The Carolina Panthers announced today that Panthers legend Steve Smith Sr. (analyst), Taylor Zarzour (play-by-play) and Kristen Balboni (secondary reporter) will serve as the TV broadcast team for the pre- 2021 season. The Panthers’ three preseason contests — at Indianapolis (August 15), versus Baltimore (August 21) and versus Pittsburgh (August 27) — will air on Panthers flagship station WSOC-TV in Charlotte and across the Carolinas on the syndicated affiliate team’s Panthers Television Network.
“Steve is one of the greatest Panthers of all time, he’s in our Hall of Honor, and this year he’s up for the Hall of Fame. So obviously we’re thrilled to have him back in the Hall of Fame. building,” Panthers owner David Tepper said. “He’s a huge part of this team’s history, and of course, a big presence in the community. So bringing him closer to both areas is very exciting.
“Steve, Taylor and Kristen bring unique talents to the Panthers broadcast that ensure a high-quality viewing experience for our fans,” added Panthers President Tom Glick. “As one of the greatest Panthers of all time, Steve provides unparalleled perspective and understanding of the game and the team. Taylor is known in the Carolinas and is an intelligent, passionate and confident voice who has Shared great moments with fans across our region and across the country over the course of her career, and Kristen brings insight that’s only available from someone like her who’s embedded with the team every day.
Before retiring in 2017, Smith Sr. played 16 seasons (2001-16) in the NFL, including his first 13 with Carolina. A five-time Pro Bowler, Smith Sr. finished his career with 14,731 receiving yards with the Panthers and Ravens, ranking eighth all-time in NFL history at the time of his retirement. Smith Sr. was inducted into the Panthers’ Hall of Honor in 2019, ending his career as the top wide receiver and returning man in franchise history. He is Carolina’s all-time leader in career receiving yards (12,197), receiving touchdowns (67), total touchdowns (75), scrimmage yards (12,584), all-purpose yards (16,614) and 100-yard receiving games (43). Smith Sr. set a franchise record for most receiving yards in a season (1,563), tied for second in single-season touchdowns (12) and second in single-season receptions (103). Additionally, he’s responsible for some of the most memorable plays in team history, including a game-winning 69-yard touchdown reception – known as the “X-Clown” – in the playoff game of the 2003 NFC Division against the St. Louis Rams during the Panthers’ run to Super Bowl XXXVIII.
Smith Sr. is an NFL Network analyst and appears on various NFL Network platforms and programs, such as the NFL Draft, Combine, Training Camp, “NFL Total Access” and onsite pre/post game coverage of games Thursday night football. He also hosts a podcast on iHeart Radio’s “The Black Effect Podcast Network” titled “Cut To It w/ Steve Smith Sr.”
“I look forward to talking about these games from a former player’s perspective and why these games are important,” said Smith Sr. “For these young men, this is their chance to be part of from the list. Breaking this down and giving some substance and texture to why this matters, I think sometimes it’s missing in game streams. I feel like that’s the opportunity for me to break this down and explain why it matters, and I will try to put this on the table with my unique twist as an analyst.
Zarzour currently serves as a play-by-play commentator for college football and college baseball, working alongside college football analyst Matt Stinchcomb and sideline reporter Alyssa Lang for Saturday afternoon college football games from SECNetwork. Additionally, Zarzour manages and hosts SiriusXM PGA Tour Radio, including all four major championships and the Ryder Cup.
Zarzour has lived in North Carolina since 2004, when he started working as a program director and morning host for Triangle Sports Talk 1490/1090 in Raleigh/Durham. He then became sports director for the Curtis Media Group in Raleigh while hosting his own daily sports talk show. In January 2011, Taylor moved to Charlotte to join 610 WFNZ as host of “The Drive” on weekday afternoons.
Zarzour began his broadcasting career as a sports reporter for WEAR-TV in Pensacola, Florida, and worked as a host at Sports Radio 560 in Nashville, Tennessee, and as a program director and host for Sports Radio 105.5. WNSP in Mobile, Ala.
“I really like the idea of reconnecting with the community. I haven’t had the chance to do that on a daily basis since I was at WFNZ, and being with the Panthers and doing those pre-season games gives me a chance to get back to that,” Zarzour said. “I never stopped living here, I just didn’t spend all day talking about the Panthers like I used to. And when you’re in the community and that you talk to your neighbours, you miss it, so glad to be back.
Balboni returns for his second season with the Panthers preseason broadcast team. She is a reporter for the Panthers’ team, covering the team’s Panthers website and other digital properties and hosting a variety of Panthers programming.
Balboni joined the Panthers in 2020 after working as a studio host and sideline reporter for Stadium, a Chicago-based multiplatform national sports network. Prior to joining Stadium, Balboni worked at FOX Sports as the host of the award-winning digital show “@TheBuzzer.” She began her on-air career at ESPN on the well-known and award-winning morning show “Mike & Mike”.
“I’m thrilled to team up with Steve and Taylor, and the three of us are committed to providing Panthers fans with a great preseason broadcast,” Balboni said. “I can’t wait to get back to the stadium and share this season with fans in person and watch at home on the Panthers TV Network.”