Hard Work Pays Off for Sports Television Intern
JONESBORO — For as long as he can remember, Keandrá Gross has wanted to be involved in sports. Now, he has the chance of a lifetime.
Gross, a creative media productions major with an emphasis in sports media at Arkansas State University, is living his dream by working a year-long paid internship with Ming Entertainment Group in Irvine, Calif. In fact, he is already on the road to begin working a lengthy college football schedule with ESPN Productions. His first undertaking is a Sept. 4 matchup with No. 10-ranked Notre Dame at Texas in a rare Sunday night televised college football game.
“It’s an internship, but it’s also a job,” said an excited Gross (his first name is pronounced Kee-ON-dray) prior to hitting the road to meet his fellow production crew members. “I am so excited, I can’t wait.”
Gross, from Memphis, said he grew up loving football and baseball and wanted to play both sports. An injury closed that door, but “I found I still wanted to be involved with sports in some way.”
While still at Central High School, he came to Arkansas State for a campus visit and toured the media and communications facilities. He also met Collin Pillow, instructor and studio coordinator for ASU-TV, during that trip. After the tour and seeing and hearing about the valuable experience he could expect, he was hooked. He enrolled at A-State and asked for Pillow as his academic adviser.
“Once enrolled as a major, Keandrá became involved in our program his very first semester,” noted Pillow. “He wanted to learn about all aspects of television production and, in particular, sports production. He volunteered to help with in-stadium video productions of football games and helped with the crews at men’s and women’s basketball games.
“He also worked volleyball and baseball games while serving as a sports producer. He was probably involved with the production of more than 100 A-State sporting events while serving as a sports producer. He worked alongside other students who were required to be there for classes, but soon became a valuable member of our team.”
Pillow said that once Gross realized the possibilities available through A-State’s program, he also sought freelance and part-time opportunities in his hometown of Memphis.
“I worked the past couple of years for the FedEx Forum as a production assistant for Memphis Grizzlies NBA games,” said Gross. “I assisted the camera operators and worked in other phases of operations.”
When it came time to secure an internship in his field of study during the spring semester, Gross applied for one at ESPN Operations. He didn’t hear a response until May, and the answer wasn’t good. He applied for two more at ESPN, and even though he was extended interviews, he wasn’t selected.
As Keandrá’s adviser, Pillow helped him identify some possible internships in sports production. He received a couple of offers in other areas, but really wanted to do live sports production.
“As a creative media production major, Keandrá was exposed to production companies and networks when they came to Jonesboro to televise A-State athletics events. He had opportunities to interact with their representatives and made some good contacts over the years while also working in TV production at the FedEx Forum in Memphis.”
In fact, an executive at ESPN, who didn’t have a position available, recommended Gross to Ming because he was so impressed with Keandrá’s skills and enthusiasm.
Ming Entertainment Group is a human resource service that provides solutions to help companies hire personnel and ensure state requirements for payroll are met. ESPN, Inc., the worldwide sports conglomerate, is one of Ming’s clients, and Ming provides numerous workers for different positions to facilitate ESPN’s events.
Gross said he is not interested at all in being in front of the camera. He wants to work behind the scenes as a technical director. He already has valuable experience at that position and as a graphics operator. During the academic year, he ran camera, operated the slow motion replay, audio and learned other crew positions during A-State events.
For Arkansas State athletic games carried by ESPN3 during 2016, he was one of two students who had the responsibility for ensuring all graphics content was ready for each game, meaning entering player names, jersey numbers, hometowns, height, weight, class year and any other pertinent information that could appear in an onscreen graphic. The effort involves many hours of pre-production work few in the viewing audience realize.
“Keandrá is one of those students we use as an example of how to do it the right way. He is a hungry learner while also being a mentor for students coming behind him. By the time he was a junior, we began talking about his goals and he said he wanted to work professionally in sports television,” continued Pillow.
“I’m ready,” Gross concluded. “I’ve learned a lot from Mr. Pillow and at Arkansas State. I really love this kind of work. Who knows, I may even get an opportunity to work professional games someday as a job.”