Associated Press pro football writer Teresa Walker has seemingly done it all. Even with five Olympics, a women’s NCAA Final Four, a Stanley Cup run, and world travel under her belt, she’s not ready to slow down covering sports.
However, all of these experiences were something she thought she’d never achieve.
“There was no way of dreaming of being where I am today. There was no internet when I started, and there definitely weren’t any women working in sports in the 70’s and 80’s. I didn’t know the battles women in sports were facing at that time. I had no clue my career was even a possibility for me.”
Walker grew up as the tomboy in her neighborhood watching the Chicago Cubs. When she moved to Tennessee, she started realizing the reality of leaving women out of sports.
“Even though I played football and baseball with the boys, the men in my family wouldn’t involve the girls when doing weekend activities,” she explained. “I would sit on the couch and watch NFL football games on Sunday with my mom. This was in the day when the only woman I knew working in sports was Phyllis George. I didn’t dream of becoming a sports journalist at that time. I just wanted to be a journalist. I wanted to help shine light on the bad stuff.”
Although they were Walker’s passion, sports was not the topic she originally started covering.
“I was lucky enough to get hired by The Daily Times out of college, but I didn’t do sports,” she said. “I was covering police and courthouse meetings. Every other Sunday, I would go to the county jail to run through police reports. I would literally sit down from the kitchen amongst some of the inmates.”
The first time she did walk into a sports media setting, Walker was greeted with what she believes was either disdain or confusion.
“One of the only sports stories I covered with The Daily Times was one of my high school alma mater’s football games. When I walked into the press box, the male columnist looked at me and asked what I was doing there,” she said. “I never had the chance to ask him if it was because I was a woman or because he was surprised to see me not covering police stories.”
Before she made a decision to make her career out of sports, Walker’s co-workers warned her about the difficulties faced with being the only female in a room.
“I had a former editor at my first paper try desperately to talk me out of it,” she sighed. “She sent me stories about Lisa Olson and what happened to her in the New England locker room, and there were other stories that made me think very seriously about if this was what I wanted to do. But, I wanted my chance to try my hand at it because I loved sports.”
After leaving The Daily Times, she was hired by the Associated Press in December of 1989 writing college football and basketball games.
“I always wanted to go to the Associated Press,” she gushed. “I loved the concept of an organization that covers the world. Ever since I was hired, I’ve never left Nashville as my home base.”
Staying in Nashville proved to be a good choice for Walker as she watched pro teams move in left and right.
“After I decided to stay in Nashville, I got really lucky. We had the Predators get an expansion franchise, the Memphis Grizzlies came in 2001, now the MLS team is here. I have more than enough on my plate right now. Why would I go anywhere else?”
When her chief at AP decided to let her take on other assignments, she didn’t know the opportunities it would face her with.
“I have been able to cover five Olympics and travel to places like Rio de Janeiro and Vancouver,” she said. “I got to cover the 2018 women’s gold medal hockey game in Korea. Getting to watch a six shootout win was incredible. But, I’m always worried about looking back, because then you start patting yourself on the back and stop working. I want to focus on what’s happening today and tomorrow.”
Along with her world travels, Walker is a three-time Nashville Sportswriter of the Year and she was named to the Tennessee Sportswriter Hall of Fame, becoming the first female to be honored.
“It means my peers accepted me,” she said. “People in this state had to vote for me. I know the names who have won that award. There had not been a woman from Tennessee ever to win that award. Now, the number of women working in the state has just ballooned over the last decade.”
Walker explained the vast difference of the number of women from when she first started to today.
“I went from being the only woman at many sporting events to now having a handful of them, and it’s wonderful,” she smiled. “Now I go to a Titan’s practice and there are women working for TV stations and even the Titans themselves. I have been told I have been accepted as one of the guys, but it really is nice looking around and seeing women by my side.”
After over 30 years of covering sports, Walker knows she made the right decision in picking her career.
“They call sports the toy store of the news department,” she joked. “Although, I’d argue if you can be a sports writer on deadline, you can cover any news story in the world. I’m blessed I get to be paid to watch what people pay to see. I’m very proud to be a sports writer.”
More Nashville Women in Sports Media:
Emily Proud: from the Belmont soccer field to your living room TV
Lyndsay Rowley’s ‘fork in the road’ that led her to the Nashville Predators
Dawn Davenport’s lost job that brought her to Nashville
Featured image via Teresa Walker