Rob Hyland ’97 -- "Still raising his game and producing success at NBC Sports"

Eph Legends
Eph Legends

The Amherst fans on the south side of Pratt Field erupted when the Amherst punt rolled dead on the Williams 2-yard line with 5:26 to play in the 1996 clash of rivals. The Lord Jeff faithful were giddy at the prospect of recording their first win over Williams since 1986. Leading 13-12, on the verge of an unbeaten season, Amherst was content to ride the strength of their defense to victory.

Senior guard Rob Hyland and his Eph teammates (5-2) faced having to go 98 yards against the number-one ranked defense in the nation to extend the Eph streak.

“There was this strange sense of confidence we had all day even though we were huge underdogs,” Hyland stated. “We had stymied Amherst on defense and we’d had some success moving the ball against them. When QB Peter Supino came into that huddle and said, “We can do this, guys” I smiled at Eric Kelly and I noticed everyone else confident and ready. We knew we were going to score on that drive, the only question was when.”

Current Head Coach Mike Whalen, then the offensive line coach, recalled: “When we started driving, Amherst called timeout and the o-line told me, ‘Coach we can run the ball on them,’ which was key, because once we crossed the 50 I knew we’d score. Being able to run the ball allowed us to run the clock down and not leave Amherst much to work with.”

Rob Hyland '97

Facing a third and two from the Amherst 3-yard line with under a minute to play, the Ephs called on senior left tackle Eric Kelly and left guard Rob Hyland to get a first down over Amherst’s much-heralded DT Alex Bernstein. Kelly and Hyland responded by pushing Bernstein and the rest of the Amherst defensive line into the end zone. “Mike McAdam [FB] just walked into the end zone on that play,” Hyland said. With a successful PAT Williams led 19-13 needing only to hold off Amherst for 36 seconds. The game ended when a swarm of Eph DBs batted down the last Amherst pass, securing a victory for the ages.

After “producing” in the clutch and helping the Ephs go 98 yards to derail Amherst, Hyland took his B.A. in history to NBC Sports in New York. NBC legend Bob Costas was a strong Hyland backer. “My grandfather (Robert) gave Bob his first real job working in sports at KMOX radio doing play-by-play for the ABA's Spirit of St. Louis games,” Hyland said.

Costas helped him get in the door at NBC Sports, but Hyland seized the opportunity and has turned it into a stellar career as a producer, garnering 10 Emmy Awards. 

Hyland began at NBC Sports in July of 1997, working under Sam Flood ’83. He’s worked five Olympic Games, golf, Track & Field World Championships, horse racing, and Sunday Night Football and has directed a number of taped productions, including one last summer featuring a music video with Faith Hill for Sunday Night Football.

This fall Hyland took over as the lead NBC producer on Notre Dame football home telecasts. “While I loved working on the NFL, I’m really excited to get back to college football,” Hyland stated. “It’s been 13 years since I last stepped on the field as a player. To be able to produce a major college game at the network level is going to be incredible.” 

Football coaches will tell you that most games are decided by the line play and only the offensive linemen accrue no individual stats and almost no recognition. Fans follow the ball expecting star players to win the game, but offensive stars don’t get to shine without the help of the o-line.

“Rob was a hard worker who was willing to put the time in, in the weight room, to get bigger,” Whalen said. “He dedicated his efforts to make himself a player who was able to compete at a high level.”

Hyland, though born in New York, arrived at Williams from Harvard-Westlake School in North Hollywood, Calif, after being impressed with Williams when his older sister Amy checked out schools. “Amy had already been through the whole college decision process and Williams was a school that was discussed along the way. I knew that I wanted to play football in college and Williams seemed like the perfect choice. 

“At Williams I learned what it takes to be a part of a successful team and the importance of being part of a team. One person can't win a game, you have to rely on those around you. In my four years at Williams, I think we only lost three games [28-3-1]. Thirteen years removed, I'm sure that I’ve thought much more about the three loses than about the wins. Williams taught us to be winners. We expected to win because of the preparation that went into each practice at Cole Field, each film session, and each workout.” 

Preparation is key for teams to compete in football and for delivering a compelling and complete sports broadcast.

“I had a lot of great professors at Williams but Robert Dalzell (American History) was one of my favorites,” noted Hyland, a history major. Irony of ironies -- Robert Dalzell is a graduate of Amherst College.

Hyland is one of the few Eph alums who can say he met his wife through a horse. “I got married May 30th to Michelle Matz, who I met through covering a horse race,” Hyland explained.  “In April of 2006, NBC Sports was televising the Florida Derby, a major prep race for the Kentucky Derby. Michelle’s father Michael trained Barbaro the favorite in the Florida Derby. Barbaro went on to win the Kentucky Derby and the rest is history.” Proof positive that Hyland again put his history degree from Williams to good use.