The Student News Site of Walt Whitman High School

The Black and White

The Student News Site of Walt Whitman High School

The Black and White

The Student News Site of Walt Whitman High School

The Black and White

Baseball falls to BCC 7–3 in the ultimate Battle of Bethesda
Boys volleyball falls to Walter Johnson 3–1
MCPS cancels bus tracking pilot app
Whitman hosts first International Night since COVID-19 pandemic
Boys lacrosse annihilates Blake 18–1
Girls lacrosse demolishes Blake 17–2

Girls lacrosse demolishes Blake 17–2

April 21, 2024

My experience as a high school sports writer at the Senior Bowl

My goal for the week was to connect with as many people as possible: no one was too big or small to converse with.

It’s 4:00 a.m. on Sunday, and I’m wide awake. Not because I can’t sleep or because I’m worried about an upcoming test, it’s because I have my computer and notepad beside me as I watch college football films. My extensive notes are in preparation for one of the biggest NFL events of the off-season — the 2024 Reese’s Senior Bowl — which I’ll cover for my website, The Patriots Beat.

I want to become an NFL insider, and my journey began with the website I started two years ago, where I regularly write about the New England Patriots and other NFL news. There’s nothing better than the adrenaline rush I get before sending out a scoop on a player. I don’t want to be just like any insider, I want to be someone who profiles players and researches how they help their community. So, I decided to start working towards that goal last summer. Nine months ago, I began developing relationships with NFL executives, agents and major decision-makers in the NFL community. However, I quickly learned that getting a seat at the table would be anything but easy.

Unlike school or sports, I couldn’t ask a peer or a teacher when I had questions, nor could I find the answer on Google — I had to figure everything out myself. I’ve been lucky enough to have the help of reporters and analysts in the NFL who have guided me through this process, but the cycle is never-ending; there’s always another phone call, another person to email and another story to write. 

This past fall, I decided to apply for Senior Bowl credentials, and a few months later, the Senior Bowl committee sent me an invite to cover the game for my website. Earning credentials is a selective process, and I was grateful to receive them. The event honors the best college football players in the country and puts them through a week of practice right in front of the eyes of NFL decision-makers. A surplus of scouts, general managers and head coaches travel to Mobile, Alabama every year to learn more about the draft prospects. On average, 100 players receive invitations to the event each year, and players split up into two groups: the American team and the National team. After the prospects arrive on Jan 28, they go through practices on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday before playing in a game on Saturday. 

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My goal for the week was to connect with as many people as possible: no one was too big or small to converse with. 

When I arrived in Mobile on Tuesday night, it didn’t take long to realize that this would be a memorable week. Since I had already missed a day of practice, only two more sessions were available for the media. Wednesday’s practice didn’t start until 9:30 a.m., but since I’m a stickler for being the first one there and the last one to leave, I got up at 6:45 a.m. 

After entering the stadium, I unzipped my backpack and pulled out my 165-page scouting notebook with personalized notes on all the players. It didn’t take long to notice why people enjoyed making the trip to Mobile every year — the unique access to players, media and even general managers is an extraordinary environment At one point, I was five feet away from NFL Network’s Tom Pellierso and ESPN’s Field Yates. On my other side were two Jacksonville Jaguars scouts and an NFL General Manager. At the end of each practice session, the media had 15 minutes of uninterrupted access to talk to players on the field. With this limited time, I had to strategize which players to talk to. 

However, later that afternoon, I had three hours to socialize and sit with all the prospects. This was part of the media day for the week where you could have a longer conversation with prospects. These conversations gave me the chance to create a connection between myself and the players. On Wednesday I spoke with Maryland offensive tackle Demar Glaze about his ability to play every offensive line spot, while gaining more knowledge about the responsibilities of the offensive line position, all in just 15 minutes. I also asked him technical questions about his footwork and his stance. The following day I tracked down agents and conversed with them during practice. Since it was the final training day, I wanted to get as much as possible.

Soon enough, Saturday morning came around — game day. I arrived at the stadium at 7:00 a.m. sharp for a noon kick-off. I was abnormally early again, but it was worth it when Tom Pellierso was the only other media member on the field. Though we only exchanged a few quick words before he had to speak on live TV, I could trade my contact information. During the game, I sat in the pressbox with other media members. As the buzzer sounded after the game’s conclusion, I ran onto the field, hoping to grab some interviews with the prospects. Little did I know, all the players would mingle in the middle of the field, shying away from the media. Even though I couldn’t ask any questions, I had a chance to say “good luck in the NFL” and “see you at the Combine” to some of the players I connected with earlier in the week. 

The unparalleled access I had to build relationships within the NFL made my experience invaluable. When I visited the NFL Combine in early March, I revisited some players I met in Mobile. My experiences reporting on the NFL space have taught me the importance of building trust and creating meaningful relationships. The media often focuses on the negative aspects of a player’s career — such as suspensions, injuries and bad-mouthing — but reading an article about a football player’s community service is uncommon. I want to be different from every other writer and tell the life stories that every player has to offer, and the Senior Bowl helped me build the connections that make this goal possible.

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About the Contributor
Ben Belford-Peltzman, Sports Writer
Grade 11 Why did you join the Black and White?  I love writing and podcasting about the latest sports news in our community.
What is your favorite song of all time?
Call Me Maybe

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