If you have some time, please tune in and read my story: “Manning, LOBS IT” (Joe Buck Super Bowl XLII) is just one example of a famous broadcast call you could hear my younger brother Andy and I hollering as we threw touchdowns in the yard. Like millions of other kids, I ate, slept and breathed sports.
But I’ll tell you something; I never pictured myself chasing a career in sports broadcasting.
The Start of the Journey:
When I was junior at Chantilly High School, I had a rather memorable account with my guidance counselor where we discussed my college options.
She asked me, “What’s your number one college choice right now?”
Without hesitation, I replied, “Virginia Tech.” (Thanks Aunt Kathy and Uncle Frank!)
What came out of her mouth next was not what I expected to hear at all.
“I think it would be a waste of your time and $50 to apply to Virginia Tech.”
She continued to go onto some of my other options, which were lower tier schools in Virginia.
But I wasn’t about to completely give up on my goal. After the shock from hearing such negativity from the mouth of my guidance counselor wore off, I came to the decision that I was going to start at Radford and transfer into Virginia Tech.
When I got to Radford, I was scared and full of doubt. What if I never get into Virginia Tech? Am I going to be here forever? What if I can’t pass my first semester of college? What am I going to do with my life when I graduate? I’m sure you’ve all asked yourselves these questions before too. It’s normal.
But, what I learned from the whole transfer experience is that you can’t be afraid of the future. You’re always going to have uncertainty in your life. It’s okay to be scared. But sometimes, you have to take a chance and believe in yourself. I decided to go to Radford because I saw a bigger picture and I trusted myself.
An incredibly strong first semester at Radford was enough for me to be admitted to Virginia Tech on February 29, 2012.
My first semester at Tech I was an English major and a beat writer for the Virginia Tech men’s soccer team at the Collegiate Times. It wasn’t until the second semester of my sophomore year at Tech that the future I envisioned for myself began to take shape.
Between my first and second semester at Tech, I started exploring my other options in sports media. When I played football in high school, a local high school sports media outlet called Gameday Magazine broadcasted all of our games online. So, I emailed Andy Hayes, the owner of Gameday Magazine to see if I could work for his company.
He even remembered calling my name when I played football at Chantilly. Hayes didn’t hesitate for a second by giving me my first opportunity to work on the VA State Wrestling Championships in Salem, VA. He had me working behind the scenes, operating the camera and the graphics for the broadcast. I got my first introduction to a live television broadcast that weekend and I loved it.
In February of 2013, I began pledging The Fraternity of Phi Gamma Delta. While pledging, I met one of our brothers named Wolfgang Gohlke. He told me about an opportunity that the company he interned for was offering. Wolfgang put me in touch with a young broadcaster in charge of the internship named Andrew Allegretta.
Andrew is the voice of the women’s basketball and baseball team at Virginia Tech. We set up a time to meet and discuss what I would be doing for the fall semester.
We sat down and he asked me about what kind of experience I had in sports media and what I wanted to get out of the internship. At the time, I was still writing for the Collegiate Times and wanted to be the next great sports writer. Andrew told me that most of what they did was play-by-play broadcasting; something I was very familiar with from my background in sports but also something I had never done before. The thought of talking on a live broadcast was scary but something I knew I wanted to try.
I also learned that I was going to have to opportunity to work closely with Andrew’s boss, Bill Roth. Bill has been “The Voice of the Hokies” for 27 years. He is the play-by-play voice of the football and men’s basketball teams and hosts both weekly television and radio shows … As a great of a broadcaster Bill is, he’s an even better person.
My first on-air broadcast occurred in June of 2013. I was the color-commentator on 2 state semi-finals lacrosse games at Westfield High School in Chantilly, VA. I worked behind the camera on various broadcasts throughout the summer for Gameday before returning to Tech for my junior year.
I broadcasted every Olympic sport at the school (except for golf and track and field). I showed enough promise to Andrew and Bill for them to put me on my first ESPN3 broadcast, which was a Virginia Tech wrestling match that occurred right before the spring semester of 2014 started in January. With our lead intern recently graduated the month prior to that broadcast, I was beginning to take on more challenging responsibilities. The spring of 2014 was also the first semester that I became the voice of the Virginia Tech softball team. I made 5 appearances on ESPN3 that semester and was fortunate enough to travel with the softball team to the ACC and NCAA tournaments in May.
I was progressing at an encouraging rate. I received good grades, partied a lot and was becoming a promising young broadcaster. But it had been an extremely long school year and I was physically and emotionally drained. On top of all that, I was now 1 year away from graduating and entering the real world. The anxiety quickly set in.
A familiar feeling of doubt returned … And I started to question,
What was I really chasing?
Is broadcasting what I really want for myself?
Was I good enough to make it in that field?
While away from college for the summer, I was supposed to be the play-by-play broadcaster for a collegiate-level baseball team called the Herndon Braves. I wanted to continue to improve as a broadcaster … Considering how I felt after towards the end of the semester, I decided that I needed to quit the summer position. I then emailed the general manager of the club to tell him that I was quitting 2 weeks before the season had even started. I was ashamed. It got worse when I had to tell Andrew that I was quitting. I felt like all my passion for broadcasting was slipping away.
Andrew and Bill were in Pensacola, FL visiting one of our previous interns who had a new broadcasting job down there. Andrew was also keeping Bill in the loop about what was going on in my life. I was sitting in my room at home one day when I got the exact phone call that I needed.
“Hey Bill (Roth)!” We don’t normally talk on the phone, so I knew this was important. Our conversation wasn’t particularly long. He told me that he saw potential in me and that I had made great strides as a broadcaster in such a short time period.
Finally, he told me that he and Andrew both believed in me. To hear that from someone as accomplished as Bill was special. The call that Bill made to me that day reminded me how passionate I was about broadcasting and reinforced the beliefs I had in myself.
I’m not writing to you today with decades of experience in this field. I’m not even writing to you with a job lined up for after I graduate. Broadcasting is what I love. I love it because no broadcast is ever the same as the next and everyone has their own style. There’s hundreds of different ways to call a game, lots of different sports and endless possibilities. It’s my hope that anyone who turns on one of my broadcast can relax and enjoy the game.
I don’t have a plan to make a global impact through broadcasting or anything like that. All I know is that wherever my travels take me, I’m going to arrive with passion, enthusiasm and a smile on my face.
On Thursday, February 19, 2015 at 7 PM, I’m scheduled to make my 12th appearance on ESPN3 as a sports broadcaster. The Virginia Tech women’s basketball team is set to take on the Louisville Cardinals. I look forward to having you tune in.