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From Canadian QB to American TV Star: Jesse Palmer’s Unlikely Journey Explored at After the Final Rose

LOS ANGELES — It’s not often that you see a group of beautiful, mid-20s women excitedly giggling and waving unless it’s in a boy-band scenario or a cheesy Hollywood movie. But this is Jesse Palmer we’re talking about, so this is just a typical Wednesday afternoon for him.

As a handsome television star, Palmer has earned the experience of being greeted by throngs of adoring fans, and you can witness this multiple times over the course of a few days spent with him. We find ourselves deep in the canyons of Malibu, where Palmer is carefully driving his Audi rental car towards a remote ranch that also serves as a popular filming location. In just over 24 hours, he will be appearing on ABC primetime television as the host of the new show “Golden Bachelor,” followed by an appearance on “Bachelor in Paradise.” But today, we’re here for the filming of Season 28 of “The Bachelor” itself, which is set to air in early 2024. It’s a season where a lucky young man will embark on a journey to find love among an even larger group of women. Together, it’s a perfect snapshot of the ongoing cycle of “The Bachelor” and its various spin-offs.

Palmer is no stranger to this territory, having been the star of “The Bachelor” himself almost two decades ago. Now, at the age of 45, with hints of gray in his perfectly styled hair and well-groomed stubble, he is back as the consummate host of a television franchise that has become a monolith in the world of broadcast television. It’s also the most high-profile of Palmer’s many public-facing roles. In addition to his hosting duties, he is a longtime college football analyst and color commentator for ESPN, the host of various seasonal baking competitions on the Food Network, and a spokesperson for brands like Rooms To Go and Avocados From Mexico.

“It’s pretty hectic, but I don’t let the schedule overwhelm me. If all I did was look at my calendar, I’d go crazy. It’s brutal,” says Palmer, looking effortlessly stylish in jeans and a white polo shirt. “So you just have to have that quarterback mentality: Play the next play. I know it’s a terrible football analogy, but it’s true.”

As we explore the Malibu ranch and its surrounding property, which is about 30 minutes away from the famous “Bachelor” mansion in Agoura Hills, we see production staff setting up for a group date. Eight contestants will be competing for the attention and affection of Joey Graziadei, a 28-year-old tennis instructor. They will participate in a makeshift doubles tennis tournament called “The Bachelor Open,” after which the winners will “get to go to a hot tub with Joey or something like that,” according to Palmer. “Naturally.”

The whole event is highly produced, including the on-court action that vaguely resembles tennis. But Palmer fully embraces it, delivering cheesy puns from a pop-up broadcast booth as he commentates the tournament.

“Joey is looking for his doubles partner in life,” he says with a straight face.

It’s an enlightening glimpse into the reality TV formula of long days of filming for just a few minutes of television.

In the midst of it all, Palmer takes breaks to prepare for his weekend job. In two days, he will be flying from Los Angeles to Lexington, Kentucky, where he will serve as the ESPN color analyst for the Kentucky Wildcats’ game against Florida, his alma mater. Back in Malibu, you can occasionally spot Palmer huddled in a corner with his trusty iPad, taking meticulous notes while reviewing game footage. “The Bachelor” may be at the top of his list of roles, but football will always be Palmer’s first love and the thing that launched his television career.

“I didn’t know much about ‘The Bachelor’ before I was a contestant, but I knew Jesse because I love college football,” says Graziadei, who hangs around craft services between matches. “He’s a very versatile guy.”

This is all part of the non-stop, multi-faceted fantasy life that Palmer has built for himself. Off-screen, he is a food enthusiast who loves to indulge and travel with his wife, Emely Fardo, a Brazilian model. On-screen, he interacts with everyone from Deion Sanders to the Pioneer Woman to young women ready to settle down.

In a time when the relationship between Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce has garnered attention from both the sports and entertainment worlds, Palmer stands as someone who has already transcended geographic and demographic boundaries in American pop culture. He’s America’s favorite and most ubiquitous quarterback, whether people realize it or not.

Palmer reveals that one of the best things that happened in his life is something he had no control over: being selected by the New York Giants in the fourth round of the 2001 NFL Draft.

Having moved from Canada to Gainesville, Florida, to play for legendary Gators coach Steve Spurrier, Palmer experienced a culture shock when he arrived in New York City. However, he embraced it, exploring the different neighborhoods and learning about the city’s history and architecture. He also extended his curiosity beyond the city’s borders, embarking on a solo month-long trip to Europe after his rookie season, visiting cities like Paris, Budapest, and Stockholm. This experience sparked his interest in food and fashion, as well as his love for oaky red wines and ostrich loafers.

“I became more curious and confident,” says Palmer. “Football had consumed my entire life until that point, and the sport controlled my emotions. Now, I’m traveling to all these places and living in a city that is a hub of food and culture. It opened up many other passions for me.”

New York also led him to Season 5 of “The Bachelor” in 2004. The show was looking for an athlete to feature, and Palmer, as a good-looking quarterback from the country’s biggest sport and biggest city, was an ideal choice. At just 25 years old, he was worried about how his teammates and coaches would perceive him, thinking they might not take his football career seriously. But his desire for adventure and his “say yes” mentality outweighed any concerns he had.

“I always told my kids that life is an adventure,” says Palmer’s father, Bill. “Everything for me is an experience. Enjoy the journey.”

Jesse Palmer grew up in Nepean, Ontario, as the oldest of three boys. His mother, Susan, was a model and later ran her own modeling agency, while his father, Bill, worked in construction after playing linebacker in the Canadian Football League for six seasons. Palmer would often go through his parents’ closet, looking at old uniforms and pictures from his dad’s playing days. This is how a young boy in a hockey-obsessed province developed a passion for playing professional football.

Palmer was a smart and talented child. He attended a French immersion school and is still fluent in the language, in addition to knowing some German and Portuguese. Susan sent him to drama camp every summer and used him as a model in back-to-school advertisements. Palmer even used to reenact scenes from “Pee-wee’s Playhouse” with his younger brother after dinner.

“Even in the hospital after he was born, I had this feeling that he would make something of his name and do well in life,” says Susan.

Unfortunately, Palmer didn’t find love on “The Bachelor.” His final rose went to a 22-year-old student named Jessica, but their relationship only lasted a few weeks. The show filmed during the offseason, and when it aired in the fall of 2004, it instantly catapulted Palmer into the spotlight, surpassing the fame of any other backup quarterback in the league.

He continued to play in the NFL until 2006, after which his recognition and experience in front of the camera led to opportunities in commentating. Palmer signed with ESPN in 2007, where he has worked as a studio and game analyst for 17 seasons, including their Thursday night primetime telecasts and alongside Brent Musburger on the SEC Network since its launch in 2014.

This was around the same time that another pivotal moment occurred in Palmer’s life. He was calling two games a week during the…

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