NEW YORK CITY––Brady Poppinga's personality hasn't changed since playing for the Green Bay Packers. He still speaks with the same gregariousness, the same zeal he did when he was interviewed as a player.
But times have changed since leaving Green Bay and retiring from the NFL. Poppinga is now on the other side of the microphone as an analyst for Fox Deportes. Yes, he speaks Spanish.
Poppinga will be making broadcast history on Sunday, doing color commentary for the first-ever telecast of the Super Bowl in Spanish in the United States. And yes, the Super Bowl has been televised in Spanish before, just never to an American audience.
"We're doing it all, man," said Poppinga. "This is what you call an all-in-one package. We do the pregame show, we call the game, we do the halftime show and then we do the postgame show. So it's an all-in-one kind of deal.
"I mean, it's going to be a long day for us covering the Super Bowl on Sunday ... But it will be an exciting time, because again, we're going to be able to make history, more importantly."
To prepare for Sunday's game and ramp up the publicity machine, Poppinga was in New York and New Jersey this week, but he'll be back in Los Angeles at the Fox Deportes studios to call Sunday's game.
Growing up in Wyoming, Spanish was not Poppinga's first language. But after graduating high school, he went on a two year Mormon mission in 1998 to Uruguay, where he learned the native tongue out of necessity. Prior to that, the only words of Spanish Poppinga claimed to know were "Uno, dos, tres, hola and adiós."
"I served a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ, and the Urugayans, they were so nice enough to teach me the language," said Poppinga. "I lived there for two years, and then I came back, and pretty much after I learned the language and fell in love with the Latin culture, I did everything I could to continue to practice and develop my skills as a Spanish speaker."
After coming back from his mission, Poppinga enrolled at Bringham Young University, where he played football and was eventually drafted by the Packers in 2005.
Poppinga spent six season in Green Bay, his first year being the last of the Mike Sherman era. And not only was Poppinga part of the transition to head coach Mike McCarthy, he also experienced the dramatic shift from fired defensive coordinator Bob Sanders' 4-3 system to the 3-4 scheme of Dom Capers.
The last season Poppinga spent in Green Bay was 2010, earning a Super Bowl ring with the Packers, even though his year ended on injured reserve with a knee injury before getting the chance to play in the big game.
Post-Packers, Poppinga spent one year with the St. Louis Rams in 2011 and played briefly for the Dallas Cowboys in 2012. At that point, Poppinga's playing career came to a close, but a new chapter in his life opened, becoming a member of the media.
"I'm enjoying it," said Poppinga. "I'm enjoying life and it's been fun to sort of step away from the game and see it from an analyst's perspective instead of just from a player's perspective."
And that brings Poppinga to where he is today, just three years removed from missing his opportunity to play in a Super Bowl with the Packers. But things have worked out for the former linebacker, now on the brink of making Super Bowl history.
Even though Spanish isn't Poppinga's first language, he's not going to be intimidated by speaking in front of a mass audience for one of the biggest sporting events in the entire world.
"When I make a mistake, you know when you make a mistake when you speak because everybody looks at you little weird," said Poppinga. "But it's a joy because most people in that culture really want to see you speak well, do well. They enjoy that you're going out of your comfort zone to learn that language. And so it's more of a joy, it's something that's fun."
Brian Carriveau is the author of the book "It's Just a Game: Big League Drama in Small Town America," and editor of Cheesehead TV's "Pro Football Draft Preview." To contact Brian, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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