For her story on the anxieties that wake forest's star quarterback Mike Elkins faced before the NFL draft (page 38), staff writer Jill Lieber tried to find out everything she could about him. In the process she filled 16 notebooks—writing on both sides of each page in some of them—while interviewing him at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., in January; in Atlanta; in Winston-Salem, N.C. (twice); and in an airborne session en route from his parents' home in Greensboro, N.C, to Indianapolis. Near the end of that flight, Elkins looked plaintively at Lieber and asked, "Jill, do you ever stop asking questions?"
Lieber, 32, came to SI from the Milwaukee Sentinel nearly eight years ago and has been diligently making inquiries ever since. For her profile of Houston Astro pitcher Bob Knepper (SI, June 20, 1988), she interviewed him for nine hours one day, wrapping up at 3:30 in the morning. More recently, she interrupted her research on Elkins to do a significant portion of the reporting for our coverage of baseball's investigation of Pete Rose. "She digs and digs," says Elkins, "and if you don't let her inside your thoughts, she won't stand for it."
It took some digging by Lieber just to find the right NFL draftee for her story. "We were looking for somebody the public didn't know a lot about, but who had the talent to be a surprise on draft day," she says. She interviewed numerous NFL player-personnel directors and general managers and finally selected Elkins because he met all the criteria—and also plays the trumpet and sketches. "I thought he might be more well-rounded than the average football player," says Lieber, who studied classical violin for 16 years and had hoped at one time to become a professional musician.
Once Lieber selects a subject, she'll follow him just about anywhere. Last summer, for example, while doing a story on Seattle Seahawk offensive lineman Bryan Millard (SI, Nov. 21, 1988), she went with him for a jaunt in his bass boat on Washington's Lake Sammamish. Naturally, she jotted down notes while afloat. At one point Millard unexpectedly revved the boat up to 60 mph, sending Lieber's notebook flying overboard. Not to worry. Lieber simply took out a new pad and started her interview anew.