Opportunity. That’s what awaits every student who enters Ole Miss. A few years ago my family took this picture of me outside the Journalism building on campus.
In 1982 I stood at the bottom of those steps as an Ole Miss sophomore. I noticed a sign on the door that announced tryouts for the student TV News station. I had a choice. I could go for it, or I could go on by.
Sports had been my passion growing up in Oxford, but could I actually make a living from it? Sports anchor on the campus TV news was one of the positions in the try outs. I hesitated, but I walked in that door as an elementary education major very happy with the guidance from that part of Ole Miss, but intrigued by this other doorway. I was met by an Ole Miss student named Bill Hampton and a journalism professor, Dr. Pratt. They welcomed me to try out, even if I wasn’t a journalism/communications major.
I did, and was flat out terrible. I was so nervous that I could not speak. They kept saying go, and I eventually mumbled something. Thank goodness most everyone else tried out for weather and social reporter, because just two tried out for sports guy. I was named sports anchor of the Monday and Thursday Tel-O-Miss News, seen on Oxford cable.
From there it was a matter of taking dead aim on progress. I changed my electives to communications classes, and lived in Farley Hall practically. Faculty went out of their way to show me the ropes, even though I was an elementary education major. At Ole Miss, the tools to succeed are there, but you have to go above and beyond just classes. We formed a weekly sports talk show called After the Buzzer. We traveled to Ole Miss games all over the SEC. I wrote for the Daily Mississippian under the guidance of Sports Editor Kate Magandy, who was way ahead of the curve as a female head of a sports department in a male-dominated profession.
I took advantage of the resources at the University. I did not just rely on the education of the classes to prepare me for the world. I took it several levels higher. Like many of that time, I had been greatly impacted by the Miracle on Ice of the 1980 Winter Olympics when our underdog hockey team stunned the goliath-like Soviets 4-3. The Coach Herb Brooks said, “You can’t be common. The common person goes nowhere. You have to be uncommon.”
I was determined not to be a common sports anchor on local TV news. I wanted to be uncommon with a unique style that connected not only with the hardcore sports viewer, but the casual fan as well. That enabled me to be hired by WTOK TV in Meridian right out of Ole Miss, and then KBAK TV in California a year later, and then the CBS station in South Bend covering Notre Dame football in the late 1980s and then WDSU TV in New Orleans before I was 30.
I walked up those steps of Farley Hall in 1982. Four years later I was in Los Angeles accepting a Golden Microphone for Broadcasting Excellence for Best Sportcast in southern California, Class C.
Why? Because the O in Ole Miss stands for OPPORTUNITY! If you couple that with YOUR drive to take advantage of every opportunity, you will succeed. I sucked the marrow out of the bone of opportunities at Ole Miss. I could not have done it without the help of faculty like Jim Pratt, S. Gale Denley and Will Norton. The staff at Farley Hall connected me with a key internship at WHBQ TV in Memphis after my junior year which was pivotal.
They lined me up with an interview with the great Stan Sandroni in my senior year. Sandroni was news director of a TV station in Greenville, Mississippi at the time and of course will always hold a special place in Ole Miss hearts for his broadcasting work with the Rebels.
Because I was able to muster the courage to walk into Farley Hall and because of the resources the University offered, I was able to go into a broadcasting career that would enable me to interview one-on-one the likes of Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, Larry Bird, actor Burt Lancaster, Pat Summitt of the Lady Vols and many more. In 2005 I transitioned into full time motivational speaking and group travel hosting. That never would have happened had I not taken full advantage of the opportunities at Ole Miss.
If there is one thing I would say to Ole Miss students, it is this: seek excellence in your major and acquire as much knowledge and skill in it as you can while you are there. Combine that with a positive, solution-centered attitude, a passion unknown to mankind, and a love of what a team can accomplish, and you will rock!
In future stories here at Hotty Toddy, I will share more of what I have learned in the 34 years since graduating from Ole Miss. Now 56, I still have plenty of fuel in the tank and want to share insights with the students of today, to help them find their purpose and passion while on campus (if they have not already) and help to equip them to live a life not just of success, but significance.
Charlie Adams was born in Oxford in 1962. He was a 1980 graduate of Lafayette High School and a 1985 graduate of Ole Miss. Following a television news career, Charlie has focused on delivering inspirational keynotes, seminars and writings. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.