Mikey Brannigan was one of the best prep middle-distance runners in the nation when he graduated from Northport High School earlier this year. But he is not currently enrolled in college despite plenty of early recruiting interest.
The reason he is not running in college is autism, with which he was diagnosed as a toddler and which prevented him from successfully completing the sorts of standardized tests required of college-bound student-athletes.
It is a story ESPN’s “E:60” will bring to a national audience Tuesday night with a 14-minute segment in which Jeremy Schaap interviews Brannigan, who at times seems to struggle with fielding his questions but at other times answers with insight and wit.
“Interviewing Mikey is challenging,” Schaap said. “He doesn’t have the ability to express himself the way most of us do and he doesn’t pick up on things like sarcasm or irony. He is, in his way, purer than most of us. Very literal.
“So you have to communicate with him in a more direct way than you might otherwise. But he is also open and honest in a way that can be disarming — and refreshing. I think we see the real Mikey in our interview.”
Schaap said a story in Sports Illustrated earlier this year attracted the interest of ESPN producer John Minton, who is originally from Commack, and led to the “E:60” feature.
He said Minton and producer Brian Rivera have spent time getting to know Brannigan in recent months and shooting footage of him in various locations, including at home on Long Island.
Schaap spent one day interviewing Brannigan and his parents, Kevin and Edie, and called them all “remarkable people.”
“I would say my conversations with his mom and dad rank right up there as two of the most powerful interviews I have ever conducted — no thanks to me,” he said. “They’re just really thoughtful, admirable and well-spoken. Because they came to trust John and Brian, they were willing to open up to me.”
Schaap also credited important work on the piece to Mike Johns in post-production and Paul Carruthers in editing.
In the piece, Brannigan says his goal is to secure a place on the United States Olympic team for the Tokyo Games in 2020.