By Madeline Moore
Tony Plohetski has developed a multimedia career the past two decades, writing and working for the Austin American-Statesman and KVUE, the ABC affiliate in the Texas capital city.
Plohetski was born and raised in Tylertown, Mississippi. At the young age of 13, he started working for his hometown newspaper. He continued working there throughout high school as well as a local country music radio station. He then headed off to Ole Miss where he received a bachelor’s degree in journalism.
While at Ole Miss, Plohetski worked with The Daily Mississippian, NewsWatch 12 and wrote for the Clarion-Ledger. After graduating from Ole Miss, he moved to Austin and fell in love with the city.
Earlier this year, he wrote a compelling, in-depth story on Jevan Snead, a former quarterback at Texas and Ole Miss who tragically took his own life in 2019.
“He died here in Austin. It was where he carried out the suicide,” Plohetski said. “It was a story I was interested in because I had the connection to Ole Miss. I wondered what had happened to him. As I started looking into it more and more, that’s when I learned more about his life and his life post-football.”
Snead had multiple head injuries throughout his football career. While playing for Ole Miss at the Cotton Bowl on Jan. 2, 2010 against Oklahoma State, Snead took a powerful hit that made his helmet fly off and put him flat on his back.
“I learned about his brain injury and that his family strongly believed that he had CTE,” Plohetski said. “It became more of a compelling story and a fascinating one. But it was a bit troubling, too. There is this great American pastime, football, and what we expose people who engage in that sport, too. And whether or not the profession and even colleges, universities and high schools do enough to protect from injuries.”
Plohetski began pursuing the story by contacting Snead’s family.
“The first person I reached out to was his sister. I had seen her quoted minimally, in the very early stages after the death,” Plohetski said. “That signaled to me that perhaps she would have some friendliness towards the media. Over the next few weeks, we built a rapport and hopefully a level of trust. As she became clear about the story I was doing, she put me in touch with more family members and friends of Jevan.”
Plohetski didn’t receive hesitation from the family, because he was trying to get educated and convey the whole story.
“The story of Jevan Snead is an empathetic one and a sad one,” Plohetski said. “He probably did have a lifetime of concussions that led to this issue, and I think everyone was pretty open.”
This story was an important one to tell. The long-lasting effects of football injuries are so controversial today. This story helped to highlight those lasting effects and bring attention to an issue that is readily discussed.
“This was a story that got a lot of attention,” Plohetski said. “People were sad to learn more about what happened to him, but people also appreciated learning more about him and what happened.”
Plohetski’s article is actually the first thing that pops up when you search the name “Jevan Snead.”
“I got overwhelmingly positive feedback,” Plohetski said. “No one pushed back or gave negative feedback, which frankly surprised me because I thought people might resist any narrative that goes against football.”
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