Rob Harvell was born to produce sports television.
The Laurinburg, N.C. native picked up his ABC’s thanks to Sports Illustrated, The Sporting News and Stock Car Racing magazines.
One of Rob’s middle school teachers expressed concern to his mother that Rob watched too much television — the TV was always tuned to ESPN.
It wasn’t just a love of TV for Rob. As a kid, he learned love and compassion for people’s stories and struggles — and the best stories had sports as a backdrop.
After graduating from Appalachian State University with a degree in Communication Broadcasting, Rob’s professional career began in 2005 with an internship at NASCAR Productions.
The NASCAR internship led him to a full time role in 2006, and as a producer Rob oversaw the productions of the opening of the NASCAR Hall of Fame. His tireless dedication to the project caught the eye of renowned filmmaker Rory Karpf, who was beginning production on an ESPN Films documentary on Wendell Scott.
Rob worked with Karpf on Wendell Scott: A Race Story, and went on to produce other projects, including the entire first season of ESPN’s “SEC Storied,” which included Herschel (Herschel Walker), 40 Minutes of Hell (Nolan Richardson), The Play That Changed College Football (1992 SEC Championship Football Game), and Lolo (Lolo Jones).
Rob would add to his production portfolio with an array of other SEC Storied films. Among them were Miracle 3, The Book of Manning (Manning football family), Tigers United (Michael Sam), Dominique Belongs to Us (Dominique Wilkins), Thunder and Lightning (Will Clark, Rafael Palmeiro), Wuerffel’s Way (Danny Wuerffel), Miracles on the Plains (2013 Auburn Football), The Bo You Don’t Know (Bo Rein), Before They Were Cowboys (Jimmy Johnson, Jerry Jones, Barry Switzer), Stacy’s Gift (Stacy Lewis), The Walkoff, and No Experience Required (Texas A&M 12th Man Kickoff Team).
Rob has received the honor to produce high-profile films for ESPN’s “30 for 30” series. Working with First Row Films and director Karpf, Rob produced I Hate Christian Laettner, which was Emmy nominated for best long format sports documentary and “Nature Boy” (Ric Flair) awarded New York Festivals World Medal for Sports Documentary.
In 2016 Rob received a call from filmmaker John Corry to direct and produce a feature documentary film on legendary Florida State football coach Bobby Bowden. The Bowden Dynasty aired in theaters across the nation and remains nationally recognized with many air dates on all ESPN platforms. The film was awarded a Telly Award for Outstanding Sports Television.
As First Row Films built a partnership with the UFC, Rob broadened his portfolio and produced docu-reality series’, Dana White: Lookin’ for a Fight and Evolution of Punk, efforts that became hits in the world of MMA.
Some short film documentaries followed for UFC’s 25th Anniversary, including Country Boy Can Survive (Matt Hughes), Bully Proof (Georges St Pierre) and Bound by Valor.
The pandemic of 2020 did not slow Rob’s work rate — as Rob, with First Row Films productions, traveled to Abu Dhabi for Fight Island to produce the documentary series Declassified: UFC Fight Island.
As the docu-reality style grew, Rob grew with the times. He has since produced Snoop and Son (ESPN), Coach Snoop (NetFlix), and Shaq Life (TNT). Rob has also branched out of the world of sports producing multiple History Channel documentaries, including Secrets in the Sky: The Untold Story of Skunk Works and Ancient Monster Quests, along with Nat Geo’s 6-part series 1989: The Year that Made Us.
Rob, with his colleagues at First Row Films, also teamed with Rob Lowe in the production of Madness in the Hills, a documentary short film airing on Peacock.
At 36, Rob still feels like that kid reading Sports Illustrated and watching ESPN.
He couldn’t get enough then, and he hopes he never gets enough.