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From State College to the NFL Sidelines: Melanie Collins’ Road to CBS Sports

by on October 24, 2019 12:00 AM

The goal after graduating from Penn State for most, if not all, students is to find a meaningful and successful career doing something they love.

State College native Melanie Collins is a prime example of a Penn State alumna who has worked hard to live her dream as a journalist at the top of her profession.

Collins currently works as an NFL sideline reporter and the host of “Big Break” and “Driver vs. Driver” on the Golf Channel for CBS Sports.

Collins loved growing up in State College and was able to gain a good understanding of what life at Penn State would be like. She grew up going to different sporting events like football, hockey, and volleyball games.

In high school, Collins thought leaving State College to make new friends would be her best option. After getting rejected from two other colleges, however, Collins accepted Penn State was her only option. She’d realize later that it would also become the best option for her, too.

“It ended up being the biggest blessing in disguise,” Collins said. “I’m so thankful that it did. It was like what was meant to be for me.”

As a local resident living 15 minutes away from campus, she said she got the best of both worlds — getting to go home on Sundays for home-cooked meals while still being close enough to meet up with friends downtown.

Collins also grew up in a very sports-centered family. Her father Doug was the assistant women’s tennis coach at Penn State, and her brothers Christian and Kurt played for the Icers hockey team.

Photo courtesy of Melanie Collins.

When it came time for Collins to declare a major, she knew she wanted to perform and have sports be part of her future career. Luckily for her, the John Curley Center for Sports Journalism in Penn State's College of Communications had recently opened and reaffirmed her decision to pursue broadcast journalism.

“I was like, ‘this is a great way to stay in athletics but also kind of put on what I feel like I wanted to do in my soul, which was performing in some way,'” Collins said.

During her time at Penn State, Collins joined WPSU-TV where she started out collecting statistics for baseball and football. Eventually, she earned a show with Steve Jones, the voice of the Nittany Lions, talking about Penn State football each week on Let’s Talk Sports Nittany Lion Fans.

Collins also had a stint with AccuWeather in her sophomore year, learning to cover the weather and be comfortable on camera. During her senior year, she snagged an internship with the Big Ten Network, now learning on the job from sideline reporters.

Collins credits the people she was surrounded with, the success rate for Penn State alumni, and being a local for motivating her to be her best self.

“I just felt like I was surrounded by greatness at Penn State,” Collins said. “I felt like there were so many people there that kind of pushed me to be the best that I could be. There was no room for mediocrity.”

Photo courtesy of Melanie Collins

After graduating from Penn State in 2008, Collins began her broadcast journalism career as a Penn State football reporter for the Big Ten Network. Following that football season, she got a job with Turner Broadcasting in Atlanta where she covered NBA basketball for NBA TV and

Collins returned to the Big Ten Network after a year with Turner Broadcasting because she missed covering football, and helped launch Total College Sports, a college sports network in Chicago now renamed to Stadium Network.

In 2013, Collins dipped her toes into a little bit of everything when she got hired by Yahoo! Sports in San Jose. She covered the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, the FIFA World Cup in Brazil, and the Stanley Cup Playoff. All of these experiences helped Collins become well-educated in multiple sports.

Photo courtesy of Melanie Collins

While she was at Yahoo Sports, Collins received the opportunity to cover college football for CBS Sports. She’s been with CBS for six years now and for four of those years, she covered college football. At the same time, Collins was hosting two shows for the Golf Channel and filling in on ESPN. Within the last two years, Collins was promoted to cover the NFL.

Collins has had a great amount of success in her career thus far, but she wants people to know that it hasn’t been as easy as it sounds.

“So many people think you get one job, and [it’s] your dream job. It has been a really long, twisted road,” Collins said. “A lot of times you really have to work your way up and network.”

Her biggest piece of advice for aspiring broadcast journalists: Get as much experience as you can as soon as you can.

“Future employers, producers, anybody at these networks, they want to see that you’ve had some sort of experience,” Collins said. “They’re not going to hire you if you’re completely great and have never been on camera.”

Collins is more than happy where she’s at in her life, but would love to be able to cover hockey — her favorite sport of all. If everything she’s accomplished so far is any indication, Collins will be more than ready for it when the time comes.

Mackenzie Cullen is a Penn State student and writer for Onward State
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