WEEI columnist Andy Hart, A01, shares how he kicked off his career in sports after an alumni connection and what he’s learned since
“Hey, Jumbo!” is a familiar shout Andy Hart, A01, hears on the sidelines of sporting events when people try to get his attention. But it’s not his name.
Hart’s social media handle, @JumboHart, was created in 2009 and made him synonymous with his alma mater’s mascot. Although his Twitter and Instagram followers, many of them WEEI listeners and readers, may not understand the Jumbo reference, he doesn’t mind the nickname.
“I look back fondly on my Tufts experiences and it's weird becoming an alum,” Hart reflected. “I think sometimes people imagine they’re not really going to care about their school after they graduate, but I follow everything going on at Tufts, especially the sports teams.”
Hart was a linebacker for the Jumbos from 1997 to 1999, and valued learning from the coaches and his teammates, on and off the field. So, he found a way to turn his passion for football into his career.
After an internship with the New England Patriots as a junior, he spent the next two decades covering the team for patriots.com and other platforms, before joining WEEI as a digital columnist and radio personality in 2019.
Tufts Now caught up with Hart ahead of the kickoff to the NFL’s regular season, which began earlier this month, to learn about how his time at Tufts helped shape him as a writer, why he believes sports are important to youth development, and what he hopes to achieve next in his career.
Tufts Now: Your career kicked off while you were still a Tufts student. How did you get your start in the sports world?
Andy Hart: I was at a crossroads of my college career. I went to Tufts as an engineering student and finished my freshman year and realized that's not what I wanted to do. I took a semester off the fall of my sophomore year, and I was considering transferring. But sports had always been a passion, so there was part of me that was thinking, do I go into teaching and coaching? And then I started to think about sports media as an option.
Everybody tells you to network and get internships, and I knew Dan Kraft, A87, was an alum, so I sent him a letter. Literally within a day or two, he called me. I picked up the phone and he said, “Andy, Dan Kraft. Would love to help you. What do you want to do?” And wow, that set the ball in motion. I can't thank him enough. He is the reason my career path started. It was eye-opening how quickly it happened and how helpful he was. Sometimes people think those letters go into a pile and six months later, maybe somebody will shoot you an email or give you a call. It was immediate.
And it was a physical letter that did the trick?
Yeah, it was old school, the old way of doing business, and it worked.
After that, you were with the Patriots for close to two decades. What influenced your decision to join the team at WEEI?
I had been with the Patriots for a long time. It was basically my only job. It was time for new challenges, and I still hope to someday have my own show and be a full-time radio personality. That’s the thing that excites me or interests me the most. We did a podcast forever at patriots.com called “PFW in Progress” (they now call it “Patriots Unfiltered”). That was the most joy of my workday. I really enjoyed that.
What are the biggest differences between covering the Patriots for the Kraft Group and covering sports for WEEI?
Honestly, it's not a whole lot different for me. We were always pretty objective. We did radio shows that were every bit like what I do on WEEI now. We would discuss why they lost, what wasn't good, who wasn’t playing well, that sort of thing. So, a lot of times I tell people I'm basically doing the same job I've done for two decades, just for a different employer and a different outlet.
You’re among a talented pool of Jumbos-turned-sports media members like John Tomase, A95, and Anthony Massarotti, A89. What’s the special sauce at Tufts?
Some of it is the type of person looking at Tufts for an education. A lot of young men and women grow up passionate sports fans in Boston, and Tufts has a unique mix of campus, location, and opportunities that draw people to it. For me, I wanted to play sports. I wanted to be near the city and within driving distance of home in Dartmouth, Mass. That mix of opportunities is appealing to a certain sector of high school students.
Maybe it's just luck, but Boston is such a passionate sports area that I think the passionate New England sports fan produces a passionate potential media member. There's some of that with John Tomase and Mazz and everybody else. Maybe it's coincidence, but it might just be something in the water, too.
You took former Boston Celtics General Manager Jan Volk’s class, “The Business of Sports: A Study of the National Basketball Association.” What other Tufts courses had an impact on you?
Jan's class was great. I stay in contact with him, and I've spoken to his classes over the years. In terms of other classes, if you're going to be a writer, you need to learn how to write and write as often as possible. Every word matters and that experience of having somebody, a professor or fellow student, just start chopping up what you write and crossing things out, is as important as anything. I'm also a big believer that a writing background helps in everything modern, whether it's podcasting, radio, TV, the world still revolves around the written word, in my opinion.
How did playing football at Tufts influence and shape your career in sports?
Well, I love football, always have, always will. There's a work ethic, a commitment that is required to play football. It's not easy. It's not always fun. Football is like life. You get knocked down, you get hurt. There are so many aspects that prepare people for the rigors of life. And it takes a certain person to play.
I know I'm sort of on a high horse here about the value of football, but I'm a proponent of sports in general. I think kids need to be teammates and be stars in one thing and be the worst player on the team in another and learn how all those dynamics work. For me, the football teams I’ve played on helped establish my work ethic and my commitment.
What does it mean for you to help your kids develop that same work ethic while coaching their sports teams?
I think coaching kids’ sports is the most fulfilling thing a parent can do. I love it. I urge anyone who has any interest in it to do it. You see kids on a different level, you learn about kids, you build relationships, and not just with your own kids, but with the totality of your team. It's not easy. For me, it's one of my more enjoyable parts of the day, whatever season it is, because I've coached flag football, baseball, boys’ and girls’ lacrosse, and different things. There are few things I'd rather do more than coach kids’ sports.
Is there any advice that you would give to a Tufts student considering a career in sports media or media in general?
Build skills, branch out. Host a podcast, contribute to blogs. If you want to write, also do video work because most jobs today honestly are multimedia. The world of doing just one thing doesn't really exist. Reach out to people, don't be afraid to ask for help, because most people I've met in this industry are helpful.
One piece of advice I think gets lost today is to say what you believe, whether it's popular or not. If you believe it, stick with it. Anybody can write or say something for the positive responses, the pats on the back. But if that's not who you are then it comes through in the end. Being who you are, writing and saying what you believe, is the best path.
This interview has been condensed and edited.