Sports journalism workshop with NBC Sports, NFL leadership part of Super Bowl LVII leadup


PHOENIX, AZ. – The Super Bowl is in the Valley and so is NBCU Academy. Downtown Phoenix’s very own Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication hosted the NBCU Professional Development Workshop Monday afternoon as part of an action-packed week leading up to Super Bowl LVII. 

About 6,000 reporters will be in Arizona from across the country for the big game, but four leaders from NBC Sports and the NFL decided to spend their time discussing covering the Super Bowl and other memorable career experiences with journalism students. 

Arizona State University graduate student Alexis Davis opened the event introducing Kenneth Shropshire. Shropshire might have over 30 years of experience working at the University of Pennsylvania, but he is no stranger to ASU.

The former CEO of the Global Sport Initiative is also the Adidas Distinguished Professor of Global Sport at ASU. His team’s research from the Initiative was referenced in The Washington Post’s BLACK OUT series, which focused on the lack of Black head coaches in the NFL despite the implementation of the Rooney Rule in 2003. 

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Guests were able to ask questions to Shropshire about his thoughts on diversity issues in various professional sports leagues.

“I start off the conversation by saying, ‘What does success look like? Where is it that we are striving to get to anyway?’” Shropshire said. “The denominator is not the racial makeup of players on the field of play and it is not the population of the United States, so nobody really knows the right kind of number as to the number of head coaches and ownership should be. That’s something that a lot of work can be done on as well.” 

An interest in taking on the big questions for stories and projects was a common thread for the final four panelists, all of whom are currently with NBC Sports or the NFL amidst long careers. 

The only woman on the panel, Charean Williams, shared how comfortable she has always been in male-dominated sports journalism settings because of her love for football and the Dallas Cowboys. When she was growing up, “girls didn’t do that type of stuff.” which gave her more of a reason to strive for greatness as an NFL writer for Pro Football Talk.

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Williams has worked nearly 30 Super Bowls, seven Olympics and was inducted in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2018. Her experience allowed her to create relationships in order to tell unique stories during this time of year. Tightened budgets in print media resulted in WIlliams getting laid off from her long-time Cowboys beat at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram in 2017, but that rejection paved the way for another chapter of her career. 

“It ended up being one of the best days in my life career wise because I ended up falling into NBC right away and never missed a day,” Williams said. “The greatest parts of my career have been the last five years. The worst day turned into the best day and sometimes you just don’t see beyond the immediate to now that things are probably going to work out and work out for the better.”

The sports journalism world is a small one: It was Williams who referred content creator Myles Simmons, another panelist, to Ron Vaccaro, the vice president of editorial content for NBC Sports and also a part of the panel. 

Simmons’ relationship with Williams was important to leading him to ProFootballTalk, but the panelists emphasized that what distinguishes reporters is their dedication to the work behind the scenes.

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“I’ve been with NBC for the past 18 and a half years and it’s pretty apparent who works and who coasts. There’s no substitute for work and human relationships.” Vaccaro said.

Simmons covered his first Super Bowl in 2019 when he worked for the Los Angeles Rams, and while the atmosphere is unmatched for American sporting events, he advised journalists to not get complacent. 

“You get to one thing, and it’s like ‘yeah, that’s good but what’s the next one?’” Simmons said. “I like to think I’m still working towards that next thing. I don’t necessarily need to know what that is.”

Keeping your options open was a big takeaway for the students involved in the discussion. Davis felt very inspired by how multifaceted Shropshire is and hopes to apply his advice in her future endeavors with women’s basketball.

“There aren’t really any limitations to what you can do,” Davis said. “The main thing for me is to not limit myself and box myself in. Just because I like sports reporting right now, that doesn’t mean I can’t go into sports business or just another avenue so I know I’m keeping all doors open.”

Opportunities to start making moves in the industry inspired a group of University of Arizona journalism students to drive from Tucson, arriving early, eager to learn more about what NBCU Academy has to offer. 

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“Our professor recommended we come up here to build the U of A connection with NBCU because we are a recent partner with them,” Arizona student Annabel Lecky said. “I was personally interested in coming because everyone says they want to make connections, but I don’t know how to start doing that so I came to learn.” 

Connecting with the community is very important to NBC Sports and the NFL, and Phoenix is prideful of their native culture. This is where the unique stories come from, and it’s a win-win situation for the reputation of the NFL and the chance for someone’s story to be told. 

The NFL’s Manager of Influencer, Talent and Culture Marketing Keyon Branch knew how important it was to honor and reflect the league’s care for Arizona. He understands the power of marketing your brand with clear intent and using your platform for impactful change, in this case, diversity, equity and inclusion in the NFL. 

Arizona native Lucinda Hinojos, also known as La Morena, is an artist that will be showcasing her artwork through Super Bowl LVII. Her Chicana and Indigenous culture will be displayed on the Wilson Duke football, all 60,000 tickets and on posters surrounding State Farm Stadium. 

It wouldn’t have fit the mission of the NFL to host a Super Bowl in a large, diverse city and not include its historical significance.

“Lucinda is the woman who did a lot of the art that you’ll see around here and also the ticket,” Branch said. “Sitting down and listening to her story, I think there was something we wanted to break through and push out there because we want our audience to understand. We know what the demographic and the makeup of our audience is, and we want to continue to grow that.”

The Super Bowl is everyone’s dream event to either work or attend as a fan and one of the few sporting events that has this much anticipation and preparation leading up to the game. 

“That moment sitting down in the press box, working with people who have become my best friends and you look at the logo and go ‘Wow, this is something a hundred plus million people watch and I’m here for it.’ That was one of the coolest moments of my life,” Simmons said.

Author’s Note: Janaé Bradford is a graduate student obtaining her master’s in sports journalism from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University. She received her bachelor’s in media, journalism and film from Howard University in May 2022. She’s currently a graduate assistant with the Reynolds Center for Business Journalism, and she also is a multimedia journalist and photographer for the Walter Cronkite Sports Network. You can follow her on Instagram @janaeainbradford or check out her work on

Super Bowl squares 2023: Explanation, how to play, rules and printable template


Star quarterbacks Patrick Mahomes and Jalen Hurts are set to go head-to-head today, Super Bowl Sunday, when the Kansas City Chiefs take on the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl LVII.

Even if you’re home watching on the couch, you can still get in on the action by filling out your squares, which has become a Super Bowl tradition.

What are Super Bowl squares and what is the format?

A board features 10 rows and 10 columns, adding up to 100 squares total. One of the teams is assigned the rows, while the other team is assigned the columns.

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Each person in the pool then chooses one (or multiple) squares, depending on your pool’s rules. In some pools, squares are randomly assigned, while you may choose your own square in other pools.

After all the squares have been filled, numbers between zero and nine are randomly chosen for each row and column.

How do Super Bowl squares work? How do I win?

Each square has a corresponding row and column number. At the end of each quarter, the player whose two numbers match the end digits of each team’s point total will win.

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For example, if the score at the end of the first quarter is Chiefs 13, Eagles 7, the player whose box corresponds with “3” for Kansas City and “7” for Philadelphia would win.

Most pools pay out for the final score at the end of each quarter, for a total of four winners (1st quarter, halftime, 3rd quarter, final score). Some pools pay out for every score throughout the game.

Where can I find a template for Super Bowl squares?

NBC Sports has provided a template below, complete with a 10 by 10 grid. Fans can click here to print this template out to use for their Super Bowl squares.

How can I watch and live stream Super Bowl 2023?

  • When: Sunday, February 12, 2023
  • Where: State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona
  • TV Channel: FOX
  • Follow along with ProFootballTalk and NBC Sports for NFL news, updates, scores, injuries, and more

Follow along with ProFootballTalk for the latest news, storylines, and updates surrounding the 2022 NFL Season and Playoffs, and be sure to subscribe to NFLonNBC on YouTube!

Marry Your Passion With Your Curiosity: Panelists Discuss Building Your Brand in Leadup to Super Bowl LVII


Fans in every color jersey of the rainbow internationally will tune into Super Bowl LVIII this Sunday. Ahead of the game, NBCU Academy partnered with PNE Showcase and Arizona State University to bring students and professionals an inside look at the people who color outside the lines for the National Football league.

The three powerhouses co-hosted the Building and Being Your Brand seminar in hopes of helping students and other national professionals identify their brand and the best ways to communicate the pillars of their brand to the masses.

There are just under 4,000 people employed by the NFL, which makes for hundreds of job paths within the league. As the panel began, NFL international marketing and player relations manager Emily Wirtz spoke about how her roots in Germany translated into the role she has now.

The first door opened for Wirtz in the NFL was as a digital video editor and producer. Wirtz transparently admitted she did not feel qualified for the job but with an extra push from her father, she decided to still go after the interview.

“My dad told me that even if I do not land the job, it will at least be good interview practice,” Wirtz said.

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Wirtz still thanks her father to this day. Her video supervisor learned she spoke German and instantly recommended her for a role within the NFL’s global expansion. She would go on to execute the first NFL game in Germany. Germany’s first official exposure to American football at the highest level sold out of millions of tickets in three minutes.

“When we are on the way to these international games in London, Germany and Mexico City, the NFL staff, we’re usually on a big bus or van,” Wirtz said. “In the van it’s about 40 of us and we’re literally trying to find a fan in one of the jerseys of all 32 teams. When we see someone we are like Chargers, Rams or whatever the team is! Every international game I’ve been to, all 5, we’ve been able to spot someone in each jersey.”

By showing up as her authentic self, Wirtz was able to leverage her job. All five of the panelists promoted a “helmet-off” approach to the game. This idea promotes getting to know the stories of the players to help advance the game.

Director of NFL college and club social marketing Sana Merchant-Rupani discussed taking on tasks that require you to grow. Before joining the league, Merchant-Rupani worked in digital marketing at Empire State Realty Trust. In the position, she was tasked with creating an Instagram presence for the company.

Merchant-Rupani had no experience with Instagram when taking on this task but it directly led her into her current role.

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“You have to marry your passion with your curiosity,” Merchant-Rupani said.

Senior manager of NFL game operations Karley Berry further emphasized Merchant-Rupani’s message by presenting the contrast. Berry posited that if a job is presented to someone and they check off all the job requirements, then the job is not for them.

The entire audience was initially confused by the statement but as Berry went on, she explained you must take a job that will offer you something new and will leave you with an extra skill you did not have going into the position.

Prior to stepping into the game operations realm, Berry took her first step into the football world when she was a recruiting assistant at Penn State University.

Growing up around Nittany Lion football her entire life, she knew the brand of the university’s football team. While in State College, PA, she challenged the recruitment staff to go after men with outstanding character.

“When we would go on home visits, I would make sure to pay attention,” Berry said. Berry wanted to be intentional with her tactics and believed the best players were those that were good people on and off the field.

Merchant-Rupani, Berry and Wirtz all used elements of their personal brand to succeed in their current spaces to get to their dream work destination. This message was passed on to the audience through painting their journey through experiences.

“We all know about Patrick Mahomes. There are other stories,” senior manager of NFL social marketing Jordan Dolbin said.

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Dolbin called on storytellers to push their limits. She wanted to ensure she was challenging audience members to go beneath the surface of the performers with the best stat numbers.

She brought up a story she came across during her Super Bowl preparation that was a “where are they now’ approach to telling the stories of all the players that caught interceptions against Maholmes in high school.

“Now, that is the story I will remember when this is all over,” Dolbin said.

Cincinnati Bengals special teamer Trayveon Williams added his experience to the panel, emphasizing exploring his other interests outside of football. He also commended today’s players for the tenacity in their approach to leaving a legacy outside of football.

The panel agreed collectively their main reason for taking time away from all the Super Bowl work obligations and festivities was to provide the representation they did not see while carving out their career paths.

NBCU Academy will be virtually hosting the Next Level Summit on March 22, 2023.

Author’s Note: Alexis Davis is currently in her last semesters in Walter Cronkite’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University. She received her bachelor’s from North Carolina A&T State University in multimedia journalism in May 2022. Davis is a featured writer for the MEAC conference. Davis also switches between play-by-play announcer, analyst and sideline reporter for the PAC-12 conference’s app. She also hosts a podcast focusing on international basketball players and their fashion experiences called What’s in Your Bag?