The Carolina Panthers today announced that Panthers Legend Steve Smith Sr. (analyst), Taylor Zarzour (play-by-play) and Kristen Balboni (sideline reporter) will serve as the television broadcast team for the 2021 preseason. The Panthers’ three preseason contests – at Indianapolis (Aug. 15), vs. Baltimore (Aug. 21) and vs. Pittsburgh (Aug. 27) – will be seen on the Panthers’ flagship station WSOC-TV in Charlotte and across the Carolinas on the team’s Panthers TV Network of syndicated affiliates.
“Steve’s one of the greatest Panthers ever, he’s in our Hall of Honor, and this year, he’s up for the Hall of Fame. So we’re obviously thrilled to have him back in the building,” Panthers Owner David Tepper said. “He’s an important part of this team’s history, and of course, a big presence in the community. So connecting him closer to both areas is very exciting.”
“Steve, Taylor and Kristen bring unique talents to the Panthers’ broadcast that ensures a high-quality viewing experience for our fans,” added Panthers President Tom Glick. “As one of the greatest Panthers of all time, Steve provides perspective and understanding of the game and the team that is unmatched. Taylor is known across the Carolinas and is a smart, passionate and trusted voice who has shared big moments with fans throughout our region and the entire country during his career, and Kristen brings insight that is only available from someone like her who is 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 total 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, finishing his career as the best wide receiver and return 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 touchdowns in a season (12) and ranked second in receptions in a season (103). In addition, he is responsible for some of the most memorable plays in team history, including a game-winning 69-yard touchdown reception – known as “X-Clown” – in the 2003 NFC Divisional Playoff game against the St. Louis Rams during the Panthers’ run to Super Bowl XXXVIII.
Smith Sr. is an analyst with NFL Network and appears on various NFL Network platforms and programs, such as the NFL Draft, Combine, Training Camp, “NFL Total Access,” and on-location pregame/postgame coverage of Thursday Night Football games. He also hosts a podcast on iHeart Radio’s “The Black Effect Podcast Network” titled “Cut To It w/ Steve Smith Sr.”
“I’m looking forward to talking about these games from a former player’s perspective and why these games are significant,” Smith Sr. said. “For these young men, this is their chance to make the roster. Breaking that down and giving some substance and texture to why that is important, I think sometimes that lacks in game broadcasts. I feel like this is my opportunity to break that down and explain why this is important, and I’ll try to bring that to the table with my unique spin 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 SEC Network’s Saturday afternoon college football matchups. In addition, Zarzour manages and serves as a host on SiriusXM PGA Tour Radio, including all four major championships and The Ryder Cup.
Zarzour has lived in North Carolina since 2004, when he began working as the Program Director and Morning Host for Triangle Sports Talk 1490/1090 in Raleigh/Durham. He later became the Sports Director for Curtis Media Group in Raleigh while also hosting his own daily sports talk show. In January 2011, Taylor moved to Charlotte to join 610 WFNZ as the host of “The Drive” on weekday afternoons.
Zarzour began his broadcasting career as a sports reporter for WEAR-TV in Pensacola, Fla., and worked as a host at Sports Radio 560 in Nashville, Tenn., and as the program director and a host for Sports Radio 105.5 WNSP in Mobile, Ala.
“I really enjoy the idea of connecting with the community again. 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 these preseason games gives me a chance to get back to that,” Zarzour said. “I never stopped living here, I just wasn’t spending all day every day talking about the Panthers the way I used to. And when you’re out in the community and talking to your neighbors, you miss that, so I’m excited to get back in.”
Balboni returns for her second season with the Panthers’ preseason broadcast team. She is the Panthers’ team reporter, covering the team for the 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 national multi-platform sports network based in Chicago. Before 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 as part of the well-known and award-winning morning show “Mike & Mike.”
“I’m thrilled to be teaming up with Steve and Taylor, and the three of us are committed to bringing Panthers fans a great preseason broadcast,” Balboni said. “I’m looking forward to getting back to the stadium and sharing this season with fans in person and watching at home on the Panthers TV Network.”