Picture this: it’s Saturday in the Fall and you’re getting ready to watch your favorite team play. Sounds pretty great, right? Well, that’s exatly where it all began for me. I discovered a love for sports at a young age. I found my passion and that I am extremely grateful for.
What many people don’t realize is that being a sports journalist is more than just knowing the stats. It’s about being able to tell someone else’s story, an athlete’s at that. Laura Okmin of FOX Sports recently taught me that in order to effectively tell another human being’s story you have to first tell yours. Being open and vulnerable is never easy, yet is so important. It’s something I deeply believe in. I believe that in order to be successful in this industry and in life you must have the confidence to trust yourself and your story. Never lose sight of your why. Never lose sight of where your passion all began.
Here’s my story…
I’d like to begin with a person. He’s without a doubt the greatest grandpa I could ever ask for. He’s probably the reason I have the dream that I do. My grandpa was always around. His videocamera was always around too. And for some reason I was ALWAYS in front of it. I was (and still am) a pretty shy person, but whenever that camera was there it was as if I was in my element. I’m not sure if a videocamera can be a person’s safe place, but it might just be mine. It has always been my comfort zone. I talked and talked and talked….probably a little too much. I constantly asked my grandpa to record me. “Let’s make videos!!!” came out of my mouth quite frequently. I’d talk about anything and I wanted to record almost everything.
Let’s take a little detour on this story– My love for sports started when I came out of the womb. Not for playing them, but for watching them. I don’t have an athletic bone in my body. My family is huge Florida Gator fans, diehard. Saturdays were always filled with college football and cheering on the Gators. For as long as I can remember those were my favorite days. I loved that an entire day was devoted to family, football, and food. (3 of my favorite things) I think I have such a big love for sports because of the household I grew up in. I love that a game, a simple sporting event, can bring people together. I love the excitement and the thrill. If you ask my parents, they’d tell you I’ve always been destined to be sports reporter. Sometimes I got a little bit, shall we say, too excited when the Gators were playing.
If I’m remembering correctly it was in middle school when I began saying, “My dream is to become a college football reporter.”
And if you’re wondering, I haven’t stopped saying that. People would chuckle and not take me too seriously when those words came out of my mouth… and honestly I still get that same response. I’m not going to lie. That type of response, that “yeah, okay…” laugh annoys me, but it also motivates me. It motivates me to work hard, to make my dreams a reality.
In middle school I’d usually sit at a table with all the boys and make them quiz me with random sports facts. We’d have competitions to see who knew the most. I’d prove to them that girls know sports too. I proved to them that I knew what I was talking about.
One weekend when my grandpa was visiting I asked him to help me make a mock sports reporting video, so I could send it off to ESPN. We spent hours setting up a fake sports studio in my dad’s office. I’m not kidding you I took the whole ordeal quite seriously. We even used the desktop computer as a teleprompter. I thought it was so perfect, I thought I was a genius. Looking back I now see that you can see the computer screen and my word document script in a reflection on the video. Anyways, I sent that sports reporting video off to numerous ESPN reporters along with some handwritten letters expressing my dream. Anything can happen right?
Flashforward about 3 months. The house phone rings. It was an unknown number so we didn’t answer. It calls again. And again. And again. FINALLY, I pick up the phone. At first I thought it was my grandpa playing a trick on me.
Then, the voice said, “It’s Lee Corso.”
I wish I had a recording of that phone call because I am sure I sounded completely shocked. I was shocked. Lee Corso of ESPN’s College Gameday was on the phone with me. AN ESPN REPORTER CALLED ME! For a middle school tween that was pretty exciting. Years later it still makes me happy to think about that moment. That was the moment I knew that anything was possible. That was the moment I knew that I could turn my dream into a reality. I have Lee Corso to thank for that. He enstilled a certain confidence in me.
Nobody believed me when I told them that Lee Corso called me. So… I wrote Corso another letter asking him to send me some proof. What’d he do? He sent proof.
Two years later, still in middle school, I was in the 8th grade and it was December… Christmas Eve to be exact. My brother was home from college. I was sitting in a doctor’s office waiting room with my dad. My brother was in the exam room and I didn’t really know why. I just went along for the ride. A few hours later we learned that my brother, 19 at the time, had testicular cancer. It’s safe to say that wasn’t the early Christmas present my family was hoping for.
My brother, Tyler, ended up having surgery and going through chemo. He lost weight and he lost hair. It was probably one of the hardest things I had to witness, yet it taught me so much. Tyler never moped around or sat in pity. He was never upset, or at least he didn’t show it. My brother kept doing what he loved. For him that was fishing. He was enjoying his life and beating cancer at the same time. My brother taught me that you never know what life is going to throw at you. It’s important to make sure you’re doing what you love. My brother inspired me to chase my dreams full force. Why waste time? You never know what may happen. Enjoy every moment and make your dream your reality. That is what my mindset turned into.
Flashforward– my brother is 6 years cancer free and living his best life. After the whole cancer thing, Tyler went back to college for about a semester, but things weren’t really the same. He realized college wasn’t for him and decided to come home. To this day that’s something I have always applauded him for. I’m proud of him for having the courage to do what he felt was right for him. College is not for everyone and that’s okay. My brother ended up getting his captain’s license, started a charter fishing company, and is now getting ready to embark on a new adventure.
It takes a lot to follow your heart, to chase your dreams. It’s not easy. If it were, everyone would do it. Because of my brother I wake up each day with a mindset… the mindset to make it happen. I can and I will turn my dream of becoming a college football reporter into a reality.
It’s not going to be easy. I know that. I also know that hard work can take you anywhere in life. Throw in some dedication and anything is achievable.
4 thoughts on “Everyone Has a Story”
Way to go, Maddie! All the very best as you follow your dream.
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Beautiful story and beautiful granddaughter. I am so very proud of you.
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Such an awesome outlook on life. You are a gift to all who encounter your attitude, kindness and honesty. Keep experiencing life at its fullest!
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