When you’re one of the best punters to ever step foot onto an NFL field, it’s tough to imagine having more success when the time comes to hang up your cleats and pick a new career.
Surprisingly (or unsurprisingly, depending on who you ask), former Indianapolis Colts punter Pat McAfee has done just that in life after football.
Ever since he retired early to enter the media world, McAfee has turned into “King Midas,” turning everything he touches into gold.
He hosts “The Pat McAfee Show” every weekday, and landed exclusive interviews with Green Bay Packers star Aaron Rodgers throughout the quarterback’s MVP season in 2020.
He has dabbled in the world of commentating for football games on ESPN and FOX, both at the collegiate level and for NFL broadcasts.
But, perhaps his most impressive venture has nothing to do with the sport he actually played professionally.
Instead, his recent success has come as the result of a wrestling ring.
McAfee has had a large presence on WWE programming over the years, beginning in an analyst role before eventually showcasing his in-ring abilities in a rivalry with Adam Cole in NXT.
He parlayed that into the ultimate career opportunity, earning a seat at the announcer’s table for WWE’s Friday Night SmackDown on FOX.
The man who makes magic on the microphone did just that from the get-go in his new role, and his chemistry with longtime WWE play-by-play man Michael Cole was instantly off the charts.
He seemed to outshine Cole’s former partners, like Corey Graves, JBL, Jerry “The King” Lawler and more, with an authentic, almost fan-esque approach to the gig.
Within weeks, McAfee proved to be the boost that WWE’s announcing desperately needed.
While that thought was (and is) shared widely by fans who watch WWE’s weekly programming, arguably the most important opinion comes from the man who has been on the mic for many of WWE’s biggest moments over the last two decades.
“I’ve read a lot about this online as well but it’s absolutely true: you’ve completely revitalized my career,” Michael Cole told McAfee on the latter’s show in July of 2021. “I’ve been doing this for almost 25 years now. and I’ve seen and been a part of everything in WWE. You go through different partners and everybody that I’ve worked with has been great. They all brought a different style to the product. JBL, unbelievable partner, Corey Graves, incredible talent, but you’re different than all of those guys.”
“Not that they’re not fans, but you’re a true fan and you bring that enthusiasm to the product,” Cole continued. “Seeing how you’ve been acting over the past couple of months has really revitalized what I do.”
McAfee’s explanation of how his fandom plays into his performances explained the situation perfectly. His busy schedule prevents him from being in the loop for every detail, which allows for a more natural reaction from a diehard wrestling fan who happens to be at the announcer’s table.
“I think it has been quite a benefit for me not to know what’s going on,” McAfee said. “I just think my natural reactions, calling as if, I think has been very cool.”
“We’ve got Michael Cole right next to me,” McAfee continued. “Anything I say, he will save me.”
The duo received loads of praise for their respective calls of John Cena’s monumental return at the Money in the Bank pay-per-view in July.
In the span of just a few seconds, Cole showcased arguably the most emotion for a return in years, and McAfee peppered in a quick joke related to Cena’s “You Can’t See Me” catchphrase.
“Watching him mark out to that moment in front of fans again, watching him hit a groove almost, was awesome,” McAfee said.
A day after that event, Cole explained the extra effort that goes into matching McAfee’s endless energy on the mic, and repeated the sentiment that the former Colts punter had reignited the WWE legend’s career.
“I realize that I have to step up my game to keep up with what you’re doing from an enthusiastic standpoint, and that’s what I’m trying to do,” Cole told McAfee. “It’s been a lot of fun for me and it’s been really different, and I just want to thank you for breathing some life into this old body again.”
For years, WWE has struggled to match the success, from an announcing standpoint, that the company achieved with the respective teams of Jim Ross and Jerry “The King” Lawler, and Michael Cole and Tazz.
The company inched closer to that era with the addition of Corey Graves to the fray, but quickly overdid it by plugging Graves into any holes they needed him to fill.
Adding McAfee provides a fresh voice at a pivotal time in WWE’s programming, and seems to have given SmackDown a big jolt as the show continues on FOX on Friday nights.
And, if announcing for SmackDown doesn’t cut it for the former NFL star, then there’s no doubt that McAfee would bring that same energy and success to his next endeavor, as well.