An Experience of a Lifetime: Covering Super Bowl 52
Almost six years ago, I started a journey – to cover every football event possible as a young journalist. I sat in my living room watching film and eating ice cream. My mom would ask me, “what are you doing?” My response every time: “watching film.” Every day in the summer, I wrote articles and analyzed football. I viewed coaching videos and continued learning. Why would any kid do this? I listened to the words of my mentors, who told me to keep writing and learning because reps and hard work could open doors.
Little did I know, the creation of a website as a 16-year-old was just the beginning of more than 2,000 days of opportunities. It started with getting access to cover Vikings training camp and interviewing Chad Greenway for my first official feature story. Along the way, there have been small opportunities, which continued to grow in magnitude every year. Vikings training camp, the NFL Draft, Gopher football/basketball games and the NCAA tournament were just a few events I had the chance to cover. I never thought I would have the chance to be credentialed for a Super Bowl as a 21-year-old college student. So much hard work put me in a unique position.
I submitted the request a few months before the game and figured it was a shot in the dark. Through the years, I had written hundreds of articles and gradually gained experience. All of the nights I would read articles, watch coaching videos and connect with others in the industry had led me to this point in my young career. I waited for weeks to find out whether I would have the chance to cover my first Super Bowl in Minneapolis.
Fast forward to mid-December.
I had just returned home to help with a presentation at my local high school. I just tied my bowtie and was getting ready to leave for the event. Moments later, I looked down at my phone. It was an email from the NFL. I didn’t even have time to think what the answer could be. I was moving in slow motion to open the notification. I looked down and realized I was approved to cover the Super Bowl. Everything froze around me because a childhood dream was coming true right in front of my eyes. Reality was suddenly impossible to find. It was like a Christmas present from above.
I’ll never forget my reaction as I screamed “yes,"dropped a fist bump and high-fived my parents. I read the email about 20 times to make sure there wasn’t a mistake. In a way, it was fitting I found out the news back home, just minutes before I was ready to enter the school and city where the dream started. So many hours of hard work culminated into one opportunity for me to cover the world’s largest sporting event. Anyone who knows me understands what this moment meant to me. I’ve dedicated the past six years to the game of football and my passion for writing.
Eventually the week finally came.
Monday of Super Bowl week was the first chance to soak in the experience. I attended Super Bowl Media night with thousands of other reporters at the Xcel Energy Center. Both teams had their players at podiums for press conferences and each reporter could mingle around and ask questions. I decided I would wait it out by Bill Belichick to ask a question. I needed a quote for a story I wanted to write about his relationship with Eagles’ defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz. Just like I had done so many times before, I gave it a shot. I wasn’t nervous at all and the confidence just flowed. I delivered my question with reporters from all over the world surrounding me. Belichick responded with 40 seconds of great audio and I couldn’t help but smile about what just happened. As a young kid, I would always practice the questions I would ask coaches like Belichick if I ever had the chance. That night, it was for real.
It was just the beginning as I interviewed so many players and chatted with others in the industry. I was soaking in the complete experience. The entire week was filled with press conferences, events and the chance to network (which is my favorite thing to do). Meeting a variety of former players for interviews, talking with coaches/owners and other media personalities was right in my wheelhouse. I sat at Radio Row and talked with so many people about what it takes to elevate to the next level.
The first question many asked: “wait, how old are you?” They didn’t really know what to do when they heard the answer. So many of them provided me with words of encouragement and ideas, which fueled the curiosity I have to continue improving every day.
Throughout the week, I had the chance to write so many interesting stories and soaked in the experience of being around the Brady-Belichick dynasty. When the week of events came to an end, it felt like everything was over.
The game hadn’t even been played yet. That tells you how amazing the week truly was.
When Super Bowl Sunday finally arrived, it was hard to process what was about to happen. I arrived downtown around 12:30 and walked inside U.S. Bank Stadium, staring at Super Bowl marketing materials around every corner. I walked to my media seat and looked at all of the names around me. There were so many people I idolized as a young kid sitting around me. That’s when it started to sink in. I was actually about to have this chance. I walked around the stadium and just soaked it all in. Kickoff approached and a video with cuts of every single Super Bowl flashed on the screen for a few minutes. I remembered all of the games I watched at home with my dad, asking, “did that just happen?” after every big moment. Tonight, I was going to watch one live. I was hoping there would be an excellent storyline for my post.
The crowd filled in and the National Anthem was about to begin. Both teams were lined up on the sidelines with a large American flag stretched across the field. The vocals of Pink’s rendition were chilling as the military flyover buzzed overhead. I took a deep breath and thought about so many things. The nights I spent on the practice field in my hometown learning the game, the moments I practiced writing stories or interviews in my living room, and the conversations I had with my grandpa about where I wanted this journey to take me. He was the guy I thought of when I sat in my seat watching the ball sail through the air during kickoff. I know how much he was smiling from above.
The game displayed so much action and ended with the total yardage record being shattered. Philadelphia was in control, but Tom Brady and the Pats were within striking distance until the final moments. Brandon Graham’s strip-sack was just the start of a championship celebration. Moments later, confetti sprayed across the field as I frantically crafted the lede for my game story. The Lombardi Trophy processional music played and the most coveted trophy in sports was making its way onto the field. I soaked in the euphoria of fans and the celebration of a team that just reached the mecca of sports.
I made the walk down to the interview area, walking past Floyd Mayweather and Steph Curry, who were making their way outside for the celebration. The post-game interviews showed how a rug can be pulled out from underneath a team, while another can’t even contain their excitement. 16 games and months of dedication come down to one moment. I sat at the press conferences and added the finishing touches to the game story. My goal was to sum up the emotions of both teams, along with the collective atmosphere. This is what every journalist strives to do with a story, but covering a Super Bowl is on another level. Thankfully, Doug Pederson and Nick Foles provided excellent anecdotes to add depth to my piece.
In the end, the week is very difficult to put into words or describe, but I’ll never forget a minute of it. There is so much that can be learned from my experience during the Super Bowl.
First, never think you are too young to begin setting your goals or dreams into motion. I would have never had this chance without pouring six years of energy into it. Secondly, never forget to be grateful during the journey. There are so many mentors that gave me opportunities throughout my career. If you want the opportunity to grow, you must be willing to show your appreciation to those who help you. After events, show the people how much you appreciate them. Take the reigns and run! If you are told “no,” which is certain to happen, view it as “next opportunity.” The road will eventually lead you to a big “yes.” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve many unable to gain access to something or just was told no by someone in general. I didn’t let it define my future, though. I continued to take chances and used it as motivation to ask next year with even more experience under my belt.
When people give you a chance in life, show up, be professional and never take it for granted. There are so many others lining up for the chance to work in sports. This doesn’t just apply to sports, but everything you do. If I didn’t show up to a game or event, I might have missed a big story. There’s something to be said for just “showing up.” Throughout the journey, I stayed true to myself, worked hard and listened to everyone along the way.
Keep it simple: work hard, enjoy the moment, stay grateful and you can accomplish anything you set your mind to.
That night, the once freckled faced kid sat on the biggest stage and smiled, thinking about where the journey led him and how much is still ahead. Super Bowl 52 was the first of many chapters yet to be written.