On Sunday, Liam McHugh will be on the grass at Soldier Field hosting NBC’s Football Night in America pre-game show ahead of the Eagles' playoff matchup against the Chicago Bears.
It’s a role that McHugh inherited when longtime NBC broadcaster Bob Costas stepped away from football coverage last season after becoming an outspoken critic over the NFL’s response to concussions and CTE. So far, McHugh has approached the job as being more of a facilitator than an opinion-maker, but as a sports fan with opinions about the game, he’s not ruling anything out.
“I understand that Bob had this role and he was great at it, but I’m not trying to be Bob,” McHugh said. “If something strikes me in the moment and I feel passionately about it and it needs to be said, it’ll be said. But I’m also not someone’s just going to go out of my way to get an opinion out there just to get one out there.”
Since joining NBC Sports in 2010, McHugh has quietly become one of the network’s go-to broadcasters. In addition to his responsibilities on Sunday Night Football, McHugh has served as a host on the network’s Notre Dame football coverage, was a contributor during the past four Olympics, and acts as the lead host on NHL Live, where he is often joined by Flyers commentator and occasional 94.1 WIP talker Keith Jones.
“Jonesy is the best. He’s entertaining, he’s well informed. He’s the best teammate in broadcasting," McHugh said. “He keeps the entire group loose.”
Thursday night, the busy 41-year old will start a new job that’s a bit off the beaten bath. He’ll be an analyst on The Titan Games, a new athletic competition hosted by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson that premieres at 8 p.m.
McHugh will provide commentary as everyday contestants — including two former Penn State football players — compete in a series of physical challenges. McHugh will call the action alongside eSports announcer Alex “Goldenboy” Mendez, with ESPN’s Cari Champion taking on the role of field reporter.
At first, McHugh was hesitant to take the job when approached back in June. Not only had his wife just given birth to the couple’s third child, he thought his lack of play-by-play experience would limit NBC’s interest in adding him to the show. But that’s not what the network wanted.
“It’s not a classic sports broadcast. It’s an entertainment show where they really want you to care about individuals who you have never met before,” McHugh said. “I think what they saw are some parallels with the Olympics … these are people who very much toil and train in obscurity for one little moment on national television in prime time.”
One perk of McHugh’s new gig is it gave him the opportunity to meet and spend time with Johnson, who has morphed from professional wrestling to become arguably one of the biggest stars on the planet.