Hundreds of people packed into the new Robert M. Smith Student Center Ballroom on Tuesday evening to hear three ESPN sports experts discuss their journeys, careers, and opinions in the sports world.
ESPN anchor Linda Cohn, NFL commentator Adam Schefter, and ESPN College Game Day analyst Desmond Howard entertained Slippery Rock students with their success stories and offered advice for aspiring sports enthusiasts at the Sports Symposium, presented by the University Program Board.
As an aspiring sportscaster, this event greatly appealed to me and I enjoyed meeting with and learning from all three ESPN experts.
Cohn is considered the pioneer for woman sportscasters, appearing on ESPN as a full-time anchor for the last 18 years. Along with her true love for sports, Cohn’s extensive knowledge, witty sense of humor, and passion for storytelling has made her one of the most successful sports anchors.
“Five words have gotten me where I am now- ‘I won’t let you down’,” Cohn said. “Those five words I have uttered throughout my entire career, for the male bosses that took a chance on me in every level of my career, even before I got to ESPN. They knew they were taking a chance in hiring a woman at a time when no women were doing sports.”
Cohn gave some powerful tips and advice to women, like myself, who dream and aspire to be a sportscaster for a major network.
“You just have to believe that you’re good at what you do and you know your stuff,” Cohn said. “Don’t worry about what other people think, you’ll get all jumbled up in the head. Be accurate- don’t screw up a name and don’t make any silly mistakes. Because you’re a woman, there will be more eyes on you. The magnifying glass is much bigger than it is for a man. You asked to be in this field, live with it, rise above it, and you can do it.”
Prior to his job as a college football analyst, Howard played football for the University of Michigan from 1989-1991 and won the Heisman Trophy for leading the Big Ten Conference in 1991. After his collegiate career, Howard went on to play professional football for five NFL teams, including the Green Bay Packers, who he led to a Super Bowl Championship in 1996. Howard’s special teams performance in Super Bowl XXXI earned him the Super Bowl MVP award, making him the only player in history to receive the award based on special teams performance.
Howard said earning Super Bowl MVP was the greatest accomplishment he has ever received.
“As a player, that’s what you want. That’s the ultimate goal,” Howard said. “To be crowned the MVP of that game, which is the most important game in the sport- it just gets no higher than that. It’s really special for me because I did it on a team with some great men and great football players- the late, great Reggie White, who was a phenomenal person and athlete, he was on the field with me that day, Brett Favre, Leroy Butler, Keith Jackson, all men who are great teammates and friends. To be around that sort of talent and be crowned as the MVP of that game with those guys is a tremendous honor.”
Howard politely turned down numerous requests throughout the night to do the Heisman pose.
“No, I’m good, thanks,” Howard laughed. “I’d be doing it all day if I did it every time I was asked. If only you guys knew how many times a day I got that.”
Schefter, also a University of Michigan graduate, joined ESPN in 2009 as a football analyst. He is also a regular contributor to ESPN.com and ESPN Insider. USA Today selected Schefter as the best NFL insider for three straight years (2009-2011.) Prior to joining the NFL Network, Schefter wrote for The Rocky Mountain News and The Denver Post.
“Good work and hard work, over time, will almost always be rewarded,” Schefter said.
One student commented on a tweet that Schefter posted about his family’s home that received severe damage during the Hurricane Sandy storm two weeks ago.
“What has happened back there is hard to put into words,” Schefter said. “We had a tree go into the side of my house through my son’s room, windows were broken, our fence was destroyed, and our backyard is trashed. We were very fortunate because there were many people who had their lives ruined.”
Before the Sports Symposium, I had the privilege to attend a workshop that Cohn presented to a small group of students. She told us the story of breaking into the male-dominated sportscasting industry with tons of enthusiasm. She answered any questions that I had about her career, and she made me believe that I could do whatever I set my mind to. I admire her confidence and energy, and I think she is a great role model for aspiring reporters,.
There was also a student-faculty networking reception before the program where everyone could interact with Cohn, Howard, and Schefter. I had one-on-one time with all three ESPN experts, and it was a great opportunity to meet and get advice in a competitive setting.
Cohn gave me one piece of advice at the reception that I will never forget. She said to find something that makes me different or stand out from the others. The Sports Symposium was a great learning experience that I hope Slippery Rock students enjoyed as much as I did.