Sydney Woerner interviews wives, siblings, and family members of professional athletes giving perspective — and a healthy dose of reality — on life, love, and careers in sports.
Every NFL player has their own story from the NFL Draft. But, if Charlie Woerner’s draft night was any indication of what was to come, it was that his journey was going to be a unique one with plenty of highs, and a few bumps along the way.
Woerner’s draft party was Georgia to a “T”, pun intended. His and his fiancè-at-the-time’s family members huddled up at the Woerner’s home with Bojangles sweet tea, chicken, and biscuits. At the same time, the University of Georgia product patiently waited to learn where — if anywhere — he was headed.
Unlike what you see on TV broadcasts of the NFL Draft, it wasn’t one call that changed Charlie’s life, but rather two missed calls from a California number. The standout tight end had just broken his phone and was using an eBay replacement.
It was Day 3 of the Draft, and the picks kept rolling in. He thought he was going undrafted until Sydney, his now-wife, saw two missed calls on his phone. Charlie called back but had no luck with spotty service at his home. Luckily Sydney’s phone worked just enough to get through to the 49ers who gave him the news: they were picking him up in the sixth round.
That’s the fun stuff. But now, the Woerners were focused on moving their lives from the Southeast to Santa Clara and launching Charlie’s NFL career — amid a global pandemic.
While the outlook of the 2020 NFL season was unclear at the time, Charlie and Sydney were excited about the new journey ahead. Sydney, a former college athlete herself, was handling a lot of the logistics of getting them to the West Coast.
“I was still finishing my degree,” said Sydney Woerner. “I just didn’t know what to expect, where to live. We couldn’t check out an apartment and then come back. So there were little bits and pieces where I was like, I really wish there was something out there that would help me figure it all out.”
Sydney had a lot of questions about life as the partner of a now-professional athlete and wasn’t sure where to turn. She found herself going to other 49ers’ wives and girlfriends, and even women from other franchises. She was getting a lot of good information and knew she had to consolidate that so other women entering the league could reference it, too.
“That’s how Behind the Helmet was formed. I needed to do something to help other women because I know other people were feeling that, too,” said Sydney.
“Behind the Helmet” is Sydney’s new podcast that she officially launched in late September of this year. In the first four episodes, Sydney and Charlie walked through transitioning from college to the NFL, their Draft night story, what happens during a Bye Week, and managing a new marriage and football in their rookie season.
“There are spaces where they talk to the guys and get their perspective of their day-to-day life. I think that’s important because a lot of what they do is misinterpreted or not fully understood,” said Sydney. “That’s why I wanted to have Charlie on for the first couple of episodes to have him walk through things that I guess most people don’t see.”
From there, Sydney’s now dove into conversation with women around the league including Tom Compton’s wife Tiffany (a former ER nurse, now mom), practice-squader Tanner Hudson’s partner Karley Weatherly (who pursued a Masters degree on the road), Giants’ Evan Engram’s sister Mackenzie, and Packers’ Oren Burks’ wife Jocelyn, who runs a luxury brand and web design business.
“I don’t want to just get headliner names. I want every part of an organization to be represented, whether that be practice squad, a starter, maybe retired in the league. There are so many stories to be heard,” said Sydney. “The worst case now is that I find women to interview, and I get to learn from them. Even if nobody else listens to it, at least I have a mentor in that space.”
While the podcast is young, Sydney’s gotten solid feedback from family, friends, and other women in the league.
“My family will be very honest. Like, ‘You need to explain this better. Or maybe try saying something along these lines to help people understand that,’” said Sydney. “They offer very good constructive criticism that I appreciate. What I’m trying to shift from is just having family and friends to finding new listeners and gaining their perspective. So hopefully, the more podcasts I can put out, more people will listen.”
The podcast has become one of her purposes while navigating life as the partner of a professional athlete, and she said she’s determined to make it successful in the long term. To do that, she plans to branch out.
“There are so many times that I’m laying in bed at night and my brain is popping off about so many ideas,” said Sydney. “I would love for it to grow beyond football.”
Even though it’s called “Behind the Helmet”, Sydney hopes to include sports that of course, don’t wear a helmet.
“I understand the football realm of everything the best, but I would love to see hockey, baseball, basketball, soccer, even though they don’t wear a helmet,” said Sydney. “That would just be fun.”
While the focus of the podcast is life, careers, and relationships, Sydney’s main goal is to give a glimpse of reality, a peak behind the curtain of life in the NFL when the stadium lights are off, and everyone goes home, and anything is fair game.
To listen, search “Behind the Helmet” on your chosen podcasting platform, or find the podcast on Instagram @behind.the.helmet.