SPONSORED BY: SportsGrub
By BOB YORK
Field Yates can’t ever remember a time when he hasn’t envisioned sports occupying an integral part of his life. After playing four years of football and lacrosse at both Belmont Hill School (’05) and Wesleyan University (’09), however, this psychology major reached the conclusion that any prolonged future he might enjoy in athletics wouldn’t be as a player.
So, in a bid to step back – but not step away – from the rivalry and revelry of the athletic arena, Yates opted for a new approach to the game: as a coach. And, ironically, his employment as a mentor would take him to a level of the sport he could only have dreamed of achieving as a player: the National Football League.
Despite having earned All-Independent School League laurels as a tight end and linebacker during his Belmont Hill career, Yates saw the handwriting on the wall during his collegiate days as far as talent was concerned. He wasn’t the least bit hesitant about sharing the confidence he had acquired throughout the years pertaining to the Xs and Os of the game with the NFL, however. And so, he reached out to those clubs expressing his interest in coaching and the Kansas City Chiefs brought him on board following his graduation from Wesleyan.
“I’m so appreciative of the Chiefs for taking a chance on me and giving me the opportunity to put my football education into action,” said Yates. “The time I spent with them gave me a fantastic opportunity to learn about coaching and scouting in the NFL from the ground up.”
Yates’s first season with the Chiefs was spent with the team’s scouting department as an in-house scout where wannabes essentially learn the building blocks of player evaluation. His second season, meanwhile, was spent as head coach Todd Haley’s assistant on the coaching staff. That ranking would find Yates spending game days in the coaching box, where he charted defensive plays as well as opponents’ tendencies.
The two years Yates spent with the Chiefs didn’t mark his first tour of duty with an NFL team, however. He debuted as an intern at New England Patriots training camps during his summers in high school and college as his home in Weston, Mass., was located about a good “Hail Mary” from the Patriots’ training facilities in Foxboro.
“I spent my first two summers in the Patriots’ scouting department and two more with the coaching department,” explained Yates. “I was on the field for every practice and sat in on team meetings and the experience afforded me an opportunity to learn the ins and outs of both coaching and scouting duties.”
Yates explained that his gig with the Patriots resulted from “simply being in the right place at the right time … I was picked out of the crowd to serve as a ball boy during one of their rookie mini camps,” and the rest is history.
Following his second year with the Chiefs, Yates decided to add a new wrinkle to his resume, as he opted to make the move from coaching football to covering it. In so doing, he spent the first two months of 2012 sending out 39 emails to television stations and NFL beat writers throughout New England in hopes of obtaining a sponsor to help him secure a ringside seat at the NFL Draft in April. The bad news was that of those 39 emails, Yates received just one response. The good news was that one was all he needed.
That lone reply came from Mike Reiss, who reports on the Patriots for all ESPN platforms and who played a pivotal role in helping launch ESPNBoston.com. His signature work can be found on ESPN.com’s NFL Nation Patriots blog, while he also makes regular appearances on SportsCenter and NFL Live.
“Up until I received that email from Field, I had no idea who he was nor did I know anything about him,” said Reiss, “but I enjoyed the letter … I enjoyed reading about his passion for football. And the timing of it was great … right before the draft. So, I wrote back and said, ‘let’s meet,’ … and we did. I could tell he was a real student of the game … I could tell how much the opportunity meant to him, so I was happy to invite him to join me at Gillette Stadium and sit in on the draft ”
“Mike and I have not only become staunch allies but we’ve become very close friends over the years,” acknowledged Yates, who got his first assignment with ESPN shortly after the draft by teaming up with Reiss and writing for ESPN Boston. “I wouldn’t have gotten where I am today without Mike’s help … he got me up and running,” added Yates, who has kept his foot on the gas and has become one of the busiest guys on the ESPN campus.
Ever since he began playing the game at age 7, Yates says he has lived by the slogan, “if it’s football … it’s for me,” and he hasn’t disappointed the ESPN brass with that approach. Today, that attitude has supplied Yates with one of the company’s more burgeoning studio schedules, as he is directly related to no less than a half-dozen ESPN TV and radio shows. The highlight of which is ESPN2’s award-winning Sunday morning pregame show “Fantasy Football Now.”
“Field continues to be a star on the rise, providing our NFL team with so much versatility,” said Seth Markman, ESPN’s vice president of production, after Yates recently signed a multi-year extension to his contract. “He maintains a high standard of excellence across every aspect of his multi-faceted role.”
What Markman was implying was that Yates, who can be found in his ESPN office six days a week from the beginning of August through the Super Bowl, does an exceptional job with an exceptional number of jobs. He also co-hosts “Fantasy Focus Football,” and ESPN Radio’s “Primetime.” The credits also name him as a contributor to the “Monday Night Football” pregame show “Monday Tailgate,” “NFL Live,” and “SportsCenter,” as well as “The Fantasy Show with Matthew Berry.”
Due to Covid-19, however, this past year hasn’t exactly been a typical day at the office for Yates and his ESPN associates.
“Covid’s had an immense daily impact on all of us here at ESPN,” said Yates, “but speaking to how it has impacted me personally, my routine is decidedly different than it was in previous years. While ESPN has done an incredible job of reopening our facilities in a manner that is safe for those who have been permitted back on campus and in studio, we are still limited to a certain number of people and all work is done in a socially distant manner.
“The amount of time spent on campus has reduced my time on campus as well,” added Yates, “but I’m immensely appreciative that we are still able to produce quality content on television as well as on our digital and social media and on the radio.”
Another facet of Yates’s responsibilities falls under his role as an ESPN Insider. That means he is accountable for contributing analysis, breaking NFL news and fantasy football insight throughout the year as well as throughout ESPN’s multimedia platforms.
Reiss’s coverage of the Patriots, meanwhile, began back in 1997 when he was writing for the team’s official newspaper and since that time has done the same for the MetroWest Daily News and the Boston Globe and he knew the night of the draft that Yates would be someone special when it came to covering the NFL.
“I’ll never forget that night,” said Reiss, “I thought it was going to be a learning experience for Field, but he taught me something that night, too.
“It was the second round of the draft,” remembers Reiss, “and the Chiefs were on the clock with the 44th pick. I was trying to figure out just who that pick might be when Field, who had spent the past two years working with the Chiefs, tells me, ‘I think Jeff Allen would be a great choice for the Chiefs … he’s a 6-4, 300-pound guard out of the University of Illinois. He’s quick for his size and can slide out to play tackle as well. I think he’s just what the Chiefs would be looking for to help bolster their offensive line.’
“Well,” added Reiss, “the pick comes in and guess who the Chiefs pick? Yup, it was Jeff Allen. I must say, I was impressed.”
Allen ended up playing in all 16 games his rookie season with the Chiefs and moved into a starting role at left guard by Week 4. He played seven years in the NFL, announcing his retirement following the Chiefs Super Bowl LIV win over the San Francisco 49ers in 2019.
“I think if Field had decided to stick with coaching, he would have been an incredible one … at any level of the game,” said Reiss. “He’s a real student of the game … he learned it from the ground up and that’s a good thing from the media standpoint, too. I run a lot of stuff by him because I really respect his opinion. More importantly, I respect him as a person. He’s a tremendous guy … we’ve become great friends.”
Sports in general and football in particular got a toehold on Yates sometime between the age of 7 and 9. It stuck with him through his years of Pop Warner football in Weston and then on to Belmont Hill. It was during his career with the Sextants that he came into his own, earning All-League laurels in the ISL, which one of NEPSAC’s most highly contested prep school conferences.
“Field was always invested in the Xs and Os … he was always scheming about ways of improving plays,” said Chris Butler, who was Yates’s football and lacrosse coach at Belmont Hill, “and I have no doubt if he had stayed with coaching he would have been an outstanding one … college or pro.
“With his blocking and catching abilities, he proved to be an outstanding tight end for us,” added Butler. “It was on the defensive side of the ball where he really shined, however. He played outside linebacker and whether he was rushing the quarterback, stopping the run or dropping back to cover a receiver, he had a real nose for the ball.”
It was the same old story on the BHS lacrosse field, according to Butler of the kid who was who named captain and MVP his senior year. “He might not have been the biggest or strongest kid on the field,” said Yates’s former coach, “but the way he played the game, I always made sure he was matched up against our opponent’s top scorer.”
Butler remembers Yates for traits unrelated to sports as well, such as remaining close to the school after all these years.
“Field was a great all-around kid when he attended school here and he still remains close to the school and its community,” said Butler. “Just a few weeks ago in fact, he spoke to the kids via a virtual school meeting and they were really thought it was cool when they discovered he had graduated from Belmont Hill.”
"I love keeping in touch with the teachers, the coaches and the students of Belmont Hill,” said Yates. “The school played a big part of my life. It has an atmosphere for learning … an atmosphere for community … an atmosphere for strong student-teacher relationships. I look back and feel very fortunate I had the opportunity to spend my high school days there.”
The NEPSAC SPECIAL NEWS is sponsored by SportsGrub. SportsGrub provides athletic teams with nutritional meals delivered directly to their event. We provide a diverse menu that athletes can order from directly in our app. Don't just play to win, plan to win with healthy and delicious meals from SportsGrub. Contact us for more information at www.sportsgrub.com