(Editor’s note: This story is the first in a multi-part series on football media members from the Salamanca area.)
Ryan Talbot had a pinch-me moment in January.
A Salamanca native, Talbot grew up in a decidedly partisan Buffalo Bills household. The 2002 Salamanca High graduate loved following football and particularly the Bills.
Now 15 years into a career in education, in recent years Talbot balanced teaching social studies at Olean Intermediate Middle School with reporting on the Bills. For more than three years, Talbot has written for the Syracuse Post-Standard and websites NYup.com and Syracuse.com. Talbot’s second career earned him a trip to Houston last January to cover the team’s playoff game.
“We were up in the press box and if you had told me that 10 years ago, I would have been as giddy as can be thinking I had one of the best seats in the house to watch this game,” Talbot said. “But it was still, ‘Hey this is a really cool experience,’ but it was as a writer, not as a fan so to speak.”
TALBOT ISN’T the only writer to spring from this area into covering pro football. His cousin Damond Talbot, two years older, started a scouting website NFL Draft Diamonds, devoted to covering small school football prospects. Tyler Dunne, a 2006 Ellicottville Central School grad who grew up in the area, worked his way into becoming one of the most respected long-form writers covering the NFL.
While he took an unconventional path to a particular niche of sports journalism, Ryan Talbot learned to set aside a lifelong fandom in favor of a professional responsibility of neutrality. He started out writing on the side for fan-run websites before gaining interest from NYup.
“It’s interesting because when you first start out you’re doing it more so as a hobby and you can still kind of wear that fan cap,” Talbot said. “I’ve been doing it long enough now that you can’t show any bias in this, you can’t show any favoritism because it shows up in your writing if you do that. So that’s been something where I can’t sit here and say that I necessarily call myself a Bills fan anymore. I still follow the team, I’m still happy for them when they broke the playoff drought a few years ago and to see the trajectory they’re on now. But at the same time I have a job to do.”
TALBOT’S venture into writing started on a variety of sites — Queen City Sports, Bleacher Report, buffalobillsdraft.com, billsmafia.com — until he started working for Scout.com under its original ownership.
“Football was almost like a religion in my household growing up: Every Sunday you knew the Bills game was going to be on, so I just grew up in this household that was obsessed with pro football, specifically the Bills being from Salamanca,” Talbot said. “I have that perspective of following this team my entire life, so I know their history, I know about previous regimes whether you’re talking players, coaching staffs, GMs, etc. I thought I could put my own perspective on it.”
Talbot said he owes former ESPN reporter Mike Rodak “big time” for his recommendation to NYup, which hired him to be a second Bills writer after about a year at Scout.
FOR NYup, he works nights and weekends during the school year and longer during the summer, writing breaking news stories for the website and other pieces, supplementing the coverage by beat reporter Matt Parrino. The two reporters also host a podcast with multiple episodes each week.
“Matt does all the travel, so I don’t have to worry about going to all the away games and then trying to figure out a way to get back home in time, because that would be impossible for the start of the school week and things like that,” Talbot said. “My job is to handle any kind of breaking news on game day because again, he’s going to the stadiums, sometimes they don’t have TVs in the press box, so anything that might be said on pregame shows with injuries and things like that. I cover that to make sure it gets out there quickly.”
Talbot said he enjoyed writing a more longform training camp story on fullback Reggie Gilliam, who at the time was fighting for a roster spot. As he normally writes from home, Talbot acknowledged the pandemic didn’t alter how he covers the team. The plan, he said, was to cover more home games in person alongside Parrino, but that’s on hold this season.
“It’s probably been a little bit better in terms of my opportunities sitting down and being able to cover the daily Zooms over the summer because I’m home over the summer as a teacher,” Talbot said of COVID-19’s impact on his coverage. “I don’t have to worry about having to juggle those opportunities, which I wouldn’t be able to do if I was in the classroom, obviously.
“But I’ve been able to cover all the pressers that I need to, I’ve had opportunities to work one-on-one with Reggie Gilliam, talk with him, talk with his college coach at Toledo. So it’s just some opportunities that I wouldn’t have been able to have before.”
(Salamanca Press sports editor Sam Wilson may be contacted at email@example.com)