Some sports fans dream for years of someday appearing on ESPN. They memorize all the statistics, practice their best broadcaster voices and watch Sportscenter the way some people attend church.
But getting on ESPN was just a matter of being in the right place at the right time for Fort Knox junior Anthony Deavers.
Deavers and some friends went to Nashville one evening in late October to celebrate his birthday. By sheer coincidence, ESPN was filming a sports panel discussion at the restaurant at which Deavers and his friends were eating. The panel was a few members short and, after meeting with producers of the program, Deavers and a friend were chosen to take part in the discussion.
“Basically, it was luck,” Deavers said when describing the experience. “… I met with the producers in Nashville on the weekend of my birthday. A sports group was meeting in the restaurant, and me and a friend were asked to take part.”
Following the discussion, panel members were told that one of them would be chosen to fly to New York City to be on the ESPN show Focus Group. A few days later, Deavers was informed that he had been chosen to participate on the show.
“I was more excited about going to New York City than being on the show,” he said. “I was overwhelmed by New York City.”
Deavers arrived in New York on a Sunday and spent his first evening there exploring the local attractions before settling down to business.
“I stayed downtown in Times Square,” he said. “The first night I had free. I saw the sites and did the tourist stuff. Monday was all business, though.”
Deavers was taken to the ESPN Headquarters where he and six other panelists spent four hours discussing sports.
“We talked about relevant sports topics — football, ladies PGA, basketball, golf, tennis …” he said.
Deavers said that he wasn’t intimidated about being on the show, even though he was the youngest panel member.
“Everybody was a professional, some in the sports entertainment industry,” he said. “I was the only student.”
Deavers said his sports knowledge came from playing football and basketball throughout high school and also from being a life-long sports fan. He particularly follows the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New York Knicks.
Following the show, the four hour discussion was edited into a half-hour program that was broadcast on Oct. 28.
When he returned from New York, Deavers kept quiet about where he had been.
“I didn’t tell anyone where I had been, except my boss,” he said. “I didn’t take it seriously until I got there. A lot of (Pearce-Ford Tower residents) watched it, but I never advertised it. People all across campus saw it. It’s cool to go somewhere and have somebody say ‘Hey, I saw you on TV last night.'”
Phillip Thayer, a freshman from Portland, Tenn., was one of those students who watched the broadcast.
“Me and a bunch of buddies saw it,” he said. “I think he did a good job… We didn’t know he was going to be on there. When he got back we asked him questions about what it was like and why he was on there.”
Deavers is Thayer’s resident assistant in PFT.
Deavers may have the opportunity to appear on the program again following the NBA season. ESPN is planning to broadcast another Focus Group then, and panel members will be determined by online voting.
Although he enjoyed his 15 minutes of fame, Deavers has no plans to make a living in the sports broadcasting industry.
“I’m not looking for a career in sports entertainment,” he said. “After I graduate, I would like to be a high school principal, hopefully.”