Photo: Allen Kee/ESPN Images David Pollack, a Shiloh graduate, who went on to play football for the University of Georgia and the Cincinnati Bengals, joined ESPN in June 2009 as a college football analyst. He is seen on the set at Bobby Bowden Field at Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee, Fla. earlier this season.
ATLANTA -- On the set of ESPN's "College GameDay" on Friday afternoon in Centennial Olympic Park, David Pollack was the same kind of character many in Snellville and Gwinnett County remember from years ago.
Cutting up with cameramen and ESPN reporter Tom Rinaldi, Pollack was challenged to a free throw shooting contest by Rinaldi in between several segments he recorded in advance of Saturday's SEC Championship football game between the University of Alabama and the University of Georgia. After he walked off the set, Pollack did a spontaneous dance to nearby Christmas music with some of the crew.
That setting is quite a ways from Shiloh High School and Georgia, where Pollack was a three-time All-American, but not interested in broadcasting. Pollack even told the Daily Post on Friday that he "hated the media."
One of his former coaches, Ed Shaddix, a history teacher and assistant football coach at Shiloh High School where Pollack played through his senior season in 2000, said this week he never figured Pollack, then known as "Davey," would eventually be a professional broadcaster.
"Davey was not interested in broadcasting in high school," said Shaddix, now the principal at North Gwinnett High School. "He was only interested in talking."
So when Shaddix turns on ESPN and sees Pollack in the booth during Thursday night college football games, or on the Saturday morning "College GameDay" set, Shaddix sees the 13-year-old he used to coach.
"Whatever Davey sets his mind to do will get done," Shaddix said. "He has taken his high-energy style along with a good personality and carved a very nice career for a young broadcaster. His gift for gab along with the fact he is never short on opinions -- and he has never been wrong -- makes him perfect for his job at ESPN."
Pollack's broadcasting career began in 2008 when he was part of an afternoon radio show on 790 The Zone, and did studio commentating for CBS. After he was hired by ESPN in 2009, last year Pollack joined the "College GameDay" crew, and was a co-host on the ESPNU show "Palmer and Pollack" with former Florida quarterback Jesse Palmer.
This year, he replaced Craig James in the booth during ESPN's Thursday night college football broadcasts.
This came after Pollack was a first-round draft pick (17th overall) by the Cincinnati Bengals in 2005. In the second game of the 2006 season, he suffered a neck injury that led to his football retirement.
Ironically, Pollack's broadcasting career began in part due to his football injury.
Bedridden and wearing a halo neck brace, Pollack couldn't do much but watch television, especially ESPN and college football broadcasts.
"I called my agent and said, 'I can do that, I think,'" Pollack recalled.
His colleagues, like ESPN's Lee Corso, said Pollack brings plenty of energy to the set.
"He's terrific," Corso told the Daily Post. "He's got great enthusiasm, and brings us the players' point of view. He's young, and energetic, and good looking."
Before the radio and television careers began, Pollack figured his post-NFL career would be as a high school football coach and teacher.
"This would have been a dream," he said. "I definitely would have said 'GameDay' is the best show in college football and I want to be a part of it. I don't think my dreams took me that far because it came fast, and it was awesome."
Shaddix remembers Pollack as a high energy student, but one who would never do anything bad.
One time, Shaddix stopped class and reprimanded Pollack for talking.
"Nobody is ever going to pay you to speak, so quit talking and pay attention," Shaddix recalled saying.
Several years ago, when Pollack joined 790 The Zone, Shaddix called in and made a public apology.
Shaddix said Pollack's broadcast success is attributed to the same hard work mentality he used on the football field.
Pollack added that broadcasting is similar to football, that the more practice you get, the better you become.
Without any prior broadcasting experience -- Pollack was a history major at UGA -- he said he learned about broadcasting by watching people he enjoyed on television, those he didn't like and why he felt that way. And he said colleague Kirk Herbstreit has become a friend, and available to spend time with on the road.
That's why Shaddix said Pollack has "improved immensely" in broadcasting the last three years.
"When I flip on ESPN, I see a 13-year-old kid that has grown into a strong, family-centered Christian man," Shaddix said. "I think he does an amazing job and I am proud of him."
Many fans who remember Pollack as a defensive lineman and linebacker notice the weight he's shed since his playing days. Pollack said he's lost about 70 pounds from his peak of 292 pounds. He's kept the weight off with a strict diet of no fried foods, and his only meal from a fast food restaurant is grilled chicken. Pollack also plays basketball four or five days per week in the offseason, he said.
On Twitter, Pollack sends daily tweets reporting his pledge to run at least one mile every day until Jan. 1, and asks his more than 77,000 followers if they've completed their cardio exercise for the day.
His passion for diet and nutrition began when he returned to Georgia for his senior season and took a class on the topic.
"Every year, I keep reading more and more," he said. "Every year, I keep eating less and less. You just find out what's bad for you and I think it makes you go, 'Wow, I'm not going to eat that anymore.'"
Pollack said he and his wife plan to start a foundation soon that is centered around diet and nutrition.The football schedule takes Pollack away from his wife, Lindsey, and kids Nicholas, 4, and Leah, 2, about five days a week during the season. But he enjoys that it's a seasonal gig.
"I love being able to do something really hard for four or five months, and then being able to have a lot of time off for my family," he said. "I want to be the best dad I can be. There are plenty of things in the offseason you can do and am able to do."