Images: ESPN

Images: ESPN

MEET MARIA TAYLOR. SPORTS ANALYST. SNEAKER AFICIONADO. MENTOR. SOUTHERN BELLE.

We have been extremely excited for fall for two significant reasons: first, cooler temps, and second, our favorite weekend activity: watching football. If you follow CNK on the regular, you know we've been putting in work to pay proper homage to this time of the year. After getting a chance to participate in a fly football experience in the Triple D and bring you our top 5 sneakers to tailgate in, we thought we'd be all set for September, that is, until ESPN came along. Last week, we were beyond honored to chat it up with ESPN host (and fellow sneaker lover) Maria Taylor.

A former Georgia Basketball and Volleyball player, Maria made the transition from two-sport star for the Bulldogs to versatile broadcaster at ESPN and now, she begins the 2017 season with a new assignment as a reporter for ESPN's flagship program "College GameDay" and sideline reporter for ABC's "Saturday Night Football."

In our exclusive Chick Chat, Maria dishes on the importance of working hard, being confident, finding your faith, and making a difference as co-founder of Winning Edge Leadership Academy, a mentoring program designed to help young men and women make the connections they need to be successful. Basically, it's pretty safe to say that we saved the best for last this September. Join our huddle with Maria below:

STARTED FROM THE BOTTOM NOW SHE'S HERE...

The biggest thing is be open to networking and be open to starting at the bottom of the totem pole. I was a runner on Monday Night Football before and I would literally go to Walmart to get the coffee that Stuart Scott liked to drink and put it in the Keurig. Be willing to take the chances on the job you think has nothing to do with what you want to do. It can at least get you around conversation of where you want to be. Don’t get disheartened in that journey because it’s teaching you for that moment when it does pop and you get to do it big. Our industry is super small. Always leave people feeling better than when you met them. A lot of times you get opportunities based on how you treat people".

AN ATL SHAWTY WITH SNEAKHERSTYLE.

"Everyone in the A (Atlanta) had style in general. You have your thing. I have an older brother and I wanted to be cool like him, with the freshest kicks. I used to sit and read Eastbay magazines like it was Cosmo or something (LOL).

My love for sneakers originated when I was in middle school, and everyone could wear the cute girls’ shoe and I couldn’t. I gravitated towards Sauconys, shell toe adidas, and basically flat shoes because I’m really tall… I didn’t want to add any height. I wore a size 11 and that was hard to find so I was like, "OK. I’m ordering everything off of Eastbay." I had to get colors for everything and my outfits still worked. It may not have been the feminine look, but it was cute and cool."

Image: Maria Taylor Instagram

Image: Maria Taylor Instagram

MARIA'S SNEAKER ROTATION IN 3...2...1

"When I'm on the sideline I need to be super comfortable, so I love adidas Ultraboosts. I have Yeezys in the mail right now that will be in heavy rotation when I get them. I have shell toe adidas that are metal-like on top and everytime I wear them people ask where I got them from. I can wear skirts with them or leather pants, or even jeans."

Shop The Sneaks

A LIFESTYLE POWERED BY THE THREE STRIPES.

"What they [adidas] do feels retro to me. With the shell toes I had them in school, and it was a part of a lifestyle. I love what they do with a shoe and how they want you to have it in each color. The Pharrels come in 9000 different colors (LOL). Right now their [adidas] motto is ‘HERE TO CREATE’ and that’s what they are doing by creating a different style and vibe versus anyone else. They are pushing creativity and each shoe has a different style. I work as a brand ambassador and I like the direction they are headed in now."

Post Practice interviews/Comedy Show with the #buckeyes @ohiostatefb

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"Right now adidas is making a big push in athleisure because they recognize how important that movement has become. The 3 stripe life motif is pretty cool and they give you an option for every version of yourself. You can just be you which is what I strongly believe in."

Image: ESPN (Maria rockin' the adidas James Harden LS)

Image: ESPN (Maria rockin' the adidas James Harden LS)

SHOP THE ADIDAS JAMES HARDEN LS SNEAKS BELOW

WHEN IT'S TIME TO STAND UP AND OUT.

For a long time I wanted to be what everyone else was, like when you are a freshman in highschool. How do I blend in? Then I realized, "HEY! I’m an African American female and chances are I’m not going to blend in so I might as well be who I am." Just run with it and enjoy".

IT'S ALL ABOUT #CHICKSPIRATION.

Chickspiration is the ability to recognize that you are good enough, that you belong wherever God has put and you will excel in that space. We as women doubt ourselves, and men don’t really do that. If you are inspired in your own skin and believe that each step that you take is ordained or that you are supposed to be there – then you perform the way you should. There is no reason to doubt it, just rock it. Rock that moment, rock that space, rock it all.”

Image: ESPN

Image: ESPN

HOW FAITH PLAYS A ROLE IN MARIA'S LIFE.

"Faith is my peace. Being able to listen to Elevation podcasts, it calms me. For GameDay, my hype music is gospel music. It's knowing that whatever I do here is not going to dictate where I’m going. It's not going to dictacte what my future looks like because that has already been set. My steps are ordained, God's got me."

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GAME ON.

The thing that allows me to be fun is knowing what I have to do inside and out. You can joke around and have fun and get back to the work if you know what you’re doing. The best part of the show is the fans. Who else is going to wake up at 6 in the morning on a Saturday?!

Image: ESPN

Image: ESPN

TEACH ONE TO REACH ONE WITH WINNING EDGE.

"At the Leadership Academy, we choose a group of kids and assign them to a mentor for a year. We open our network to their cause and anything they need help with. There are many talented minority women out there, they just haven’t been connected like other groups. We resume build and create our own little community with public speaking, time management, etc. Many of these kids are first generation graduates and we want to create opportunities and show them what’s out there".

Visit the Winning Edge Leadership Academy to find out more.

Image: WINNING EDGE LEADERSHIP ACADEMY

Image: WINNING EDGE LEADERSHIP ACADEMY

Maria is humble, down to earth, and never takes her opportunities for granted. Growing up her passion for sports intersected her love for sneakers and we enjoy a great #SNEAKHERSTYLE, don't we? Maria is also our new sole sister for 3 reasons. She loves Issa Rae's Insecure, 2Chainz, and sleeping on her day off. Basically, she gets us.

You can catch up with Maria Taylor on ESPN's College GameDay airing Saturdays. Check her out in the social media streets at Instagram and Twitter.


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