This academic year, I have had the privilege of being a Rhoden Fellow for The Undefeated. As a fellow I serve as campus and area correspondent for the publication, reporting on sports and cultural events dealing with Howard University and the D.C. area.
I also have the opportunity to shadow professional journalist at large sporting events like the NFL Draft, the NCAA Final Four, Big East tournament, other professional events and, at The NFL Combine. The latter of which, I shadowed this past weekend in Indianapolis.
“Alexxis, our coordinator for the trip, connected us with journalists, producers and hosts all throughout the time we were there. Each person provided different insights from the next and everyone had something to offer,” said Randall Williams, the other Rhoden Fellow that was at the combine.
The four days spent in Indianapolis were filled with networking opportunities with people from the NFL network, former players, players to be and countless journalist from all over the country, whom had years of experience covering pro athletes and events for a number of publications. Each providing advice into how they got their position and what we should do as a newcomers entering the field in today’s journalistic landscape.
“Even though we were technically there as a part of the NFL’s organization, they allowed us to interview athletes coach and former players, all something they didn’t have to let us do,” explained Williams.
Two of the most eye-opening experiences at the combine were the NFL Legends podcast and the NFL Media Content Creation Team, both of which we had the exclusive opportunity to sit down with and see how some of the most well-known NFL production are made.
The content creation team, which was providing players with head-shots, videos and gifs to correspond with their draft day announcements, was run like a well-oiled machine. Having on camera dolly on a set of tracks in the middle of a conference room, surrounded by the stations the future pro athletes could walk around take picture and videos and move onto the following station.
The Legends podcast was a truly exclusive experience as we sat in while the podcast was being recorded and got exclusive access to the athletes featured on that episode. The host of the podcast Aeneas Williams, who is a long time NFL player and member of the hall of fame, partially credited HBCU’s as a reason he was able to grow as man, football player and personality.
“The importance of HBCU’s is still the same, even though African American still have the opportunity to go to other schools, there is still that nurturing and that culture that is understood from a development standpoint,” said Williams.
Williams, who went to The Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, alongside both his father and brother, was a stellar Defensive Back and Safety for the Jaguars. Eventually going in the third round of the 1991 NFL draft, putting together a 13-year career, eight of which were all-pro seasons.
While being at the combine was amazing as fan of football it was even better as a student of the industry. Showing insights into how professionals at the top of the business operate during some of their biggest days of the year.