Stalwart ESPN personality John Saunders passed away on Wednesday at the age of 61, and he left his colleagues and contemporaries shocked and saddened. From the other side of the TV, we knew him as a warm, workmanlike personality who had an air of easy professionalism. For all the changes ESPN has been through over the years, Saunders was among the connecting threads to the early days of the network, seemingly immune to the changing demands of sports entertainment like the legend Bob Ley, who is thankfully still going strong.
But from Saunders’ side, from the people who worked with him, he was more than his TV presence. From the reactions to his death, we can see a picture of a man who was generous with his time, his advice and his heart, who made a profound impact on his coworkers — like Stephen A. Smith, who called him a mentor and “The Godfather.”
From when Hannah Storm had to fight tears to announce his passing on SportsCenter, we knew this one was going to hurt a lot of people, so let’s give some space to allow Saunders’ memory to shine through their words.