Emig returns to Millville, but as a NBC analyst
Onetime motocross superstar, Jeff Emig still finds it hard to believe that he's the one holding the microphone. He's the one conducting an interview, asking questions, offering analysis.
He's the one out there making public speeches.
He's the one speaking live on NBC.
Not bad for someone who grew up with a speech impediment, and still stutters and stammers from time to time.
"I still step back and pinch myself how it all happened,'' Emig said. "To become one of the voices for our sport and subject myself to potentially embarrassing situations can be pretty scary.''
You'll see Emig as a race analyst on Saturday when the NBC cameras hit Spring Creek Park near Millville for the ninth race in the Lucas Oil AMA Pro MX Championships.
"Public speaking, it's still not easy for me,'' said Emig. "When that red light on the camera goes on, everything changes. It seems so easy.''
Well, it's not.
"This is my seventh year in front of the camera,'' he said, "and I do like 30 races a year. This is the first year I've really felt comfortable in front of the camera. I'm comfortable in writing my own scripts and now I'm asking for the camera because I have something to say. That wasn't always the case.
"Now, at times, I've been asked to host some press conferences. Here I am hosting a press conference and for years I was the guy getting interviewed.
"That's a complete role reversal. Talk about being out of the box.''
Coverage Saturday on NBC runs from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m., and then it switches over to the NBC Sports Network.
Rest of the crew
Jeff Weigandt and Kelli Stavast are also part of the telecast crew. Emig and Weigandt will be in the broadcasting truck while Stavast is outside, working the grounds.
Races have been televised from Millville before, but on a tape-delay basis.
"When I was riding this was one of my favorite tracks,'' said Emig, who first won at Millville lin 1993 and then won three straight from 1996-98. "It's a track that's rough and nasty but the riders really like it.
"I always liked it because it was usually hot and I enjoyed racing in the hot weather. For me, a lot of things went my way on this track.''
Emig, 42, was inducted into the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 2004 after a career which included three AMA championships. He won 37 AMA national races in an 11-year career and was named the AMA Pro Athlete of the Year in 1997.
When he crushed his vertebra and suffered a compound fracture in his right lower leg in May of 2000, that was the end of his racing career.
Now he's married with two children and lives in Riverside, Calif. He grew up in Kansas.
"I didn't do much for five years after I retired,'' Emig said, "and then this broadcasting thing came along.
"My goal in TV was to be doing this for 10 years,'' he said, "and if my performance is good enough to reach the goal, that would be great. If I'm still doing the same thing 10 years after, that's good, too. Something is going right.''
Expects a great race
Emig expects a battle on Saturday between points leader Ryan Villopoto and No. 2, Minnesota favorite Ryan Dungey.
"Ryan desperately needs to win and it will help with hometown support,'' Emig said, "but that said, Villopoto has never been better than he is now.
"Both riders are riding at a high level and I expect there will be a big gap between them and third place.
"It should be great for the fans.''
Emig has worked for a variety of networks. Next Saturday he'll travel to one of his favorite races, the Red Bull AMA Amateur National Motocross Championships at Loretta Lynn Ranch. NBC will televise from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Over the years, Emig has suffered a variety of injuries, from a broken leg, his crushed vertebra and once he snapped both forearms. In fact, he was doing a video shoot earlier this year and fell off his motorcycle and is still recovering from an injury to his right hand and ligament damage to his knee.
So he knows all the risks involved in racing.
And still . . .
"I would rather be racing this weekend,'' he said, "especially now when you say the track is likely to be muddy. That would be a lot of fun.
"Motorsports racers are like that. It's risky but over the years my brain said, 'Let's do it.' ''
Now, though, after a race, people ask Emig how the race went.
"I tell them the race was great,'' he said. "I didn't get hurt.''