A Nashville-based college football show lands some of the SEC’s most insightful media members every Saturday morning. What the guests don’t know is they’re talking to a 15-year-old broadcasting from his parents’ basement.
“He’s only 15? Are you serious?” said George Plaster, a longtime Nashville sports talk radio host and guest of the show. “That blows my mind!”
Billy Derrick, a sophomore at Father Ryan, along with 14-year-old buddy Charlie Sheridan, host a podcast each Saturday morning called “College Football Kickoff Show,” which tackles the sport’s hottest topics and previews the day’s biggest games. They land good guests, highlight in-state teams and even test the temperature of coaches’ hot seats.
But there’s a catch. Media members rarely know they’re talking to two teens who are broadcasting on an iPad given as an eighth-grade graduation present. Or that the show’s audio contends with preschool-aged siblings bouncing upstairs.
“I had no idea they were that young when I went on their show, but you know I never really asked,” said Jimmy Hyams, afternoon host on the popular Knoxville Sports Radio WNML. “Good for them. I give them a thumbs-up for having the gumption to do something like that.”
Billy starts each week emailing sports talk personalities and media members who cover the SEC to request an appearance on his show. It’s done professionally with a call-in number, show logo and preferred topic for the guest’s segment.
But Billy never actually mentions his age or the fact that much of the show’s prep work is done on a Five Star notebook similar to the one he uses for Algebra 2 class.
“I chose to do it that way because I want to treat it like I’m a professional, not just a kid,” said Billy, who also plays for the Father Ryan basketball and baseball teams. “I’m starting to think now that maybe I should tell them I’m 15, and I’m fine doing that. But I just want to do a professional show with good guests and good preparation.”
Billy, a lifelong Vanderbilt fan, began doing his show in his basement a year ago with no guests and no sidekick. Then this summer he had a brainstorm. Why not bring in Charlie, a Father Ryan freshman and Vols fan, as “our UT insider,” and then attempt to book guests the same as any other radio show or podcast?
Billy’s mother, Kim Derrick, had no idea how much the show had evolved until Plaster called her son’s cell phone after school one day.
“I was like, ‘Billy, how does George Plaster have your cell number?’ ” Kim recalls.
It just happened that Billy had booked Plaster for his 9:35 a.m. segment and needed to confirm the appearance before following him up with fellow guest Braden Gall, who covers college football for Athlon Sports, Bleacher Report and Sirius XM College Sports Nation.
“I had no idea he was getting real people, but that’s Billy,” Kim said. “He sees this as a big picture thing, not just something he does for fun. I know he didn’t mean to deceive anyone. He takes this seriously.”
Shows take place in the boys’ “man cave” on one side of Billy’s basement in West Meade. The walls are lined with autographed Vanderbilt posters and Major League Baseball pennants. The windowsill is filled with Notre Dame football cards. Atlanta Braves bobbleheads and an Eddie George action figure sit on the nearby shelf alongside a large-print copy of the book “Casey at the Bat.”
The makeshift studio is walled off from the rest of the basement by an old floral-pattern couch. A treadmill and storage bins full of outdated toys and old blankets sit just feet away from the set of the “College Football Kickoff Show.”
“We love it down here,” said Billy, sitting down at an old desk and turning on his Bluetooth amplifier just before the show starts.
Once Billy confirms the lineup of guests, he writes a script early in the week and begins prepping for his Saturday morning show, which runs about 90 minutes. Charlie, who lives down the street, stays at Billy’s house on Friday nights so they can rehearse for the next morning’s show.
“And we like freak out after every show because it gets better every time,” Charlie said.
The show usually goes smoothly, but there have been hiccups. Billy once had to leave the basement amid a coughing episode, and Charlie winged it for a couple of minutes.
“It was the first week, and I almost froze,” Charlie said.
Just before the first show started in August, the boys asked themselves, “Should we have told them how old we are?” So as the intro music piped in, a wide-eyed Billy said, “Charlie, make your voice deep when the guests call in.”
Mitch Light, managing editor of the Nashville-based Athlon Sports college football magazine, is a regular guest on the show. He discovered the boys’ ages when it came up at his 11-year-old son’s baseball practice.
“Another dad mentioned the show to me, and then he said Billy went to school with his kids at Father Ryan,” Light recalls. “I just didn’t know. I thought they were like two guys right out of college, but Billy has never really said their age. Once I found out, I still go on there when I can. It’s two local kids, and they do a good job with it.”
Billy has had plenty of practice. He first became enamored with broadcasting while carrying his transistor radio with him to toss around the football in the yard. He is a sports talk junkie, listening to local and national shows every day after basketball practice.
Because he plays sports, Billy’s time is limited in Father Ryan’s Behind the Crest sports media club, but director Mike Wilson said his skills are apparent.
“Billy has done some (public address announcing) at some JV games and other things, and he’s pretty good,” Wilson said. “He’s kind of quiet, so it’s a little surprising to find out all that he’s been doing (with the podcast). But it’s not surprising that he’s good at it because Billy really knows sports.”
Billy hopes to expand the lineup of guests and advertisers before the end of football season. Current sponsors include businesses owned by family and friends. The boys admit they aren’t actually paid for the promotions, but Recycling Dudes, a West Meade glass recycling business, once bought them a pair of microphones to enhance the show.
“I want to keep getting better, and my dream is to one day be the voice of the (Vanderbilt) Commodores or the Atlanta Braves or Tennessee Titans or do this for ESPN,” Billy said. “Being a sports talk host would be the best job in the world.”
Plaster grinned widely at learning all the details of the 15-year-old’s basement broadcasts.
“A lot of people trying to get into this business wait for me or someone else to tell them how to do it,” Plaster said. “He didn’t wait for that. This kid just did it on his own.
“Man, that fires me up.”
COLLEGE FOOTBALL KICKOFF SHOW
Billy Derrick, 15, and Charlie Sheridan, 14, distribute their podcast each Saturday morning via email. To listen to the show, contact them on Twitter @CFKickoffShow or email [email protected]