Meet Russ Dlin, the Columbia man behind your favorite football stats

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Russ Dlin, an Owings Mills High graduate and Columbia resident, has been an instrumental behind-the-scenes cog in CBS Sports’ coverage of the NFL and NCAA men’s basketball games and ESPN’s broadcasts of college football, basketball and lacrosse games.

Russ Dlin can remember his 8-year-old self grabbing the newspaper every morning and scouring the sports section inside his family’s home in Reisterstown. Of particular interest were the box scores from baseball, basketball and football games.

“I just had this thing for statistics,” he recalled. “I was always interested in seeing how players did — whether the guy went 5-for-5 or 0-for-5.”


That fondness has served Dlin well. This fall is the Columbia resident’s 30th as a statistician covering professional football games, working for CBS Sports. On Sunday, he will contribute to the network’s broadcast of the Ravens’ game against the Houston Texans with play-by-play announcer Spero Dedes, analyst and former St. Louis Rams safety Adam Archuleta and sideline reporter Aditi Kinkhabwala.

Dlin, 52, also compiles statistics for ESPN’s coverage of college football, basketball and lacrosse games. He has earned the respect of some of the industry’s most popular broadcasters.


“He’s a pro’s pro,” former Oakland Raiders quarterback and current CBS Sports analyst Rich Gannon said.

“He was born to do what he does,” Dedes said.

Dlin’s path to sports statistician wasn’t obvious. A three-sport standout who graduated from Owings Mills High in 1989, he played football and baseball as a freshman at West Chester University but had to drop both sports after his grades suffered.

The summer before he was scheduled to graduate in December 1993 with a bachelor’s in speech communication, Dlin needed to fulfill an internship requirement. So he applied to the sports departments of all four TV stations in Baltimore, and only WBAL’s Gerry Sandusky agreed to hire Dlin.

“All I’ve ever asked of interns is, have great energy, are you willing to learn, and will you check your ego at the door, and he checked all those boxes and more,” said Sandusky, who is the station’s sports director and a play-by-play announcer for Ravens games.

In 1994, Dlin was recruited by Mike Gathagan, a former media relations employee for the Baltimore Stallions, the Canadian Football League team, and current senior associate athletic director in charge of communications for Towson’s athletic department, to work as a statistician for ESPN’s broadcast of a Stallions game. The $100 pay outweighed any reticence Dlin had about the job.

“I had no idea what I was doing,” he said. “The play-by-play guy was Gus Johnson, and the color analyst was Mike Mayock. So I did the game, and after the game, Mike Mayock and Gus Johnson were like, ‘Hey, we’ve got a game next week. Can you come back?’”

CBS Sports play-by-play announcer Gus Johnson, left, and Russ Dlin pose for a photo.

Dlin’s work with ESPN led to him helping the network’s coverage of Washington Capitals games (he was there for the Capitals’ 3-2 four-overtime loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 4 of the 1996 NHL playoffs) and CBS Sports’ broadcast of the NCAA Tournament (he was nearly bowled over by Allen Iverson during Georgetown’s 86-62 loss to Marcus Camby and Massachusetts in an East Regional final in 1996).


Dlin said two of his favorite memories involve first career starts for NFL quarterbacks. He was the statistician Sept. 12, 1999, when Kurt Warner completed 28 of 44 passes for 309 yards and three touchdowns and two interceptions in the St. Louis Rams’ 27-10 win against the Ravens, which marked Brian Billick’s coaching debut.

“I’ll never forget [Ravens outside linebacker] Peter Boulware coming out the week before in the newspaper saying how he was going to kill Kurt Warner,” Dlin said. “And Kurt Warner sliced them and diced them.”

Dlin was also there Sept. 30, 2001, when Tom Brady connected on just 13 of 23 passes for 168 yards, but the New England Patriots thumped the Indianapolis Colts and Peyton Manning, 44-13 — igniting a debate between Dlin and former San Francisco 49ers tight end Brent Jones.

“After that game, Brent Jones said, ‘This guy is a Hall of Famer,’” he said. “I’m like, ‘You’re out of your mind.’ Brent goes, ‘Listen, I caught passes from Joe Montana and Steve Young. Do you see the way the ball leaves this guy’s hand?’ Brent knew what he was talking about.”

So does Dlin, according to his colleagues. ESPN and CBS Sports play-by-play broadcaster Beth Mowins recalled Dlin correctly pointing out during a 94-yard punt return for a touchdown by Memphis, the Tigers had two players on the field wearing the same number, which is illegal. But officials did not negate the touchdown that eventually contributed to Memphis’ 31-29 win against Mississippi State on Sept. 18, 2021.

“He had that nailed before anybody else even knew,” Mowins said. “He had the replay, the camera for the replay, where the two guys were.”

CBS Sports play-by-play announcer Ian Eagle, right, said the relationship between broadcasters and statisticians is built on chemistry and trust. He said Russ Dlin’s profile as a trustworthy statistician makes him a favorite among his peers.

Dedes said he and Dlin have developed a sixth sense working with each other for almost 10 years.

“We could be talking about [Ravens quarterback] Lamar Jackson’s success on third down, and Russ is already writing something down on a piece of paper to supplement the conversation I’m having with my analyst before I can take off my headset and say, ‘Hey, Russ, I need their third-down stats for the last two weeks,’” he said. “That’s what sets him apart.”

CBS Sports play-by-play announcer Ian Eagle said the relationship between broadcasters and statisticians is built on chemistry and trust. He said Dlin’s profile as a trustworthy statistician makes him a favorite among his peers.

“That’s a reputation that has been built over many years,” he said. “It doesn’t happen overnight. When his name is on that sheet, you know you’re going to be covered.”

Gannon said he marvels at Dlin’s level of preparation, which helps him have information at his fingertips rather than searching for it online during the game. Gannon said Dlin is also unflappable.

“You’ve got a play-by-play guy looking to you for the answer, and I’ve seen some of them fold under pressure,” he said. “But not a guy like Russ.”


Dlin, who is a local area sales manager for Milestone Hotels on weekdays, said some of his favorite broadcasters are Jim Lampley (“He knew everything off the top of his head.”), Johnson (“Gus, in my opinion, was terrific when it came down to the last minute.”), and Mowins (“Beth knows every player’s dad’s uncle’s sister’s dog’s name.”). He said he learned his most valuable lesson from Marv Albert.

“He said, ‘Don’t give me that somebody is 5-for-5 in passing. I don’t care. Don’t give me the petty stuff. Give me something that somebody at home is going to say wow,’” Dlin said. “I was like, ‘You know what? You make a good point.’”

For all of his success, Dlin knows he shines when the broadcast shines.

“The more information I know, the better off the broadcast is going to be,” he said. “It’s not just about showing up at a game and keeping track of the numbers. It’s going the extra mile.”