When I was in kindergarten, my family moved into a house on Manzana Way in San Diego; the neighborhood would never be the same. My older brother and I turned it into a breeding ground for the next generation of football players in the city. You had to score 100 points to win and everyone picked their favorite player to emulate. Since I played quarterback, I was always Joe Montana (Charger QB Billy Joe Tolliver didn’t stand a chance). While I loved “Joe Cool,” my style was more Jeff Garcia. I was the undersized, elusive, and confident gunslinger. I mean, I had to be to rock these red shorts.
My brother was Jerry Rice and my best friend, Rickey Diamond, was Roger Craig. Together, we were legit. Groups from nearby would challenge us and rarely stood a chance. If Steve Sabol would’ve caught wind of our dominance, he surely would’ve sent a camera crew. I put in work off the field, too. During summer trips with my brother to our grandparents’ house, I drew plays on any paper I could find. I’d sit at the kitchen counter, eating bowls of cereal mixed with apple juice (Grandma wasn’t a big fan of milk) and figuring out ways to get my slot receiver open. Often times, I’d wake up Scott to practice my plays in their backyard.
We moved to Washington when I was a 2nd grader. We went from our diverse, lively neighborhood to a quiet area where everyone lived on acreage. Without kids nearby, my brother and I had to settle for playing catch. But, on Monday nights during the NFL season (pizza night), our living room would transform into a brother on brother, football fight club. After watching Steve Atwater and Christian Okoye go head-up, we would do the same. Scott’s 3 years older so I lost many of those battles but I always got my revenge on our Super Nintendo. In games of Madden, Scott’s size and weight advantage didn’t benefit him. Not only would I dominate the sticks but I’d rub it in by giving play-by-play broadcasts during the contests. Whether it was against him or friends, I was not to be messed with while I had a controller in my hands.
I played Pop Warner during our time in Washington but by the time I reached high school, I was way undersized (as you can see from this pic during my senior year). Instead, I stuck with basketball and continued my reign in Madden. Still, my friends and I would go to all of our high school’s football games and sit in our own little area. Away from the cheering section, we could analyze and commentate on what we were seeing on the gridiron. The aforementioned laid the groundwork for my pursuit of a broadcast journalism degree at Syracuse University and my career.
From high school football to Texas A&M, I shot football games on Fridays and Saturdays for 11 years. So, you can imagine my excitement when I got to cover my first Dallas Cowboys game back in 2012. As I stood in the press box with my right hand over my heart, I reflected on the years it took to get there. From pick-up games in San Diego to the home of the Cowboys; what a fun journey.
While covering Cowboy and Texan games made for 14-18 hour days, it was always a rush. Analyzing the game, post-game interviews, stand-ups, and editing in the car while our chief photographer Jack raced home meant there was never a dull moment. Those are the days that, along with traveling as a 1-man band, give me the confidence to handle whatever comes my way.
Thick necks don’t run in my family and I was a bust in Pop Warner. Yet, I still love covering the America’s obsession. All I need is a chance to prove it; I’ve been preparing for this moment since Manzana Way.