Three years after graduating from UVM, living on Church Street above the Rusty Scuffer and working as a bartender at What Ale's You wasn't quite the life Ryen Russillo '97 had envisioned for himself. Unsure of his next step, the current co-host of ESPN Radio's highly acclaimed "Scott Van Pelt Show" and host of the radio network's "College GameDay," decided to rededicate himself to what he loves best: talking about sports.
Russillo had started on that track with an internship at Burlington's CBS affiliate, WCAX, during his senior year. When hopes that might grow into a full-time position didn't materialize, he kept tending bar and widened his search for work in the sports media field. The door finally cracked open when he landed a play-by-play position with the Double A Trenton Thunder. Six months later, the team relocated and Russillo decided to move on himself, launching what would prove to be another frustrating search for work in the Boston radio market. After a few near-misses and short-term gigs, Russillo started filling in at ESPN.
"I thought it might be over at that point," says Russillo, named Best Radio Voice of 2007 by Sports Illustrated's Richard Deitsch, who praised the young broadcaster for his reasoned approach and knowledge across sports. "But I kept pushing for any air time I could get. I was relentless and probably annoying as hell."
"Taking a broad range of courses at UVM has definitely helped me over the years," says Russillo, who earned his degree in political science. "I wasn't a great student early on at UVM, but I completely revamped how I studied and had some success my last few years."
"He's got talent and he works really hard," says ESPN college football analyst Trevor Matich. "He's running a show with four other guys on the set and somehow makes it look easy. The fact that he can run the entire show while handling all this information that comes in and somehow make it sound simple to the listener is extraordinary."