Welcome to Eric Crouch's basement.
You will notice a tan bedsheet nailed to the ceiling, and a video camera on a tripod. He commandeered the television from his 9-year-old son's bedroom for a monitor.
Crouch has two microphones — one for him and one for his daughter, 13-year-old Lexi. The hanging bedsheet serves as the backdrop for his makeshift studio, a rather crude-but-functional affair.
"Lexi and I just go back and forth, talking about her school and sports — really nothing football-related," says Crouch, the 2001 Heisman Trophy winner. "I'm just trying to get smooth on camera."
It's safe to say Crouch, the former Nebraska great, is serious about his budding career as a television football analyst.
The passion in his voice is easily discernible as he discusses his venture.
He worked as an analyst for a dozen games last season — in the Pac-12 and Big 12 — for Fox Sports. He will be a game analyst this season for the Big Ten Network. He could see himself working as a broadcaster "for a long time," he says. He has a vision. He has goals. It feels great, he says.
This is a new Eric Crouch, of sorts. It's Crouch stepping out of his comfort zone. It's the 34-year-old Omaha native showing more of his personality than the general public has seen, perhaps ever.
I caught part of one of Crouch's games. He surprised me with how natural he sounded on-air.
He hopes ultimately to land a multi-year contract with a network. He feels a multi-year deal would indicate a network's belief in him. From there, he says, he could really build his craft.
"This is a big season for me," he says. "It's kind of like that season as a player after people had gotten a little bit of a taste of what you can do the season before. It's like your sophomore season. You're expected to improve a lot."
In his final two or three broadcasts last season, he says, he began to feel very comfortable. The game slowed down for him. He was able to relax and have fun.
"It should be fun," he says emphatically. "I should really be enjoying myself and showing my personality on-air."
He genuinely likes that part — showing his personality — although he acknowledges that he essentially has been "more of a reserved person." He was a quiet leader as Nebraska's starting quarterback, a leader by example.
"When I get around my friends and family, I kind of open up," he says. "I have to get to the point where, when I'm on-air and on camera, it's like I'm sitting there with my friends and family."
It isn't as if Crouch grew up dreaming about being a broadcaster. He was much more into the "warrior mentality" of football, he says. He was enthralled by the competition. He dreamed of playing in the NFL, not analyzing it.
"The vision was always to play football," he says. "And after that, for me, it got really gray."
He is going full-speed ahead on his broadcasting opportunity. He is clearly determined. He recently traveled to Philadelphia to learn intricacies of the craft from Bill Clement, an acclaimed NHL broadcaster.
"We did over eight hours, and it was pretty intense," Clement says. "I got him up in front of the camera as soon as he got here."
The key, Crouch says, is feeling comfortable. It's about having strong opinions and expressing them clearly — strength and clarity. It's about telling a story and keeping folks interested. Bottom line, he says, there's a certain way to get the message across.
Says Clement: "I teach everything from the standpoint that it's all a story. When somebody's watching, you're actually taking them on a journey by introducing characters, plots, by telling the story of the game, what each team is trying to do. It's then monitoring the progress, or lack of, of those story lines. I told Eric it's planting seeds. You nurture and water them as the game progresses."
Crouch particularly admires NBC analyst Cris Collinsworth, praising his cool smoothness. I always suggest Chris Spielman as a college football analyst. And Hubie Brown in the NBA.
That Crouch played quarterback obviously is helpful in his new career path. Bear in mind, though, he gave receiver and safety a try in the NFL. He dabbled as a return man. As a result, he possesses a wide-ranging perspective that might give him an advantage over others. He says he tries to avoid wearing out people with quarterback-centric analysis.
Beside his budding career in television, Crouch stays very busy with his company, Crouch Recreation, which sells everything from playground equipment to flagpoles. He is part of a four-person operation that works out of an office in northwest Omaha.
He speaks with much more excitement about his potential broadcasting career. He calls it his "new hunger."
"He is so driven, and strives for perfection," Clement says. "Now, he's got a formula from which to work."
The next step, Clement says, is drawing out Crouch's personality.
"Who is Eric Crouch?" Sports Illustrated asks on the cover of its Nov. 26, 2001, edition — which features Crouch in a serious forward glare, hands clutched around a football.
He ended his Husker career holding 32 school records.
He could become a heck of a broadcaster. He's intelligent and analytical — a thinker. He has a great look, a strong voice and a nice command of the language, Clement says.
"You start looking for things to do after football's over," Crouch says, referring to his playing days. "This is a great way for football to still be part of my life. It's kind of a new beginning for me."