It is a game readers--and journalists--can't seem to get enough of, and so on any given weekend SPORTS ILLUSTRATED¬†deploys more than 40 editors, writers, photographers and reporters to tell the stories of pro and college football.
The college coverage is directed by senior editor Mark Godich, who played quarterback on his intramural team at the University of Missouri and who understands that capturing the atmosphere at games is key. "There's nothing better than being in a college football town on a Saturday afternoon," he says. Sometimes, of course, there's nothing more intense. Senior writer Phil Taylor (Amherst, '82) witnessed several fantastic finishes this season, which he ranks among the most exciting he has covered in his 15 years at SI. A connoisseur of running backs, Taylor has particularly enjoyed watching USC's Reggie Bush juke and hurtle through his Heisman-quality campaign. "He is the most entertaining player I've been close to in years," Taylor says. Senior writer Tim Layden (Williams, '78), who profiles coach Mack Brown this week (page 48), says he can't forget watching the Longhorns take voluntary workouts in 100° heat last summer in Austin. "I had an inkling then," he says, "that this might finally be their year."
Pro football editor Mark Mravic has lately had plenty of action to follow midweek, with the meltdowns of Terrell Owens in Philadelphia and the Vikings' ill-fated cruise. "It's great to have experienced writers like Peter King, Michael Silver [who writes about the best group of wideouts in NFL history, page 56] and Jeffri Chadiha, who can call on a network of sources and nail down a controversial story," he says. In midseason Mravic added a writer to his team--Nunyo Demasio, who has covered the Redskins for The Washington Post since 2002.
Photo editors Claire Bourgeois, Don Delliquanti and George Washington sift through more than 30,000 images each week to select the pictures that appear in the pages of the magazine and on SI.com. Football photography is no longer a matter of following the ball, says Washington. "It's not about just getting that perfect action shot," he says. "They must get the emotion of the moment."
SI's 18 photographers--who cover an average of eight games each weekend--often jet from college to pro stadiums. Al Tielemans, a 16-year SI veteran, says the best game he shot this year was Penn State--Michigan, where the Nittany Lions suffered their only loss of the season. "I was looking at USC--Notre Dame on the scoreboard and thinking, I'm at a classic, but another game will overshadow this." That's the kind of year it's been.
THE FOOTBALL BOOK is a collection of classic NFL coverage culled from the pages of SI. Along with hundreds of photographs that reveal the glory and anguish of the pro game, the new hardcover, large-format book includes SI's top 25 players by position, Dr. Z's decade-by-decade All-Pro team, an essay by Rick Reilly, story excerpts and the records of every team in every year of the NFL's existence.