NBC Sports sideline reporter Michele Tafoya, who will be on the field for the Super Bowl between the New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday, is married to Mark Vandersall, a Minnesota native.
Tafoya, 53, and Vandersall, 46, have been married since 2000 and have two children together. They live in Edina, Minnesota.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Vandersall Played Baseball at the University of Minnesota & Went to Armstrong High School in Plymouth
Mark Vandersall is a Minnesota native. He graduated from Robbinsdale Armstrong High School in Plymouth, where he was an All-Conference football player in 1989 and a baseball star, before graduating in 1990, according to the school’s website.
After high school, Vandersall, pictured above, left, played college baseball at the University of Minnesota. He was named an honorable mention Freshman All-American pitcher by Mizuno. His sister, Kristen, was a gymnast for the Gophers.
His father, Bruce Vandersall, who died in 2016, was the linebackers coach and defensive coordinator at the University of Minnesota from 1973 to 1982.
Vandersall and his family are still connected to the Gophers athletic program, with his Twitter feed filled with photos and pictures at football, baseball, basketball and other events with his children and wife.
2. Tafoya & Vandersall Met in 1993 When She Was Working at the Minnesota Radio Station KFAN
Michele Tafoya, a California native who attended the University of California-Berkeley and the University of Southern California, met Mark Vandersall in 1993 while she was working as a host and reporter at the Minnesota radio station KFAN-AM, according to KARE-TV. Tafoya was the Minnesota Vikings sideline reporter for the radio station and also covered University of Minnesota women’s basketball games.
Tafoya told the Minnesota Star Tribune that it was 30 below when she arrived in 1993 and she vowed to stay for a year. Instead, she fell in love with the state, and later her now-husband, and never left.
“…Spring came, and it was a revelation,” she told the newspaper in October 2017. “This brown-and-white world changed to green, and blue, and yellow. I’m seeing tulips! I’m seeing baby ducklings walk across the street!”
Tafoya and her husband live in Edina. In 2016, VICE Sports asked Tafoya in 2016 how she wound up becoming a Minnesota mom after growing up in California.
“Great question. People still ask me that. “You ‘re from Manhattan Beach and you live in Minneapolis? What happened? I usually say that I got really, really bored with all that perfect weather out there in California, so I decided to move somewhere more challenging, but in this business, as you know, you bounce around,” she told VICE .”You find that next big market and that’s kind of what I did. Along my climb I wound up in Minneapolis covering the Vikings and that’s when I got hired for my first network job, which was CBS. I met my husband here in Minnesota and it’s a great place to raise our family, so here we stay. I really do like it here, but there are a couple weeks each winter where I want to stab my eye out. But other than that, it’s pretty good.”
3. They Have a Son, Tyler, & a Daughter, Olivia, Who Was Adopted From Colombia
Mark Vandersall and Michele Tafoya have two children together, a son, Tyler, born in 2005, and a daughter, Olivia, who they adopted from Colombia in 2009 as a newborn. But the couple had a difficult path to starting a family. According to WCCO-TV, Tafoya and Vandersall went through two miscarriages in one year. They then saw a fertility specialist, and she became pregnant with twins through in vitro fertilization, but miscarried again.
“You’re pregnant with these babies and then they go away,” she told WCCO in 2007.
Tafoya told Modern Mom:
Balancing family with career is every working mom’s struggle. By the time I got married I was 35, and my window for childbearing was closing. After losing four babies to miscarriage, my husband and I were losing hope. Miraculously, I got pregnant at 40 and gave birth to my son just before I turned 41. That struggle to have children changed my priorities. And having my son made me want to travel less. When he turned two, I quit my role as the lead sideline reporter on the NBA on ABC. Shortly thereafter, we adopted a beautiful baby girl from Colombia, South America. Our family is complete, and I don’t want to miss anything.
I missed a good part of my second season on Monday Night Football (after giving birth in 2005). That was extremely difficult. But it gave me a better understanding of why athletes get so frustrated having to miss games with injuries. But Disney/ESPN/ABC were wonderful allowing me to spend the first six months of my son’s life with him! I wouldn’t trade that for anything. Similarly, they allowed me to take two months to live in Bogota, Colombia, while we adopted our daughter. That was a phenomenal experience. The biggest professional sacrifice I made was walking away from my NBA assignment. It was a plumb job that paid well. But my husband and I agreed that I was giving up too much of the intrinsic value I derive from being with my children.
In an interview with Edina Magazine, the Tafoya talked more about the adoption process.
“Meeting her was a powerful moment,” she told the magazine. “She was sleeping, looked up and smiled at us. She hasn’t stopped smiling since.”
The couple’s kids have been lifelong fans of her on-air career, she told Modern Mom in 2012:
You know, the other day my six-year-old son asked me, ‘Mom, who do you work for again?’ and I said ‘NBC sports’ and he goes, ‘cuz one of the kindergarten teachers said she saw you on TV.’ Now, he definitely knows that I’m on TV but I don’t think he realizes that anyone else knows. But overall, it doesn’t really phase him. I mean, it’s always been this way for him. Shortly after he was born, I did my first Super Bowl and we took him along.
My daughter is only three, so for her it’s more of just seeing me on the TV and getting excited. It’s funny because when I’m home – and I could be right there in the living room with her – and we turn on any other kind of football game that I’m not covering, she’ll point and go ‘Mommy!’ because she thinks, oh, football – Mommy should be there.
Tafoya told VICE that her children keep her busy.
“Well. What keeps me most busy are my kids. I have two young kids. They are eleven and eight. I hate being away from them and so, when I’m home, I’m trying to get everything done while they’re at school so that I can be present when they are home. For any parent out there reading this, you know that doesn’t always work that well. It’s busy, but I wouldn’t have it any other way,” she told VICE Sports in 2016.
4. Vandersall Works as a Private Wealth Advisor
Mark Vandersall graduated from the University of Minnesota in 1995 with a degree in finance, according to his Linkedin profile. He has worked as a private wealth advisor with Ameriprise Financial Services in Edina since his graduation.
“The foundation of my approach to financial planning is based on a personal relationship with my clients. Through this relationship we work together to develop a personalized strategy – a plan of attack to help them achieve their financial goals and dreams,” he wrote on Linkedin. Vandersall runs his own office, Vandersall & Associates, according to Ameriprise’s website.
Tafoya said she and her husband have figured out how to make her career, which includes a lot of travel, and his work, while raising two children.
“Actually, I used to have a full-time radio show, and I finally had to give it up because it just became too much for the entire family. Mom was gone too much,” she told Modern Mom in 2012. “I’m hoping that now I’ll find a better balance, because it wasn’t the best thing for my family for me to be working too much. Some people have to work two or three jobs to stay afloat and some moms are single moms who have to do it all. In my case, I’m very lucky – my husband works and I both work so we have a two income household. We were very fortunate that I was able to slow it down.”
5. Tafoya Said She Was Looking Forward to Minnesota Being in the Spotlight During the Super Bowl
Michele Tafoya told the St. Paul Pioneer Press that she is excited about introducing her husband’s native Minnesota and adopted home state to the world during the Super Bowl, a place she has called home for more tha two decades.
“I remember going out and I’m like, ‘I’m running in 18 degrees, I have clearly turned the corner,'” Tafoya told the newspaper about a moment nearly 17 years ago. “I have gloves on and I’m running. … I went home and I texted my mom, ‘I am now Minnesotan, there’s just no way around it.'”
She told the Pioneer Press, “These are some of the greatest people you’re ever going to want to meet. … I want them all to tune into this game so they can discover why.”
Tafoya told the newspaper that she has fallen in love with the University of Minnesota through her husband, and flies a Gophers flag in her front yard in Edina.
“There is so much richness to Minnesota that people don’t know about, and in some ways, we kind of prefer it that way because we’re kind of in our own place,” Tafoya told the Pioneer Press. “But I am so proud about what happens here on a day-to-day, year-to-year basis that I’m really excited people get to see more of it and see how dang beautiful the stadium is. Oh my gosh, it’s beautiful.”