Melanie Collins is quickly earning a reputation as one of the hardest working sports reporters in the business.
Collins, born and raised in State College, has become a fixture in the sports world, covering everything from NBA All-Star games to Super Bowls and the Olympic Games.
Just back from Sochi, Collins talked with StateCollege.com about her career and her hometown roots.
“Sochi was interesting. Let me just start by saying I’ve never been happier to be back home on U.S. soil,” she says laughing. “Sochi was a really great experience and I was just happy to be a part of it.”
Collins was assigned to cover a number of Olympic sports including hockey, figure skating, and curling. You may remember reports saying construction work on the Olympic Village wasn’t quite done when the Winter Games got underway.
“I was in a hotel that was actually right by the media center,” she recalls. “It was actually finished and for the most part quite nice. Most of our crew were staying in accommodations that weren’t nearly as nice.
“They were missing door knobs and light bulbs and shower curtains and had brown water. It was very much kind of survival over there,” she says, laughing again.
While the accommodations may have been lacking, the Olympic competition made up for it.
“The events were amazing. I made it a point of getting to all of the hockey games. I’m a huge hockey fan. I didn’t have a ticket to the USA-Russia game and I snuck my way into the arena. I’m not going to say how. I ended up sneaking in and making myself a seat in the rink for that game. I wasn’t going to miss it.”
Collins got an early start in broadcasting while attending Penn State. Collins says she enjoyed the best of both worlds by going to college close to home. “What was really nice is that I was away from home, I lived downtown, but I was able to still drive home on Sunday night and have my Mom cook me dinner and help me with my laundry,” she says giggling.
Her college days are filled with warm memories. “Going to football games and tailgating, celebrating birthdays — I go through my old college pictures, I have probably 15,000 pictures from college, which is ridiculous, but I refuse to delete of any of them because they’re so fun to revisit.”
Collins’ says her family still lives in State College and have always been a positive force.
“They believed in me from day one, with everything that I wanted to do. They have always encouraged me to take calculated risks in life. If there’s something that you want, go for it and they’ve always said, ‘If it doesn’t work out or if something happens, we’ll always be here, you can always come home.'”
In her sophomore year, Collins got a bartending job, and a co-worker asked if she would like to get some on-camera experience working at AccuWeather.
“And of course, I said yes,” she says. “I had always been told to get any kind of experience in front of a camera that you can.”
At AccuWeather Collins says she learned to stand in front of a green screen while broadcasting daily and weekly weather forecasts for over 150 U.S. cities.
That was followed by an internship with WPSU-TV at Penn State. “I started as the girl who collected stats for the guys there — mostly Penn State football stats and some basketball,” she remembers. “Then they gave me the opportunity to have my own show with Steve Jones and that was called “Let’s Talk Sports Nittany Lions Fans.” I’ll never forget it. Steve Jones was one of my favorite people I ever worked with. He was so positive and so encouraging and so funny. That was my first experience in sports broadcasting.
“I got a lot of experience while I was in college. I worked for WPSU-TV until graduation. I covered Penn State football for them and Penn State basketball and baseball and volleyball. That was invaluable for me. That was the best experience I could possibly have gotten. They gave me so much freedom and they really let me do a lot of things that you couldn’t have done with any other sports network.”
Collins took an internship with the Big Ten Network during her senior year. “I pulled cable for the sideline reporters, and I hung out in the production truck and just kind of saw how things were done.”
Once she graduated, Collins put together a resume tape and started sending it out to networks and TV stations. “I must have sent out 50 different tapes and I heard back from two people,” she says.
Luckily, the Big Ten Network wanted to hire Collins as the Penn State beat reporter that fall. “That was my first real on-air gig post-college and I was so lucky and so thankful for them to give me that opportunity so quickly,” she says.
But that was just the start.
“It’s been interesting. I’ve been a lot of different places in the last six years since I graduated,” says Collins. “That fall after I was done covering Penn State football for the Big Ten Network I was immediately offered a job with NBA-TV, Turner Broadcasting in Atlanta. That December I moved down to Atlanta and worked for NBA-TV for a year.”
She spent that year working on the dot-com side of things and calling game highlights. “That was the most challenging thing I think I’ve ever done because I was a female calling highlights of NBA games and I worked with this guy named Kyle Montgomery who was so good at calling highlights, especially for the NBA. I learned a ton from him but I felt so inadequate for the first two months. I felt like , ‘Oh God, they were going to fire me.'”
Collins says she was assigned to cover the NBA All-Star game, doing court side interviews. “I got the first interview with Kobe Bryant after the game, which I ended up getting into a lot of trouble for because the game was on another network,” she says with her infectious laugh. “But I didn’t know better. … That was the first moment in my career where I was like ‘Wow, I’m really where I want to be.'”
Over the next couple of years Collins was seemingly everywhere, appearing on the Big Ten Network, Total College Sports and working her way through the alphabet with sports outlets such as MLB.com, PGA.com, PGATour.com, NASCAR.com, MLB.com, E! News Now, CSN Bay Area, NBC Sports Network, and OMG Insider on CBS.
Collins says her most embarrassing moment came while she was co-hosting an awards show in Miami. Collins wore an elegant dress but admits it was not “secure.” She says, “I called a woman up to give her an award and she hugged me and her bracelet got caught on my strap and pulled the strap off and I was exposed to a crowd of about 500 people.” Collins told the audience she was giving Janet Jackson tips on how to handle wardrobe malfunctions.
These days Collins is working for Yahoo Sports in San Jose, Calif.
“I’ve gotten to do some amazing things. … I’m going to be covering the World Cup in Brazil this summer. I’m at the Super Bowl. I have a fantasy football show here. It’s been really great. They’ve given me a lot of amazing opportunities. They’ve allowed me to go to all the big sporting events and really kind of broaden my knowledge because I’m covering every sport that’s out there.”
Collins has also signed up to co-host “Big Break” on the Golf Channel. That’s a reality competition show that gives aspiring pro golfers a chance to hit the tour.
Despite her hectic schedule and a lot of travel, Collins loves coming home to State College and tries to get back at least three or four times a year.
But there’s always another adventure out there somewhere. Eventually, Collins hopes to have her own show on a major network. “I’m a huge huge hockey fan,” she says. “It’s a dream of mine to cover the NHL. I’d love to have my own hockey show.”