by Jim Gehman
“Just about everybody had a radio show when we were good,” Hellestrae said. “I did a show with another offensive lineman, Mark Tuinei, called The Snapper and Pineapple Show. Me being a long snapper and Mark being from Hawaii. Just had a blast doing it. It was a good time to be a Dallas Cowboy. We both had fun with it and didn’t take it too seriously.”
One other benefit that came from “when we were good,” was that the television network’s A-Team became regulars because Cowboys games that were being shown to most of the country.
“Pat Summerall and John Madden were doing 10, 11, 12 games a year, and you get to develop a relationship with them,” Hellestrae said. “Usually the announcer maybe said the holder and the kicker, but Summerall started saying my name for just snapping. So rather than having a bad snap and being mentioned, it was just for actually what you did pretty well.”
Hellestrae was able to use that relationship with Summerall to get advice from the legendary play-by-play announcer. And after retiring in 2002 after 17 seasons with Buffalo, Dallas, the then-Los Angeles Raiders and Baltimore, he worked as an NFL Europe game analyst for Fox. He also began doing radio and television work in his hometown of Phoenix, Arizona.
And 18 years later, he’s still in the business. Last September, Hellestrae became the morning drive co-host on Phoenix’s KQFN 1580 The Fanatic’s show – Bruce Jacobs and Helly.
“In Phoenix back in 2000, 2001, sports talk was not real big out here. But I got my foot in the door and it was just something that kind of took off from there,” Hellestrae said. “My favorite sport growing up was basketball. I imagined myself getting a chance to play in the NBA.
“I made an all-state team and we played in this national tournament against teams like the L.A. Watts Magicians and New York Riverside Church, and I realized I was I was pretty good for Phoenix. Which meant I was below average.
“And so, I enjoy football, basketball and baseball. I enjoy all the sports. I have some opinions. I can be lighthearted and have fun. It’s just an avenue to express all that.”
Does Hellestrae find it more special to express all that in his hometown?
“I don’t know if it’s more special. The Phoenix Suns were the only team in town for a lot of years and I became a big fan of theirs,” he said. “And you probably get more emotional about it because the Suns have sucked for the last 10 years.
“When you become a fan of somebody, it just doesn’t make it nearly as fun when they continuously lose. But now we’re a major sports town, we’ve got four major league sports. It’s always fun to talk about, which makes the job a little bit easier.”
Also a radio game analyst for the Compass Media Network, Hellestrae calls SEC, Big Ten, ACC and Pac-12 college football games across the country.
Paying it forward, much like how he sought advice from Summerall, what would Hellestrae recommend to other players who may want to follow in his footsteps and get into broadcasting?
“While you’re playing, make friends with the press. Make sure that you develop some relationships with the media,” he said. “You can see it from your position, and then hopefully when you get into the media, you can see it from the other side. So much of it’s about contacts. It’s one of those things to where you need one guy to like you, one program director to like you, to get a job. And so, I would just say continue to build on your contact list.”