Ben Leber tackles new role at Twin Cities Live.
For many Minnesotans, Ben Leber doesn’t need an introduction. As a former Minnesota Vikings linebacker, he was a fan-favorite during his five years on the team. And that continued off the field, as he became a football analyst in his post-NFL career, drawing people in with his warm demeanor and sense of humor. His infectious smile is disarming and puts you at ease—which is just one of the things that makes him a perfect co-host for KSTP’s afternoon talk show, Twin Cities Live (TCL).
Leber took on this role in June, joining his co-host and TCL veteran Elizabeth Ries. Together, they spend 1.5 hours every afternoon talking about “food, fashion and fun in the Twin Cities.” (Emphasis on the fun.) The duo has a dedicated and engaged audience that has welcomed Leber with open arms. “People adore Ben, and that [was] clear from the beginning,” Ries says. “He really resonates with the audience.”
While food and fashion may not seem like the most natural topics for someone who spent 25 years competing and working in the world of football, Leber says he loves meeting the guests on TCL and learning new things—his innate curiosity shining through. “The amount of people that I’ve met is awesome … I’ve been in the city since 2006, and there’s still so much that I don’t even know that exists here,” Leber says. “The show has taught me a lot about what happens in the Twin Cities and what happens in Minnesota. There’s a lot going on. There’s a lot of really interesting people, so that’s really fun.”
During the search for a new TCL co-host earlier this year, Ries, who is also a co-producer on the show, says she was looking for someone with whom she had good chemistry, someone who was confident in front of a camera, someone who could consistently deliver good content, five days a week and someone who was genuinely curious. In Leber, she found all these qualities. “Who [Ben] is naturally translates so beautifully to what we do,” she says, citing his authenticity as a major factor in that. “He is an open book. On TV, he’s the same as he is off TV … He just is who he is, and that’s a big thing. Authenticity is a huge part of what we do.”
There have certainly been some learning curves along the way for Leber. He cites managing transitions between segments and interviewing guests on the show as the areas that have challenged him the most. “I’m really comfortable interviewing guests for a podcast where it’s long form, and I can ask a question without it being a question and [make] it more of a conversation,” he says. But with TV, Leber notes that “you have to be much more concise” because of time constraints, and, on a live show, you don’t have the opportunity for do-overs—which requires a lot of on-the-fly thinking as an interviewer. “There’s still that part of my brain wanting to find the right question or ask the right question as an interviewer,” Leber says.
Of course, he’s probably being a bit hard on himself. Ries says she was impressed by Leber’s interviewing skills, which she witnessed firsthand when she was a guest on his podcast, Unrestricted with Ben Leber, in 2021, long before he was ever in the running for the TCL gig. “I was so struck by his interviewing skills and how his questions are really nuanced,” Ries says. “He’s really interested in what drives people and what drives them to do what they do, what inspires them to be different or creative.” It was actually because of this that Ries eventually approached him about the job at TCL.
Beyond TCL, Leber spends Monday and Thursday mornings as an on-air personality for The Power Trip Morning Show on 100.3 KFAN, and he also contributes with KFAN’s Dan Barreiro on Mondays and Paul Allen on Thursdays. During football season, he also serves as a sideline analyst for the Minnesota Vikings, both at home and away games.
It’s a natural space for a guy who spent nearly 15 years playing football competitively, first in college and then professionally. Leber was offered a full ride scholarship to play football at Kansas State University under Hall of Fame coach Bill Snyder. After college, he was drafted into the NFL, where he played for the San Diego Chargers, Minnesota Vikings and St. Louis Rams throughout his 10-year career. Upon retiring from the NFL, Leber jumped into being a sports commentator, covering college football for Fox Sports before moving on to Minnesota Vikings football analysis.
Beyond work, Leber also deeply believes in giving back, and for many years he’s worked alongside St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, doing media promotions to raise awareness for its mission—one that’s very personal to him.
Leber’s nephew was diagnosed with brain cancer as a baby. “He had initial treatment and surgery in Louisville, Kentucky, where [my brother and his wife] live, but it was an aggressive, rare form,” Leber says. His nephew was accepted to St. Jude in Memphis, where we underwent more testing, surgeries and treatments. Despite all this, he passed away before the age of 2.
“Because of that, we saw what St. Jude did for my brother and his wife,” Leber says. “They didn’t walk away with any medical bills from the care that they got there.” He witnessed firsthand what an impact St. Jude made in the lives of his brother and sister-in-law and was deeply moved. “So when the opportunity came up to work with them, [it was] a no-brainer. You can actually physically see where the money goes and how they help not just the patient, but the family.” It’s not day-to-day involvement with the organization, but it’s work that he’s deeply passionate about and continues to make time for, year after year.
Needless to say, Leber keeps a busy schedule. But no matter what he has going on in his professional life, he always prioritizes time with his family—which includes his wife, Abby, his daughter, Ames, and his two sons, Witten and Wells. In the mornings, he helps bring the kids to school on days he’s not at the radio station. And when TCL ends at 5 p.m., “it’s a race out of there to whatever the next activity is—picking kids up or watching their game or coach[ing] a game,” he says. “I coach my kids in a lot of their sports.”
After all the daily activities, Leber says his family makes time to hang out and connect. “We do a lot of movie nights. My kids love just popping popcorn and hanging out,” he says. “And I enjoy it, too. It’s one of my favorite things to do … find[ing] a show that we all can watch and just get involved and hang out. [We’re] kind of homebodies when it comes to that stuff, but I think it’s because we are so busy.”
Leber’s children have followed in his athletic footsteps. Ames is an equestrian rider—a jumper—and also plays volleyball and flag football. The boys are in baseball, Taekwondo, basketball and hockey, and Wells also plays soccer. In light of all this activity, Leber says, “We don’t have time to do anything else other than sit and watch a show.” But they do it together, which is the important part to Leber. During these family hangouts, the family is often joined by their three dogs (one Great Dane and two malshis), two cats and a guinea pig.
They may be homebodies, but they do enjoy living in Edina and having access to all the Twin Cities has to offer. Leber and his wife initially moved to Minnesota when he signed with the Minnesota Vikings, but even when he played his last season in St. Louis, his wife and kids kept Minnesota as their home base. Once he retired from the NFL, the family considered moving, but he and Abby decided the Twin Cities was “a great place to raise kids. And we felt like it kind of checked every box … it is sort of a hidden gem of the country. It’s got everything you need from sports and entertainment to arts and theater to restaurants and school systems,” he says. So they stayed.
And in terms of how they ended up in Edina, specifically? Their family loves how Edina offers “proximity to everything,” which is a big reason they haven’t left. They enjoy how nearly everything is a bike ride or walking distance away, while still being close to downtown Minneapolis and the airport. “I just thought the modern conveniences were the most impressive in the city, and it was safe and it was clean. And we didn’t know where we were going to send our kids [for school], but whether it was public or private, we have access to everything within five minutes, so it just seemed like it was the best fit overall,” Leber says. “It was just dumb luck that we ended up in Edina, and we’ve never left.”
My mom is going to hate me saying this because I love her Korean food but anything Mexican. I love tacos and nachos and stuff like that. I could eat a taco every day.
Right now, my number one author is probably Jack Car.
The Bahamas. We go there every year to Harbor Island, Bahamas. We’ve been going there for 20 years.
I really loved Mace Curran. She’s a fighter pilot. She just retired from the Thunderbird demo team. She’s great. Ryan Longwell, one of my former teammates.