Fueled by the confidence he built as a University of Iowa student, Ty Schmit made a play in 2017 to join Pat McAfee’s fledgling media enterprise as an intern. Now he produces the retired football player’s daily sports show, which recently was acquired by ESPN.
Sara Epstein Moninger
courtesy of Ty Schmit

If someone had told Ty Schmit in his first year at the University of Iowa that within 10 years he’d be sitting down with his favorite NFL player, Aaron Rodgers, every week to discuss football, he would have said it was crazy talk.

But that is just what the 2014 Iowa graduate gets to do as a producer of The Pat McAfee Show, a live weekday sports talk show airing on YouTube. The show is hosted by McAfee, a retired punter for the Indianapolis Colts, and A.J. Hawk, a former NFL linebacker, and features Schmit as one of three contributors known as “The Boys.” Schmit offers commentary, questions guests, and regularly cracks up peers and viewers with his impressions, notably of former football coach Lou Holtz and ESPN football analyst Mel Kiper.

The show has accrued 2.2 million subscribers on YouTube and recently made a multimillion-dollar deal to move to ESPN in the fall of 2023. Schmit attributes the show’s success to the personality and drive of McAfee, a pandemic that kept people at home and gave sports fans an opportunity to discover the show, and its irreverent nature.

“Pat and A.J. were pro athletes and a lot of our recurring guests are pro athletes, but the other guys on the show—myself, Connor (Campbell), Tone (Anthony DiGuilio), and everyone in the back—are just fans,” says Schmit, who earned a BA in cinema and communication studies from Iowa. “We speak from the lens of a fan, which you don’t get a lot in the media. Students of journalism learn they’re supposed to be fair and unbiased and not pull for one team or another. But we don’t do that on our show. I am a die-hard Packers fan and obviously an Iowa fan, and we all talk openly and excitedly about our individual teams. For the people watching, it feels like a conversation they’ve had 100 times with their group of friends. It’s relatable, plus they get access to some of the biggest names in professional sports.”

“I took a creative writing class at Iowa that was probably the best class I ever took. We could write whatever we wanted, and that allowed me to explore stuff I was really interested in.”

Ty Schmit
2014 UI graduate and producer of “The Pat McAfee Show”
University of Iowa alumnus Ty Schmit on the set of the Pat McAfee Show, which he produces
University of Iowa grad Ty Schmit, shown here with Pat McAfee (right) on the set of the former NFL player's show, says at some point his focus will come back to screenwriting, but he's “going to ride this thing until the wheels fall off—or until we all agree to go our separate ways. It’s too much fun.”

In addition to Rodgers, who joins the show weekly during the NFL season, former Hawkeye football players George Kittle and Micah Hyde have made appearances. Although the show’s primary focus is professional football, the team will discuss any sport. Schmit says they are trying to book an interview with Iowa women’s basketball standout Caitlin Clark.

Schmit, who grew up with three brothers in Waterloo, Iowa, participated in sports during high school and dreamed of working on ESPN as a sports analyst. But as his passion turned to movies and screenwriting, he was drawn to the University of Iowa, where he knew he could develop his writing skills.

“I took a creative writing class at Iowa that was probably the best class I ever took,” he says. “We could write whatever we wanted, and that allowed me to explore stuff I was really interested in. The feedback from the professor and my classmates gave me confidence and made me think I had a knack for it, that it was something I could pursue after college.”

Quick hits with Ty Schmit

On the variety of classes he took at Iowa:
“My willingness to see what was out there and challenge myself through my coursework helped lead me to where I am right now. If I wouldn’t have been willing to take those risks early on and find what I wanted to do—like taking a bunch of obscure film classes—I don’t think I ever would have been in a position where I would have quit my job and put everything on the line just to do something that I was really interested in.”

On his favorite Iowa memory:
“The people I met. I had a little trepidation about meeting people because none of my best friends from high school went to Iowa. But the group of friends I met on campus are still the ones I’m closest with today. The random roommate I had my freshman year was in my wedding, and I was in his wedding.”

On being a Crew Hawk, working for UI Athletics to prep the facilities:
“We’d raise the nets for the extra points, for example, and get the benches set up for the visiting teams. Most students don’t have the opportunity to shoot around in the gym at Carver or mess around on the football field at Kinnick. Getting that behind-the-scenes access was surreal, especially growing up as an Iowa fan. It helped me rediscover my passion for sports.”

On the 2023 Hawkeye football season:
“I think Iowa should compete in the Big Ten West. I always hold out hope that the Hawkeyes will play in the Big Ten championship game in Indianapolis, so I can go down to Lucas Oil Stadium and watch. Getting to Iowa City, especially now that I have a baby, is harder for me now than ever.”

After graduation, Schmit moved home and took a sales job as he assessed his next career move. When he read a tweet from McAfee soliciting video applications for internships at his newly established media company in Indianapolis, Schmit decided to go for it—along with 1,500 other would-be interns.

“I thought there was no way that I was going to get this opportunity, but I got lucky and they liked my video,” he says. “They invited around 70 people to interview in Indianapolis. As soon as I got that email, I quit my job. I put all the chips in the center of the table.”

Schmit was one of 20 who secured an internship that summer and one of seven who were later hired full time. “There were a lot of college kids—I was the oldest by far—and they were looking for an experience to add to their résumés, but I was looking for a full-time job, and that might have given me a leg up.”

After Schmit spent several months writing and blogging for the show, McAfee invited him to be a producer—an opportunity to be on mic.

In 2020, McAfee tweeted, “I’m so incredibly grateful for the gift that is Ty Schmit from Waterloo, Iowa. Your work ethic somehow trumps your hilarity. I appreciate you, brother. Tell Mad Mel, Lou Holtz, Good Ol’ Billy, and the many other hysterical characters you’ve brought to life I said thanks as well.”

The show, which has logged more than 900 episodes, offers something different from other sports talk shows, Schmit says.

“The crux of many of those shows is debate, instantly pitting two people against each other where they’re just arguing and yelling at each other and trying to get their point across,” he says. “Pat’s big thing is that sports are supposed to be a unifier, something that brings people together. We try not to take anything too seriously and just have fun.”

The move to ESPN won’t require the show to change its format or its Midwest location, Schmit says, but there will be less swearing. And there will be technical and scheduling support, including increased access to guests and game clips.

“ESPN is called the worldwide leader in sports for a reason,” he says. “There is so much at their disposal that Pat will no longer have to wake up on the day of the show and wonder what three people he’s going to text and ask to come on the show that day. I think the move will make everyone’s lives easier and allow the show to grow to new heights.”

That said, Schmit says he hasn’t given up on his aspirations to be a screenwriter.

“I think at some point my focus will come back to screenwriting, but I’m going to ride this thing until the wheels fall off—or until we all agree to go our separate ways. It’s too much fun,” he says. “I like the people I work with too much, and it doesn’t feel like an actual job. We continue to grow and have more success, so until I’m asked to leave, there’s no way I’d want to be doing anything else.”