ESPN has more than 40 hours of original NFL programming in advance of the 2018 NFL Draft, including a new iteration of Jon Gruden’s popular QB Camp series,” hosted by Seattle Seahawks’ Russell Wilson.
Wilson will serve as mentor to four top draft prospects – quarterbacks Baker Mayfield (Oklahoma), Mason Rudolph (Oklahoma State) and J.T. Barrett (Ohio State), and running back Saquon Barkley (Penn State).
ESPN will debut “QB2QB with Russell Wilson” April 17.
The four 30-minute episodes were shot recently on the UCLA campus, with the network turning the second floor of the Wasserman Football Center into a set that looked like Wilson’s living room, with a big L-shaped couch in front of a wall of windows overlooking the Bruins’ practice fields, per the Los Angeles Times.
Wilson has an in-depth conversation with one player per episode and the two also meet with Wilson’s cognitive coach, Trevor Moawad, to go over self-awareness and mental-skills training.
“I can’t wait for this. It’s gold,” Wilson said. “It’s just a special show where you really get to see who these young men are, and what they’re going to become. They really get raw and honest and just truthful about their experiences in life.”
The Super Bowl-winning quarterback is stepping into the void created when Jon Gruden left EPSN to coach the Oakland Raiders and ended the popular “Gruden’s QB Camp” series. Unlike Gruden’s QB Camp, there is no on-field work between Wilson and the player.
ESPN’s Jay Rothman, who produces “Monday Night Football” and made “Gruden’s QB Camp” a rite of passage for the top quarterbacks in the draft each year, said Wilson show “is different, and it’s going to feel different.”
Rothman added: “Part of it was that fans tuned into ‘QB Camp’ because, name your favorite late-night show, Jon was that kind of guy. Lots of fans tuned in for the ‘Chuckie’ factor.
“I don’t think this [show] is going to have that. This is going to be interesting in a different way, because we have a current player who’s super thoughtful and super interesting, who’s putting himself out there and giving back.”
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll didn’t have a problem with the idea.
“I think it’s unusual for anybody other than Gruden to do it,” Carroll said. “Jon’s been such a fixture. It’s something that’s dear to Russell’s heart, the whole quarterbacking and the art of it. I think he’s really going to have fun with it. Get a chance to meet some guys and share some stuff. I don’t think it’s any big deal.”