Paulsen has what many would consider the ideal job. As a beat reporter covering the Redskins for 106.7 The Fan, he’s “living the dream” every day.
“Right now, I’m lucky enough to do a job that I don’t consider work because I find it exhilarating, challenging and fun,” Paulsen told On Tap. “It’s something I enjoy doing every single day.”
Paulsen didn’t merely stumble into his role or land it undeservedly. He’s put in the necessary hard work and has a goal-oriented focus that is paying off. An avid sports fan as long as he can recall, Paulsen’s current job is the culmination of many years of improving at his craft.
At age 9, Paulsen got into a friendly banter with his uncle after his beloved Redskins beat the Steelers in a preseason scrimmage. The King George, Va., native grew up rooting for the Redskins, and his uncle, a Pittsburgh radio host, was so impressed with the youngster’s knowledge and passion that he put Paulsen on the air. Paulsen didn’t know it at the time, but that experience would serve as his first exposure to the world of sports journalism.
“I’ve been really lucky and have gotten to do a lot neat things,” Paulsen said.
After learning of his Pittsburgh radio work, the King George Journal did a feature on him, which led to a regular writing gig. Paulsen began penning his take on the local sports scene for that local newspaper, which in turn caught the attention of WUSA TV in DC. The CBS affiliate aired a story about his newspaper writing experience at a young age, and asked Paulsen to make his football picks on their weekly afternoon telecast.
That publicity catapulted Paulsen to recognition on a national level. In the years to follow, he appeared on Late Show With David Letterman as a “fast-talking, sports kid” and was the subject of a piece on Real Sports With Bryant Gumbel. Paulsen had already gained unique experience, setting himself apart from his peers by his early teenage years.
“Then, at age 16 or 17, I was no longer young or cute, so I stopped doing those types of things,” he said. “But I kept my hands in the industry by writing as much as I could in the newspaper, working at XM satellite radio and doing regular radio shows. From there, I kept grinding and knew that I’d have to get jobs as an actual reporter and someone who’s legitimately qualified, and not as someone who’s just a kid.”
Paulsen picked up an Achievement in Radio (AIR) award for analyst work on a segment in St. Louis along the way, continuing to find his niche in the field. Graduation from King George High School preceded taking classes at George Mason University from 2006-’10, and although he hasn’t graduated from GMU, he says he will finish college and the requisite 10 credits he stands from graduation. After starting at The Fan as a part-timer and assistant to former Redskins beat reporter Chris Russell, who’s now with ESPN 980, Paulsen got hired as Russell’s replacement. His expanded role at the station meant choosing between career and school, but he’s not looking back.
“I wasn’t going to turn that job down, but it kept me from taking classes,” Paulsen said of putting college on the backburner to pursue his professional career. “My thought is that you go to school to get a good job that you want to do, do for a long time, and hopefully excel at. But I also know that I need to have a degree as something to fall back on.”
Now 24 and entering his third season with The Fan, Paulsen has established himself as a competent insider on the Redskins beat, pounding the pavement for scoops and insight to share with a captive audience that can’t get enough news and information about the region’s most popular team. He predicts Washington will go 7-9 this season, led by a strong defense but ultimately done in by injuries along the offensive line and a lack of proven, NFL-ready depth.
“I look at this team as being much improved at the skill positions,” he said. “I think their receiving corps is much deeper. I like the addition of Pierre Garçon, who I think will have a very nice first season here.
“But I think the offensive line is going to be a big issue. I think it’s going to end up hindering this this team from being able to accomplish the goals the coaches are probably going to set forth. There are so many moving parts at a key spot, that if I’m a Redskins fan, I’d be concerned.”
Still, the addition of an electric playmaker in the form of quarterback Robert Griffin III means a bright future for the burgundy and gold faithful.
Paulsen said, “Fans should be hopeful. For the first time in a very long time, the Redskins have an exciting talent and potentially elite player at quarterback. This is the beginning of an era that people have been ravenous for—for a long time. They finally have that elusive, special franchise quarterback, not just a short-term stopgap.
“I just think he’s genuine,” Paulsen said of Griffin. “What you see is what you get. He takes very seriously the chance he has to impact this city both on the football field and off of it.”
With a rookie quarterback, there are other, more important ways to measure success in the NFL than the win-loss record.
Paulsen said, “I think they should measure success by [whether] they are relevant in December … [and if] they have a legitimate shot in the final month of the season to make the playoffs.
“If they open that final month in contention, that would be very exciting for this fan base and it would be a major improvement.”
And Paulsen, like he’s done since his youth, will be there every step of the way to document it all.
Listen to Grant on 106.7 The Fan and read his blog posts online at www.washington.cbslocal.com/station/106-7-the-fan.