Andy Gresh ’97, a former offensive lineman for the Rams, spent the first 16 years of his life in Carmichaels, Pa., a tiny town of 530 people as smack in the middle of nowhere as one can get. “Real back woods” is how he describes it.
During those formative years, Gresh watched his father head off every day to work in a coalmine near town. “I know this: my old man worked for a living,” says Gresh. “I do a lot of different things in my business considered ‘work.’ I bust my hump—that comes from him. He did physical labor. I was smart enough to take the marketable skills I had and turn them into a profession. I think part of him is amazed—I think both my parents are amazed—that their son talks on the radio, talks sports, and makes good dough doing it.”
“I want to do as much as I can all the time, and let’s face it, it’s fun. Half my life, I talk about football. My old man was a coal miner. I talk for a living. That’s very different.”
It is that work ethic, colleagues say, combined with the ability to juggle a half dozen media jobs and bring a unique style of enthusiasm to each one, that has pushed the self-described “dumb kid from small town western Pennsylvania” to the top of New England’s sports media landscape.
“He doesn’t say ‘no,’” says former NFL quarterback Scott Zolak, Gresh’s radio partner for most of the past 10 years. “He knows how to work.”
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And work Gresh does. Pick a day, pick an hour, and Gresh is somewhere debating, dissecting, writing (he’s the author of The Great Book of Boston Sports Lists), reporting, working. If it’s a Sunday morning, he’s at Gillette stadium in Foxborough, Mass., as part of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Patriots Radio Network’s pre-game and post-game coverage. If it’s a Monday evening, he’s appearing as guest and sometimes host of Comcast Sports Net New England’s Sports Tonight television show. If it’s a Thursday evening, he’s at WPRI-12 in Providence where he serves as the station’s football analyst. If it’s a Saturday afternoon, he’s somewhere in the Northeast serving as color commentator for televised Colonial Athletic Association football games.
And if it is any weekday between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., he’s inside CBS Boston’s radio station, his booming voice on the airwaves at 98.5 The Sports Hub, arguing with callers and providing equal time to entertain and aggravate listeners with his bombastic opinions. “With Andy, there’s never a dull moment, no mellow days,” says Zolak. “I think he’s successful because he’s so passionate, he brings a unique perspective, and he works hard.”
That passion and work ethic were apparent to his journalism professors at URI. “Andy was one of the hardest working and most determined students I’ve ever had,” said Professor Linda Levin. “He wanted so much to be a sports commentator. He was passionate to succeed, so I’m not surprised that he did.”
Journalism Professor Barbara Luebke often shares stories of Gresh’s commitment with current students. “One clear memory I have of Andy relates to a summer internship he did with WFAN in New York. I recall how determined he was to intern there because he was convinced that he wanted a career in sports radio. He secured the internship entirely on his own, and twice a week, I believe, he took the train into Manhattan from Westerly in order to put in his hours. Most weeks I would hear about guests he met and calls he screened. I recall talking with him at the end of the internship, and in that distinct Andy voice he recounted what a terrific time he had, how it was worth every sacrifice to do the internship, how he was more driven than ever to do radio.”
To this day, that internship at WFAN is the coolest thing Gresh says he’s ever done in sports talk radio. “The best piece of advice I got from the whole Journalism Department at URI, whether it was Barbara Luebke or Tony Silvia or David DeHoyas, or Linda Levin, is that they all told me to do internships.”
Three days a week during the summer of 1995, Gresh worked side by side with radio professionals he’d grown up listening to. He worked with Mike and the Mad Dog (Chris Russo) on Mondays from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m., and on Tuesdays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Then he was off until Saturday, when he was on the overnight shift from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. Sunday morning. On weekdays he took the train twice a week from Rhode Island to New York. On the weekend, he stayed at the home of his best friend, Nelson Martinez ’98, in Newark, N.J.
Gresh has the same drive and determination today as he did during his days as an intern, and it’s paid dividends for him and his colleagues at 98.5 The Sports Hub, now the top sports radio station in New England, according to the latest Arbitron ratings.
The Gresh and Zo Show’s audience is double that of rival station WEEI-850, according to those same ratings, but Gresh says he cannot and will not allow himself to relax: “I always felt that with the right management and the right opportunity, Zolak and I would be able to do great things. But it’s just the beginning, and you can die in this business really quickly. So I don’t worry about what other people do; I worry about what we do. Personally, I think we’re pretty good at what we do, but if we don’t prove it every day, our butts are going to be on the street.”
He knows that aspect of the job all too well. Gresh has been fired three times: “You really haven’t lived in the business until you’ve been fired. It’s sobering.”
He beats on, undeterred by the fickle nature of the business of talk radio. The uncertainty of it all doesn’t strike fear in him, but fuels him to work harder to stay on top. “I want to do as much as I can all the time, and let’s face it, it’s fun. Half my life, I talk about football. My old man was a coal miner. I talk for a living. That’s very different.”
By Justin Martin ’95