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Students gain experience at college football awards show

ESPN Ambassadors take learning out of the classroom

ESPN’s broadcast of The Home Depot College Football Awards on Dec. 10 marked the completion of the first ESPN Ambassadors initiative aimed at integrating college students studying media or communications into the activities surrounding the nationally televised show.

The program’s inaugural student class of Henry Clopton (Georgia State), Jordan Frank (Clark Atlanta), Darveon Hyde (Clark Atlanta), Autumn Johnson (Kennesaw State) and Racquel Yeedia (Georgia State) heard from ESPN reporters, analysts and producers. These students also observed media events, watched rehearsals, became familiar with the show rundown and attended a 30 for 30 film screening.

On show night, the students took on the roles of reporter, publicist or athlete escort. They all quickly learned, though, that what is written on paper often plays out entirely different once the doors open.

Yeedia, who assisted with media check-in at the College Football Hall of Fame in downtown Atlanta, said, “People are coming in so fast-paced, it was a challenge to do my task and keep my composure.”

Johnson honed her reporting skills on the red carpet while Hyde saw firsthand the difficulty in completing a seemingly straightforward task of escorting finalists there. He said, “It was kind of crazy because a lot of fans were trying to get the players to give them autographs.”

When not watching the show or interacting with the award winners, the students received advice from analyst David Pollack and reporter Samantha Ponder about how to break into broadcasting.

Christopher Daniel, an Atlanta journalist and Georgia State journalism professor who was covering the show, witnessed his students in action and said, “It’s one thing to read about it or have demonstrations in class, but it’s another thing to see the speed it takes and how attentive you have to be. To me, this is way better than the classroom, this is the classroom.”

In the video below, three of the ESPN Ambassadors talk about what they learned and greet a football hero. In a second video at the bottom, Georgia State journalism professor Christopher Daniel talks about the ESPN Ambassadors program.

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ESPN reporter Tom Rinaldi answers questions from the ESPN Ambassadors.

ESPN reporter Tom Rinaldi answers questions from the ESPN Ambassadors.

Keri Potts/ESPN

ESPN Ambassador Autumn Johnson (left) gets career advice from ESPN host and reporter Samantha Ponder.

Keri Potts/ESPN

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Kelley Evans is a general editor at The Undefeated. She is a food passionista, helicopter mom and an unapologetic southerner who spends every night with the cast of The Young and the Restless by way of her couch.