This past April, Medill Sports graduate journalism students got an all-access pass to one of the biggest sporting events of the year. As credentialed reporters for the 2016 NFL Draft, students found themselves on the floor of the Auditorium Theatre, on the red carpet and throughout Draft Town. With the NFL Draft just a few months away, we look back at some of the students’ reactions to covering the signature event.
It’s probably specific to being stationed in Auditorium Theatre, but the fact that this high profile event was held at a university performance venue was crazy. We passed classrooms full of students, as well as bulletin boards of Roosevelt’s announcements while maneuvering around the bowels of the theatre prior to the first round.
Most of my favorite moments occurred at the end of the first night (or morning).
The last of the first-round picks, which happened to be Chicago native Laquon Treadwell and his teammate at Ole Miss Robert Nkemdiche, met the press at the end of the evening. Nkemdiche was very candid on the podium about his college struggles and Laremy Tunsil’s draft-night situation to the dozen or so media members still present. Treadwell was equally as open about his Draft week experiences in Chicago and getting to see his mom and daughter.
Chris Hayre and I were able to interview both players one-on-one in the interview room following the presser. Both players couldn’t have been more genuine and happy to speak with us. Nkemdiche even hung out after the camera stopped and talked about his suit, his weight and his excitement to play for Arizona. It was truly one of those off-the-record moments where we were just conversing as three humans meeting for the first time in the midst of a wild and wacky evening.
The other memorable moment of the night was coming back to the Medill newsroom around 1 a.m, for some final editing of our Day 1 content. I believe there were six video students still working, which was inspiring, awesome … and a little bit nuts at the same time. We managed to finish around 2:30 in the morning, but that 90 minutes of camaraderie full of jokes, laughter and work with my classmates was unforgettable.
The NFL Draft provided valuable experience covering a major event, much like the NFL Scouting Combine. I think it forces all reporters — video and text — to be able to budget their time while focusing on an aspect or two of the event. The experience also was a good education in how to be both flexible and timely when producing content. With the Laremy Tunsil situation, everything was happening in real time and there wasn’t time to prepare questions or rehearse anything on camera. It illustrated how valuable being flexible truly is in this day and age of sports media.
The most important way it assists in preparing us for a sports media career is through the preparation. I personally did more prep work for the three-day Draft than I had for any other event at Medill or at previous high-profile opportunities. It really makes you understand how much time and effort it takes to look and sound smart in the competitive sports media industry.
It was also great because after going to the Combine, I saw many of the same faces at the Draft, which was great for networking. A handful of people were asking how we were doing and were excited to see where we landed after Medill. Quality face time like that is something you can’t get being in a classroom.