ESPN’s Mina Kimes would not have said NFL color commentary was something she wanted to do. “If you asked my parents who had to listen to me giving commentary during games since I was young, they’d say it was something I’ve been interested in for a while, but it’s not something I’d been consciously pursuing at all,” she said. “It wasn’t an opportunity I thought I’d ever be given.”

Then the Rams invited her to serve as an analyst in their preseason booth. Kimes immediately realized it was in fact something she very much wanted to do. Since the job was announced earlier this week, Kimes has also gotten to understand how much the opportunity means to others too. 

“Part of the reason it didn’t occur to me [to work in the booth] was because I never saw people who look like me there,” she said. “Just to hear from a few people that my presence might mean something to them is very humbling.” Kimes is the only woman currently slated for an analyst role this preseason (though Cynthia Frelund could join her), and she will be one of the few Asian-Americans calling games. 

Five years ago, none of this was on her radar. Then she was only a writer, having come to ESPN from Bloomberg News. In recent years, though, she’s added roles on nearly every platform from radio to podcasts to studio shows to digital streams. She signed an extension at ESPN in 2018 and has shown a capacity both for in-depth profiles and cogent NFL breakdowns—plus Etch-a-Sketching. “This is not something I ever intended to do from the beginning,” she said. “I love working as an analyst in particular. I just love talking about football.”

Kimes later hammered the point home by excitedly running through Los Angeles’ preseason slate. Coach Sean McVay is known for keeping starters out of the warmup weeks, but Kimes is looking forward to seeing the team’s rookies, backup QB Blake Bortles, and opponents like the Raiders’ new weapon Antonio Brown. “I truly love preseason,” she said. “After you’ve gone months without football, the appetite for it, I certainly feel, is tremendous. I hope to convey that sort of excitement and interest and passion, and also the fact that I put in a lot of work.”

Clubs have much more control over their preseason games than in the regular season, when the league controls scheduling and media deals. So since moving back to LA, the Rams have used the month of August to grow their fanbase. Last year that meant bringing in Good Morning Football’s Nate Burleson and Peter Schrager to call games alongside Red Zone host Andrew Siciliano. Schrager did not return this year, opening up a spot for Kimes, whose Southern California roots only made her a more attractive candidate.

“I think preseason presents an opportunity to go outside the mold and do something different,” Rams vice president for media, Marissa Daly, said. “Let’s bring a flair and new personality. You want to be fun and engaging.” 

The Rams will also travel to Hawaii for a preseason game this month, the first NFL exhibition game at Aloha Stadium since 1976. As for making that trip, Kimes said, “That’s just a burden I will have to bear.”