Tim Russert was so many different things. Tim was a big teddy bear of a guy, but he was also a pit bull of an interviewer. He always held people's feet to the fire, often using their past words with great effect to reveal flip-flops or hypocrisy. While Tim was incredibly tenacious, he always did his job with great humanity and respect.
Tim was passionate about the political process and was, in many ways, the navigator-in-chief for so many people. Because he was so knowledgeable, he was able to make politics accessible to millions.
Tim gave me my first network break. I was a local reporter at WRC in Washington, which shares a building with the NBC Washington bureau. Tim asked me to come to his office one day and told me he admired my work, particularly my coverage of Marion Barry, who was then the mayor of D.C.
He liked my "scrappiness" and asked if I was interested in becoming the deputy Pentagon correspondent. He was one of the nicest, most generous colleagues I ever had the pleasure of working with.
I remember when Tim arranged a visit with the Pope when the "Today" show was in Rome--and Tim was the one behind the scenes making it happen. And I remember he was so full of pride. He never forgot where he came from. In his heart, he was a kid from Buffalo who made it to the big time--but never got "too big for his britches," as my mother would say.
I think he used his Dad, Big Russ, to take the temperature of the country. And I remember how he used to call him to ask questions and get feedback.