Sept. 1, Ball State Daily News Sports Editor Daniel Kehn, News Editor Kyle Smedley, Visual and Photo Editor Amber Pietz and Associate Photo Editor Jacy Bradley traveled to Knoxville, Tennessee to cover Ball State Football's contest against the University of Tennessee, in which the Cardinals fell 59-10. During the trip, the group was able to not only work at a professional level for student media, but further realized their passions in the process.
A whole new ball game – Daniel Kehn
As my dad loves to say, this wasn’t my first rodeo. I have done the traveling journalist trips before, it was just another amazing opportunity with the Ball State Daily News – at least that’s what my naive ego thought.
I had covered Mid-American Conference (MAC) football, volleyball national tournaments and a bowl game, but none of it would prepare me for what I experienced at Neyland Stadium Sept. 1. A University of Michigan fan growing up, the Big House in Ann Arbor, Michigan, was the dream. From attending Michigan football games to turning into a popsicle at the Big Chill at the Big House, I will die on the hill that Michigan Stadium has one of the best atmospheres in all of college sports.
Then I stepped foot in Knoxville, Tennessee, for a football game.
The atmosphere is extremely similar to that of any other football stadium, but it’s not about how loud the crowd is cheering, it’s about why they are cheering.
An opening prayer was said prior to kickoff, but the service began at 7 p.m. The worship song rang out as “Rocky Top” rang around the stadium, the church bells chimed in the form of smacking helmets and communion was served in the form of pop and pretzels.
It gives me chills thinking about it now, that I, a 19-year-old who is well and truly still figuring it all out, could cover a Southeastern Conference (SEC) football game from the press box surrounded by industry professionals.
It may have been my first rodeo with SEC football, but I am determined to not let it be my last.
I wouldn't have believed you – Kyle Smedley
In July 2021, if you would have told me just over one year later, I would be covering Ball State Football vs. the University of Tennessee, a Southeastern Conference (SEC) team, in Knoxville, Tennessee, I wouldn’t have believed you.
I wouldn’t believe that I would have the opportunity to cover a Division 1 college football game between my hometown university and a university my stepdad vigorously supports and my grandpa lives 30 minutes away from.
I wouldn’t believe that I would sit in the press box of Neyland Stadium, one that holds over 100,000 people, and speak with Robby General, a sports writer for my hometown newspaper, The Star Press, and an Associated Press (AP) sports writer, Al Lesar.
I wouldn’t believe that I, along with a peer from Michigan, Sports Editor Daniel Kehn, a peer from Carmel, Indiana, Design and Photo Editor Amber Pietz and a peer that went to Delta High School, my alma mater Yorktown High School’s rival, Associate Photo Editor Jacy Bradley, three people I wouldn’t meet until a month later, would wake up at five the morning of gameday, drive down to Knoxville, cover a game and drive back the next day.
I wouldn’t believe that I would be able to take the next step in chasing my dreams and do it alongside three people who are more friends than co-workers.
I wouldn’t believe I would become the beat reporter for Ball State Women’s Basketball for the 2021-22 season, one that saw the Cardinals finish runner-up in the Mid-American Conference (MAC) Championship Tournament, the beat reporter for Ball State Baseball during the 2022 season, one that saw the Cardinals win the MAC Championship and finish one win away from the NCAA Regionals, the 2022 Summer Editor In-Chief or the 2022-23 News Editor.
Well, with so much guidance and support, all these things happened. Looking back at myself from just over a year ago, I can’t believe all I’ve accomplished since.
Calm in the Storm– Amber Pietz
A year ago was the first time I ever got to cover a football game. Now, I can say I have been on the sidelines at a “Power-Five” school with a crowd of over 92,000 people.
From the moment I stepped out onto the field in my photo vest with my two cameras, I was in awe, taking in every single moment, and not taking any of it for granted because opportunities like this don’t come around every day. When you have an opportunity like this, you make sure to capture every moment because you never want to forget a single thing that you experience.
You want to remember the crowd of people waiting for the Pride of the Southland band to march to Neyland Stadium on the street before the game, you want to remember the sea of orange you saw the second you walked onto the field and you want to remember the feeling of being at the biggest game you have ever covered.
Even with all of the excitement I was feeling of being on the sidelines, I felt at home, like that was exactly where I was supposed to be, and what I was meant to spend the rest of my life doing. For me, being on the field is calm in the storm, because no matter what’s going on in my life, it’s the one thing I can always go to feel like everything is going to work out.
Where I Belong – Jacy Bradley
From the silly songs we screamed on the car ride down to Knoxville, Tennessee, to walking out onto the field 10 minutes before Tennessee kicked off, I won’t forget this experience.
Upon arrival at Neyland Stadium, all we could see was orange and white. The outfits of the Volunteer faithful filled the streets in and around the stadium as half of the campus was shut down for the game.
Hollers made their way through the street as the Pride of the Southland Marching Band began its entrance into the stadium. Seeing this many fans lining the road to support the band was amazing.
During the second quarter, there was a moment between Amber Pietz and I, where we began to feel the reality of where we were. I stopped talking and just took in the sounds that echoed all around.
Fans screaming, music blaring and camera shutters filled my ears. I got goosebumps knowing I was doing what I love in the surreal experience of being in an SEC school’s stadium. Standing on the sidelines of the field at Neyland, surrounded by over 92,000 people I grew calm.
This is where I’m supposed to be.