Brigance Adds Emmy to Career Awards

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Continuing their trend of excellence, RaveTV recently won three National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences (NATAS) Mid-Atlantic Emmy Awards, upping their total to a whopping 15 over the Ravens' 12-year history.

For O.J. Brigance, though, his first Emmy was one of the biggest honors he's ever received.

RaveTV won for Outstanding Achievement in Sports Programming for episodes of Ravens Reportand Ravens Wired, along with an editing award for a Sports Piece within 24 Hours.

The trophies went to many of the usual RaveTV suspects - vice president of broadcasting Larry Rosen, director of broadcasting administration Don DiRaddo, broadcasting manager Lauryn Lukin, multimedia coordinator Jay O'Brien and broadcasting coordinator Matt Brevet - and as Brigance walked into his office on Monday following the ceremony, there was a surprise statue perched on his desk.

"I said to Don that it would be cool to win an Emmy, and the fact that we actually did blows my mind," Brigance said with his trademark smile beaming.

The former Ravens linebacker and special teams standout began hosting Ravens Report two years ago on a whim.

Approached by vice president of broadcasting Larry Rosen and RaveTV because of his electric charisma and relationship with the players as director of player development, Brigance admitted he was nervous at first before eventually settling into his new role.

"O.J. is a dream to work with," Rosen said. "He's always into it, always smiling, always willing to try some new and crazy stuff. Much like a lot of former players, he's very coachable. There are some players that get on TV and think they'll be automatically natural, and then you realize it takes a little more.

"O.J.'s the kind of guy that when you work with him, you want to do your best work, because you want to paint him in the best light. Watching him grow with the show over the past two years has been a blast."

Those years have also been tough on Brigance, as he was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) in May 2007. The disease progressively shuts down nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, with the worst effects seen in muscle control and movement.

Still, Brigance marched on courageously, continuing to lead the show with his baritone delivery and knack for bringing out the best in the players.

"As I do the research, I get to know the little things about guys, like how Haloti played rugby, or Ed Reed and Willis McGahee had a rap song in college," Brigance recalled. "That makes the interviews fun.

"One time, we even got a copy of Ed's prom picture and surprised him with it. You can imagine that he was a little shocked to see that sprung on him."

Obviously, Brigance continued to improve, considering the episode ofand aired in early December.

Now, even as the condition develops, Rosen expressed his desire to keep Brigance in his current position in front of the camera if possible.

"We love having him do it," Rosen noted. "Additionally, his interaction with players on a daily basis shows up on air. We get the benefit of seeing the special relationship he has with all these guys, which can bring out some interesting tidbits that we might not have known about.

"If he has the physical capability, we'll do everything in the world to keep the chair warm."

Brigance will add the familiar trophy recently seen in the news to a stocked mantle.

He boasts the distinction of being a two-time football champion in Baltimore, earning a Grey Cup with the CFL's Baltimore Stallions before taking Super Bowl XXXV with the Ravens. Such success sums up Brigance's winning character.

"All the awards are important," he said. "In anything I do, I try to be the best, and to receive accolades is kind of that validation, like, 'You did OK.' You may not be the best, but you were at that moment in time.

"Working with RaveTV has been so fun and so easy. They handle me with kid gloves, and to have their confidence is crucial. I realize that TV is a lot of hard work, with all that goes into it. I'm proud to be a part of that team."

The RaveTV team also took home gold with a full-length *Wired *episode featuring former head coach Brian Billick and his wife, Kim, along with a segment with Willis McGahee that had to air Tuesday evening following a Monday Night Football contest with the New England Patriots.

DiRaddo pointed out that an undertaking such as the McGahee segment is no easy task.

"Besides the obvious time challenge - knowing that of the 24 hours ahead of you, few of them will be devoted to sleep - you have to trust that you're going to get the right footage that will give you production value," he said. "You have to take a shot and commit to it, then hope to God it works.

"We were lucky because Willis McGahee was mic'd up and he had a great game," he added with a laugh.

An integral part of that process was Lukin's talents. The longtime Raven recently left Baltimore to become the vice president of broadcasting with the Los Angeles Dodgers, and everyone on staff acknowledges she will be missed.

"She had incredible talent and an unmatched work ethic," DiRaddo said. "But the thing that I really liked was that as good as she was and as confident as she was on the technology we used, she was always up to change. She was always looking for new and innovative things that other people were doing and then adapting her own style."

With so many Emmys in the Ravens' trophy case, Rosen is quick to note the efforts of the entire department.

"We don't accept mediocrity at any point, just like our football team," said Rosen. "The material is amazing because of the trust and access that the organization has given us, especially Don and I have gained in our combined 18 years with the Ravens.

"There is a lot of talent back there, and we will always go the extra mile to make something special."

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