MOUNT VERNON — From Tuesday to Thursday, ESPN’s Monday Night Football Bus sat parked in the Kroger parking lot waiting for its driver to return. It just wouldn’t fit in his parents’ driveway.
Craig Flynn, a 1985 Mount Vernon graduate, musician and now bus driver for ESPN, stopped in Knox County to see his parents on his way from Atlanta, Georgia to Buffalo, New York.
Flynn’s job as a driver for ESPN, which he started Sept. 1 and will continue to do through the football season, has taken him all over the United States. He has been to Oakland, New Orleans, Denver, Kansas City, Chicago and Atlanta. Now, he is making his way to Buffalo to pick up the sports commentators for the upcoming Monday Night Football game between the Buffalo Bills and the New England Patriots. Though he is on a tight schedule, Flynn noted that he has also had a little time to do some sight seeing along the way, including a stop at the Grand Canyon.
Flynn picks up ESPN commentators from the airport on Fridays, who will use the front part of the bus as living quarters through Monday evening. The bus comes fully stocked with a living room, kitchen and beds. Flynn makes sure that the bus is stocked with the necessities including snacks, “mostly healthy foods like nuts,” for the commentators, coaches and players.
Saturday and Sunday, the ESPN announcers will conduct pre-game interviews with players and coaches in the fully equipped studio in the back of the bus. Flynn is also responsible for making sure that the studio is clean and set up properly for use.
“It’s a promotional vehicle,” Flynn explained, “but it also gives them privacy to speak with high ranking players and coaches, which is a really important tool.”
The bus draws a lot of attention, Flynn said. It certainly is eye-catching with ESPN commentators plastered on the sides. When he stops, he tends to get a lot of questions from passersby and people will often take pictures of the bus while driving.
“This is my first time driving a bus with people’s faces on it. It’s a huge rolling billboard … so yeah, it’s fun and people have fun with it,” Flynn said. “But it’s scary too, because sometimes we’re going 70 miles an hour [and people are taking pictures with their phones while driving].”
Flynn first started driving buses before commercial drivers licenses (CDL) were required. He was part of the local band Mountain Rose and would take turns with his band mates driving the bus from venue to venue. Eventually he moved to Nashville, where he still lives for two-thirds of the year and is a musician. He writes songs and performs and has toured as a base player with artists as well. He has also served as a tour manager for various artists including Jo Dee Messina and Loretta Lynn. On the various tours, he would sometimes serve as a relief driver and, when the laws changed, got his CDL and kept it so that he could help out in a pinch. This eventually lead to his employment with a motor coach company out of Alabama. He now spends about one-third of the year on the road.
Though he is away from his Mount Vernon roots most of the time, Flynn never forgets the small reasons he loves coming home to Central Ohio.
“I’ve turned a lot of artists on to Jones potato chips,” Flynn said. “It’s those small things that are meaningful.”
Flynn has been thoroughly enjoying his time with ESPN, he said, stressing that everyone he has worked with has been highly professional and interesting to work with. In the future, he expects to continue working with ESPN for other sporting events once the football season comes to a close.
The job isn’t without its perks either. Flynn has an all-access pass to be in and around the stadium and even gets to be on the field during practices. He has tickets to attend the games, and has had a chance to meet coaches and players from all throughout the NFL.
It’s every football fan’s dream. And yet, Flynn never “really got into” football.
“I just wish I knew more about it,” Flynn said. “I get to meet all these guys and go around but I just never really followed football. The commentators will yell at me while I’m driving and say ‘Hey Craig, who is going to win this game’ and I’ll joke and say something like the Pittsburgh Pirates, which isn’t even a football team.”
Though Flynn isn’t an avid football fan, he isn’t looking to give up his job with ESPN any time soon.
“It’s just a real honor for me to be working for them,” Flynn said. “Trust me, I have been around the world and done a lot of things. But this is a lifetime achievement for me.”