When I first joined The Post, little did I know that I would be presented with amazing opportunities when it came to photography. I’ve been able to hang out with bomb-sniffing dogs, talk to amazing athletes and professors, meet inspiring students and most recently, cover an OU football game at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tennessee.
As a huge college football fan, I knew that game day at an SEC school is a bigger deal than at schools in other conferences throughout the country, but experiencing it in person was absolutely incredible. Kickoff was at noon, but when we arrived at the stadium at 9:15 a.m., tens of thousands of fans had already camped out for the “Vol walk,” which is when the team walks through a crowd of Volunteer faithful on its way into the stadium. Attendance is routinely more than 100,000 people and Neyland is the fifth-largest stadium in the United States.
Three Post sports writers (Charlie Hatch, Cameron Fields and Andrew Gillis) and I traveled to Knoxville to cover the game, and I’ll never forget walking into the stadium for the first time. Time seemed to slow down as we made our way in, and the juxtaposition between the darkly lit interior and the shining light from the field made it seem as if we were in a movie. As soon as we walked onto the field, we were like kids in a candy store as we reveled in the massive stadium.
I come from a small town in northwest Pennsylvania and had less than 500 people in my entire high school, so football attendance at our games would peak at around 2,000 people. Looking around Neyland, it was crazy to realize that the stadium could hold my entire hometown ten times over, and it also made me realize just how special of an opportunity this was. There are only four stadiums in the country that hold more people than Neyland, and not only did I get to experience a game in it, but I also got to cover that game. Being aware of how unique of an experience it was made me appreciate it so much more. It’s hard as a sports photographer not to become jaded at the fact that you’re always down on either the field or the court right near the action, but realizing that I might not get a chance to cover a game in such a stadium ever again was rather numbing.
Here I am as a 21-year-old college student who works for a student newspaper in small-town Athens, Ohio, but I can tell people that I’ve covered a nationally broadcast game at a stadium that holds over 100,000 people. How can you not call that special?