the draft.

In addition, Brandt's multi-media prowess includes having 130,000 followers on Twitter. He still marvels that his frequent tweets reach such a large audience, including many of the former players he scouted.

Imagine what his old colleague Landry would think of that.

"There is no way in the world I ever thought there would be such a thing as Twitter," Brandt said.

Brandt, though, isn't surprised that the NFL has been able to expand its reach on so many platforms. He became involved working as an analyst on the draft and Super Bowl coverage during the early days of the Internet in the 1990s. Brandt, who is a senior analyst for NFL.com, was co-host of the first program on SiriusXM NFL Radio on Aug. 2, 2004. Even back then, Brandt saw the potential for immense growth.

"I had faith in everything the NFL did," Brandt said. "It's a very progressive group of people who understand you can't do today what you did yesterday. I realized I was going to be part of something huge. It gets bigger every day."

Brandt believes the core of success for NFL Radio is in the quality of the hosts and analysts who serve the increasing thirst for more information on the league.

"Fans are sophisticated," Brandt said. "You can't sell BS. What (SiriusXM NFL Radio) has done is put together a team of people who are knowledgeable. When people call in, they get an intelligent answer."

It isn't just fans who are listening.

"We know a number of coaches who listen to us," Brandt said. "You have to be sure you're saying the right thing."

Few have ever known the NFL better than Brandt. As the Cowboys' personnel director from 1960-88, his methods revolutionized scouting throughout the entire league.

Once a scout, always a scout, Brandt already is preparing for the 2019 draft by accumulating data and making evaluations on players. He says he has zeroed in on 30 of the top 50 prospects.

"I know the draft like the back of my hand," Brandt said. "In fact, with all that's out there today, I probably know more than I did back then."

Brandt then is on a constant mission to find out what he doesn't know. He still has an endless list of phone numbers for college and pro coaches. When Brandt calls, they answer.

"When I want to know something, I'll just pick up the phone and call a Bill Parcells like I did a few weeks ago," Brandt said.

Brandt loves sharing that information via SiriusXM NFL Radio and Twitter. He also enjoys engaging fans, as first-time callers to his show are rewarded with a ring of the bell.

Indeed, this is a good time to be Gil Brandt. In addition to his media work, he recently learned he will be inducted into the Cowboys' Ring of Honor at AT&T Stadium. Brandt will be honored at halftime of Dallas' game against the Saints on Nov. 29.

Brandt also is a finalist for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame next August. He needs 80 percent voting support by the 48-member selection committee that will cast votes the day before Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta.

Brandt relishes the opportunity to still be connected to the game in so many ways. He has no intention of slowing down at age 85.

"I'm old, but I don't feel old," Brandt said. "I'm in great physical shape and my memory is outstanding. I'm just thankful I'm still able to be involved. It's been great."

Holmgren's turn: NFL Network's A Football Life continues with a profile of former Super Bowl-winning head coach Mike Holmgren (Friday, 8 p.m. ET). The one-hour show produced by NFL Films features interviews with Holmgren, Joe Montana, Steve Young, Brett Favre and Matt Hasselbeck.

"I know without a hint of doubt that I would not be here if it were not for him," Favre said.

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