ESPN Central Texas offered Drake Toll an opportunity to broadcast a high school baseball playoff game on the day of his college graduation last spring. The Baylor senior said yes. “[ESPN’s] Steve Levy once told me to never turn down a job, so I accepted the gig and left my graduation ceremony early,” Toll recalls.
Following his first playoff series, Toll was offered a full-time role. He’s joined ESPN Central Texas as an afternoon host, host of the Baylor Football Kickoff Show on the university’s flagship station, and an account executive.
“I’ll also host the Locked On Big 12 podcast on the side,” Toll adds.
When asked what he did that helped him land the job, Toll’s reply was simple.
“I said yes. We have all heard the adage ‘know when to say no.’ But it is just as important to know when to say yes.”
Toll’s high energy approach
Toll’s approach to sports talk and play-by-play is high-energy. And it’s completely natural. “If caffeine counts as natural,” he jokes. Then Toll gets serious. “While my energy and explosiveness is often likened to Stephen A. Smith or Skip Bayless, I liken it to Drake Toll. It’s who I am.
“I often worry that many of my colleagues are taught early on that personality overshadows the game, but then we’re just generating robots who wear headsets. Everywhere I go, I cultivate community and work to become a staple amongst my audience. Sports media is really just sales, and you’re the product. Don’t sell the business, sell the story. I embrace autonomy and use my energy to set myself apart.
Toll applied for STAA’s Jim Nantz Award and All-American program each of his final two years at Baylor. The program recognizes the nation’s most outstanding collegiate sports broadcasters. Toll never placed. “Drake is as talented as anyone who applied,” says STAA Owner Jon Chelesnik. “But I thought he needed to better balance substance and style. It doesn’t mean Drake won’t be great, though. Joe Davis applied for the All-America program as a college sophomore and also didn’t earn honors.”
Toll says, “I greatly respect the [Jim Nantz] award, but my exclusion from its ranking does not mean I’m a bad journalist. For those like me, do not give up. You belong in this industry. Fresh out of college, I own a media company and have two other wonderful on-air jobs, even without the Nantz Award. You can certainly do the same.”
Toll offers an additional piece of advice, this one to folks who are in the sportscasting job market, “Send an email. You want that job? You’re ready for a change? You’re hitting dead ends? Send one more email. Get personal. Separate yourself from others. You may not achieve your dream on email one, but many don’t even make it that far. Go the extra mile and show you exist outside of the box.”
Toll certainly lives outside the box. His positive, energetic approach to life is reflected in his sportscasting. And he never says no to opportunities. Today, Toll’s approach has landed him at ESPN Central Texas. And one day, Chelesnik predicts, “Drake will be a household name in sportscasting.”