At Alabama State, I found a passion for working in sports instead of playing them — Andscape
During my senior year of high school, I remember going to college fairs and getting scholarship opportunities from various universities. Some of those universities were private, and those scholarships didn’t cover much. I wanted to get out of the house and become my own person, but I didn’t want my family to be too far away.
My high school principal, Darrell Hudson, was a member of the board of trustees at Alabama State University. After ASU recruiter Sunkeissa Cantrell visited my class at A.H. Parker High School in Birmingham, Alabama, Hudson urged all the seniors to apply. He also let me know he would be there every step of the way to ensure I graduated from college.
My first college acceptance letter was from ASU. I also received a Foundation Scholarship, which helped cover the cost of some of my housing and most of my books. I ultimately selected Alabama State because it was close to home and one of the best options for my education. (Coincidentally, I also applied to ASU’s rival, Alabama A&M University, but by the time that school sent an acceptance letter I had already moved into my freshman dorm at ASU.)
I wasn’t alone at ASU, where I knew several other students that had attended my high school. At that time no one could tell me anything: I was a young Black man in college, and it meant so much to me and my family.
The bonds and mentors I made at ASU are irreplaceable. I took advantage of valuable opportunities, including internships at ASU’s athletics department, BET and Andscape that helped me determine the career I wanted to pursue: communications in the sports industry.
Intro to Broadcasting was the first class I took after declaring my major. Eric Knox, a professor in Alabama State’s radio and television studies program, gave students newscast roles for an assignment, and I chose to be a sports reporter.
He asked me a question I’ll remember for the rest of my life: “How do you expect to be a sports reporter when you don’t know about other sports besides football and basketball?”
I initially shook it off, but he was right — I didn’t know anything about sports such as soccer, tennis, volleyball or baseball.
“In the sports industry you’re going to have to cover things that you don’t want to, but it will help you out in the long run,” he said.
With his help, I prepared for my first assignment, covering men’s basketball games at Alabama State. However, as I adjusted to covering those games, I developed a desire to report on something different.
When I expressed my interest in other sports, Knox said, “ ‘Bout time.”
I could only laugh at his response.
When I secured the internship with ASU’s athletic department, it was one of the best feelings – I was working but it didn’t feel like work because of my passion for sports.
Attending a historically Black college or university is something I would recommend to prospective students, although going to Alabama State had its ups and downs. I still remember my first day in a classroom that didn’t have an air conditioner. We were sitting in a sweatbox trying to learn math and I was stylishly overdressed to impress, one of the worst mistakes of my college life. However, I had more good times than bad overall.
As a freshman, I was able to participate in organizations that made me socialize and step out of my comfort zone. I also had a good group of friends and we went everywhere together, from “Fried Chicken Wednesday” in the campus café to pool parties. Although my first year was filled with parties and new people, I made a commitment to study moving forward. I knew I had to do my work to stay in school.
Sophomore year I focused on becoming a better person and finding out who I was away from the people I started Bama State with; it was a time for self-growth. I learned how to edit videos, listen to motivational podcasts and appreciate the value of a dollar. I was very cheap as a sophomore – I did everything I could do to make money and anything I could not to spend it. I got creative, from cutting hair to air frying food in my dorm.
In my junior year, I learned to network and make new contacts in various school organizations. However, my most memorable moment happened during senior year while working at my last homecoming game, when I was in the same arena as the Jackson State Tigers and coach Deion Sanders.
It felt amazing being on the same field as the legendary former player turned coach. The atmosphere in the stadium was electric during the entire game. I was able to provide social coverage of big plays by both teams. I also was able to do social coverage of both bands during the halftime show for my Andscape fellowship and postgame content for ASU’s athletic department.
The biggest thing I learned as a Rhoden Fellow is to focus on my strengths and the skills that make me stand out. Every journalist possesses a unique style of reporting; I prefer using audio and visual storytelling to amplify content for a potential story.
I also made networking connections during events I worked at over the year. I had an opportunity to work with the communications teams of the Big East women’s basketball tournament and the NCAA women’s Final Four. During those events, I verified game stats, interviewed players for social media content and provided behind-the-scenes assistance.
Our fellowship manager also connected us with other Black journalists, introducing us to photographers, production assistants and other managers I hope to work with someday soon.
If I could deliver a message to the next class of Rhoden Fellows, it’s this: Come in with an open mindset and be prepared to work. This fellowship is about teamwork and pushing each other to become better versions of yourself while trying to perfect your craft.