My college search process was very brief.
With my mind set on the goal of becoming a sports broadcaster, my mother discovered Bradley University’s sports communication program online on my behalf.
After a summer visit prior to my junior year of high school, attending school on the Hilltop seemed like a no-brainer — all the people there were extremely welcoming. Two more visits for the Charley Steiner Symposium and an early application later, it was official.
I chose Bradley because of the experiences it offered. I had it all mapped out in my head.
I would have the chance to intern with NBC’s Olympics coverage not once, but twice. Every November, I’d get to meet the biggest names in sports media at the Steiner Symposium. To put the cherry on top, I would head out to Los Angeles for the Hollywood Semester to gain valuable experience as an intern for the Dodgers. All that on top of the essential play-by-play broadcasting experience I would receive calling games for Bradley Athletics.
Turns out I chose Bradley for all the wrong reasons.
After not making the interview round of the Olympics internship for the Tokyo games, I didn’t bother to apply in 2022. After fantastic days at the Steiner Symposium my freshman and sophomore year, I never got to see another one. For a multitude of reasons, Peoria seemed much more attractive than Hollywood every semester. That’s also not to mention a life-altering pandemic shredding any normal “college experience.”
However, I’m extremely lucky to say my (nearly) four years at Bradley have been everything I could’ve wanted it to be and more, for reasons I could’ve never scripted.
I didn’t choose Bradley because I would get a direct message on Twitter from the sports editor of this newspaper asking if I was interested in writing for The Scout months before I arrived on campus. Little did I know that DM would lead to four years’ worth of invaluable experience and great friends and mentors. Thanks to my sports section predecessors Austin Shone, Cole Bredahl, Anthony Landahl and Ronan Khalsa for setting the example.
I didn’t choose Bradley because I would get to see the men’s basketball team qualify for the NCAA Tournament twice – once as a student storming the court, and once as a beat reporter. I owe Darrell Brown, Ja’Shon Henry and Brian Wardle a drink or two … and maybe Cleve Eminian as well.
I couldn’t have anticipated entering Bradley essentially at the same time as a new director for Braves Vision, who boosted the program to a new level for three years and constantly advocated for me and other media students.
Bradley wasn’t my choice because I thought I would become a tour guide, which helped me acclimate to campus, make friends and get a great job even before my first day of classes.
I didn’t come to Bradley to spend a year and a half in Williams Hall with a goofy Jewish kid from New York who annoyed me with his Yankees fandom but talked me down from transferring more than a few times.
I could’ve never planned meeting a group of friends and roommates on Barker Avenue who, despite their differences, all have similar work ethics and goals that pushed me to get better but also have fun.
I surely didn’t plan on starting a business with a fella from Urbana with a similar passion for play-by-play and high school sports. I don’t think either of us could’ve predicted Clutch Sports Media growing from two guys and a soundboard to the multimedia machine that it is today.
Spending countless Friday nights in towns around Peoria like Washington, Metamora, Farmington, Canton and Princeville with our ragtag group has been the single most fulfilling experience of my college career.
In the process of growing CSM, I’m immensely proud that we burst the infamous “Bradley Bubble” and truly got to know Peoria and its people. When I first got here, I felt an odd similarity between Peoria and my hometown of Rockford. But now, as I get set to leave, Peoria truly feels like my second home. It means the world to me that Clutch played in Peoria and we’re going to make darn sure it keeps doing so.
There’s one commonality between all these experiences: they’re all people driven by incredible people at Bradley and in the community.
And that’s the one thing that hasn’t changed since my visit in the summer of 2016. The humans I’ve met on and around the Hilltop — professors, bosses, SIDs, alumni, fans on Twitter, peers, coaches, athletes and even random folks — from as far as Guatemala and as close as Normal have all made my time here unforgettable.
I got a piece of mail the other day from Bradley admissions, trying to convince me to apply for graduate school (sorry, but no thanks). On the back of the envelope, bold red lettering stated, “Achieve your goals at Bradley.”
I’m grateful to say that I have, as I’m leaving school at the end of this week to start my professional broadcasting career as the play-by-play voice of the Beloit Sky Carp, the High-A Affiliate of the Miami Marlins.
So, in one wild, imperfect journey, it all worked out… just how I didn’t plan it — and I wouldn’t want it any other way.