Tiffany Blackmon is no stranger to Charlotte, having covered the Panthers in her role as an on-air reporter for the NFL Network since 2015. Blackmon now joins Charlotte MLS as a Host and Producer, and will also work closely with the MLS Community Relations Team. Here, she speaks with Ryan Bailey about her new role and passion for the beautiful game.

You were a national NFL reporter in your previous stop. Why did you decide to make a transition to the soccer world?

I jumped at the opportunity to get back to the game that I love. I played soccer from when I was 8 years old, right through college. I still love playing, but I get very competitive. I have spent a lot of time in Charlotte covering the Panthers, and I love it here, so when the opportunity was presented to me, I thought, “OK, the people involved in this team are fantastic, I played soccer and I’ve been to this city so much. So why would I not want to be a part of this?”

I lived in Atlanta when their MLS team launched and have also covered both the Houston Dynamo and Houston Dash. So I’ve definitely kept up with the game and am eager to get back to it.

Are there a lot of differences in covering soccer compared to other sports?

There probably are some differences, but at the root of my reporting, and what I always tried to do at NFL Network, was bring you the stuff that you couldn’t just go look up. Sure, I would lace statistics into my reports, but the bulk of my work was about relationship building. That’s at the heart of covering anything, particularly sports.

It’s important to me not to just talk about the athletes on the field, but to hit home that they are human beings, who have real lives and stories to tell. That’s what I want to do as a reporter here.

Tell us more about the role you will play in helping Charlotte MLS grow.

I’ll be a team host and reporter, and will have a big hand in community engagement. I’m particularly excited about the community work. I hopped through so many states working in television, and never felt truly settled, but I would always say to myself: “Man, I really like Charlotte! I should just go live there!” So now, I have the opportunity to live here and get involved in this community.

Ultimately, I think sports is a great way to help instill confidence in people. When I was in Atlanta, I had a lot of young girls and boys who would message me about life in the business, doing what you want to do, and making stuff happen for yourself. I think I’ll still be able to help young people like that, while getting ingrained in the community here.

Charlotte MLS has made some great hires already. Are you excited by what’s happening with this team right now?

Yeah, I feel like every time I’m on social media there’s a new headshot and news of the latest hire. I think the team has made some really good moves and it looks like they’ve set themselves up for success. I know David Tepper goes for things in a really big way and we’re definitely seeing that in the hires the team has made.

Why will MLS be a success in Charlotte?

I’ve seen how passionate the fanbase is with the Panthers—you drive anywhere and see flags on people’s cars—and I think the soccer team will gain that much attention too. I believe the people of this city will open up their arms and extend that love they have shown to the Panthers to an MLS team.

From my days of playing travel soccer, I always equated Charlotte and the Carolinas with soccer. This city is due for a team and is so deserving of it. And knowing how this fanbase is, I don’t think you could find a better fit.