ESPN analyst Desmond Howard says visiting college football tailgate parties is 'the best part' of his job

ESPN sports analyst Desmond Howard says visiting tailgate parties around the country is one of his favorite parts of his job. (Photo: Getty; designed by Quinn Lemmers)
ESPN sports analyst Desmond Howard says visiting tailgate parties around the country is one of his favorite parts of his job. (Photo: Getty; designed by Quinn Lemmers)

Because food connects us all, Yahoo Life is serving up a heaping plateful of table talk with people who are passionate about what's on their menu in Deglazed, a series about food.

Desmond Howard knows a good tailgate when he sees one. "My favorite part of football season is getting a chance to travel the country and see different cultures based on the conferences we visit," Howard says. "Everyone has different flavors and different vibes, and that's probably the best part of my job."

But the 52-year-old ESPN analyst, who played for 11 seasons in the NFL, believes there are a few differences between college football conferences when it comes to tailgating. "I'm from the Big 10. I played in the Big 10. I spent a lot of time in the Big 10," says the Heisman Trophy-winner. "In the afternoon in the Big 10, they're drinking a beer. In the SEC ... they're drinking brown liquor right out the gate."

"In certain areas, they have cuisines that are special, unique to that particular region," he adds. "If you go to LSU (Louisiana State University) in Baton Rouge, you might get some fried gator. If you go to Eugene, Oreg. (home of the University of Oregon), you might get some VooDoo Doughnuts. Everyone has their unique spin on tailgating."

Unfortunately for Howard, work obligations usually interfere with his ability to tailgate himself. "When they're tailgating, I'm working, but I am just amazed at what I see," he tells Yahoo Life. "Our show leads into the afternoon kickoff, so I usually just get to walk around and look at everything, and I'm just amazed at what I see."

Most college campuses that receive the distinction of hosting ESPN College GameDay during the football season are happy to have Howard and the entire crew present. "They're always kind, always welcoming, always offering us food," he says. "We love to highlight tailgaters at the game and restauranteurs in the area, and they always want to bring up samples of their food to our desk and we get a chance to taste it."

If you want to get on the Super Bowl MVP's good side, however, listen up: "I don't eat beef and pork," he shares. "I don't know if these guys are dialed into our show or not. You would think by now they know that I don't eat beef and pork," he says. "They'll slap beef in front of me, and I have to be like 'wrong dude' and pass it to the host, Rece Davis."

So what does Desmond Howard like to eat? "I like chicken. I like seafood. I've got a big sweet tooth, too," he says. "I can't remember exactly where we were, but someone brought a giant bowl of banana pudding to the show, and I was like Can I take this thing home with me? This is incredible! Now you're speaking my language."

Howard spoke with YahooLife on behalf of his work with Town House Game Day Dippers, specially-shaped football-themed crackers in the brand's popular dipping format, designed not to break during snacking.

"One of my favorite recipes [from the campaign] to use is called Homemade Halftime Hummus, and I love it because it clings to the cracker," he shares. "Hummus is easy to make, it holds well and it's easy to bring to the tailgate."

Howard also created a recipe for Town House called First Down Jalapeño Cheese Dip, which he says can be customized to each individuals spice preference level.

So who does Howard think is making it to the College Football National Championship this year? "I'm going with Jimbo Fisher and Texas A&M. I'm going with the Aggies," he says. "I think with everything that happened in the off-season, that match-up between Alabama and Texas A&M is going to be an interesting one this season."

Wellness, parenting, body image and more: Get to know the who behind the hoo with Yahoo Life's newsletter. Sign up here.