By BRIAN HAWKINS
ESPN college football analyst Todd Blackledge had barely set foot inside the Little Dooey Friday afternoon when owner Barry Wood handed him a cup of the barbecue restaurant’s famous sweet iced tea.
“He’s got to have that tea,” said Wood with a smile as he greeted the former Penn State star quarterback turned broadcaster known for this “Todd’s Taste of the Town” segments on ESPN.
In the segments, Blackledge visits a local notable restaurant in the city or town where he’s on assignment with ESPN, samples its menu offerings and features the eatery during the game broadcast.
His visit to Starkville for this weekend’s ESPN-televised game between Mississippi State and Arkansas brought him to the Little Dooey, and that suited Wood just fine.
“He called me Thursday morning and said he was coming,” said Wood. “I was at our store in Oxford, so I came on back.”
Blackledge and his crew were taping this week’s “Taste of the Town” segment at the Dooey during the day Friday. Before taping the segment, however, Blackledge visited the restaurant Thursday night to sample its famed cuisine, already a favorite with his ESPN colleagues on the “College Gameday” show — Kirk Herbstreit, Lee Corso and Chris Fowler.
“I tried a little bit of everything on the menu last night. I like to know about the food before I do a segment,” Blackledge said as he made notes for Friday’s taping from one of the Dooey’s famous front porch rocking chairs.
Sampling the array of items on the Dooey menu, Blackledge quickly found his favorites, along with the aforementioned sweet tea.
“I’m a big catfish fan, and I love the pulled pork,” he said.
Blackledge’s “Todd’s Taste of the Town” segment will air during tonight’s MSU game broadcast, most likely during the third quarter, his production staff said.
For Wood and the Little Dooey staff, the televised segment is the latest in a long line of national recognitions the restaurant has received. His friendship with Blackledge makes it even more special, Wood said.
“When I first met Todd four years ago, we became friends. I have been blessed to know him and all the folks from ESPN and all the sports networks,” said Wood. “It’s been a wonderful experience.”