What better way to begin chronicling the weekend of events in Canton, Ohio than pouring rain that delayed the annual Hall of Fame game?
There isn’t. The Red Hawk Sports Network did whatever it took to film their upcoming documentary on Sam Mills’ induction to be top-notch.
Just based on the 10 hours of being on the road and the bits and pieces of shooting done around the Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium before the sky opened up, it was pretty clear that nobody could predict how exactly this trip would play out from Thursday to Sunday.
One of the professors who started the RHSN, Stacy Gitlin, let the students make a lot of decisions on their own while also helping to command the trip and check in on everyone. Gitlin has a lot of faith in students like broadcast intern and RHSN director Jason Naccarella.
“We get a lot of students through this program that are great at knowing sports and understanding teams,” Gitlin said. “But when it comes to TV production, that behind-the-scenes camera, editing and fieldwork- it’s always intuitive. [Naccarella] is a problem solver and has an outstanding work ethic. That’s who you want to lead a project like this.”
Naccarella had to solve a lot of problems around a constantly changing environment in Canton. Going into his senior year, his responsibilities will be at an all-time high. But as shown on this trip, he has plenty of people by his side to help.
“We really just needed to be ready for anything at any given time,” Naccarella said. “Our crew did a great job making sure they had all of the proper equipment and research done to film anything or interview anyone so it wasn’t just me that adjusted to changes, it was a team effort.”
Social media was also a team effort. Every little thing done in Canton and Ohio as a whole was captured meticulously on Instagram, thanks to the RHSN’s main social media correspondent, sophomore broadcast intern Gianna Daginis.
Going into the trip, Daginis had a plan on how she wanted to show off the ins and outs of the trip.
“Given the fact that limited people are physically here, I wanted to make the social media content as immersive as possible,” Daginis said. “I wanted to make sure the content we shared was able to highlight [Mills’] achievements, document the Hall of Fame festivities and the atmosphere of Canton and also showcase behind the scenes and everyone’s involvement in the project.”
Instagram takeovers on the Montclair State University athletics Instagram account, videos of behind-the-scenes moments, including a close look at festivities, and interviews were just some of the content created and shared by Daginis.
Anyone who has been following along on the coverage can get a clear idea of how the weekend went. And Daginis is consistent with the creative and thought-out social media posts.
Another student who was on top of the social media game, as well as interviewing and filming, was sports communication major Teni Bello. She helped make professional quality Instagram reels for the RHSN.
Bello recently just switched to the sports communication major but this trip made her glad that she did.
“I always knew my talent was being in front of the camera but this weekend, I got to learn a lot more about news and sports reporting, shooting and social media,” Bello said. “That was my goal — I wanted to be more involved and be versatile. And I give thanks to everyone on this trip, for being open and very honest with feedback at all times.”
Broadcast intern Matt Bruchez had the time of his life involving himself in the crowds of people in Canton, looking to get soundbites from any person looking to be talked to. He filmed NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. He took a selfie with comedian Keegan-Michael Key. He interviewed sports media legend Chris Berman. Ultimately, Bruchez is grateful for the experience.
“I’ve said it several times already that I believe this was the best couple of days of my life,” Bruchez said. “Being a lifelong football fan, this was truly an amazing experience. Getting to interview [Berman] and Cris Collinsworth, who are guys I look up to in the sports broadcasting world, was incredible. The whole experience was so surreal and I’m still trying to wrap my head around it.”
Professor Steve McCarthy was a crucial part of the team as well, driving everyone around and motivating them to step in and not be afraid of any opportunity. He explains how unique this overall opportunity is.
“A Division III player making [it] into the pros is rare – one making it to the Hall of Fame is extremely rare,” McCarthy said. “That’s always a good story when something probably won’t happen again.”
The experience was a once-in-a-lifetime moment for everyone involved. Bonds have grown. Memories have been made that will last forever. And a lot of work was done that will pay off in so many ways. This is exactly what Gitlin wanted for the students.
“Twelve-hour work days, on your feet, in the sun, only to sleep four hours and then do it again,” Gitlin said. “It’s a grind but the moments in between sunburn, your feet hurting and not eating are some life-changing memories that you’ll compare all the rest of your experiences to.”