Her Story: How I Learned to Dream Big from the Sidelines

As the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air song says, "Now this is a story all about how my life got flipped, turned upside down..." I am here to tell you how my life changed in a few short days and restored my ability to dream big and believe in myself.

In order for me explain this whole experience well, I must go in chronological order of how seemingly smaller events snowballed into bigger ones. It all started on a Thursday night when I decided to go and take some funny photos at the College GameDay set before chaos ensued on Friday morning. I jokingly...but also seriously posted this picture of me posing near this tiny trailer with the faces of the College GameDay cast on it saying how much I would love to meet the Maria Taylor. Like Maria Taylor (member of College GameDay and my ultimate role model for professional and personal reasons), my dream job is to be a sports reporter and someday have my very own sports show. So with that in mind, you will see how and why this insane opportunity has completely flipped and turned my life upside down.

Fast forward to around 2 p.m. on Friday when I venture out to see the commotion on Memory Mall. Little did I know that the first round of CGD filing would be happening as I got there. I ended up walking straight to the front of the barricades and had a perfect view of everything. The location I was in was so close that I was able to shout Maria’s name after the show ended and from that, things just took off. She came over to me, where I was then able to tell her how much of an inspiration she is to me. I explained that I had seen her career come-up and I truly admired her drive and talent so much.

After we snapped a few pictures (and my friend Aidanna secretly got the whole greeting on video), I asked her to follow me on Twitter, and she said yes! Then, I added not-so-seriously that I would love to send her my resume—that has absolutely nothing to show for yet because I am only a sophomore—and she said YES! That night, my heart was racing. I could not believe that this busy woman wanted my resume?! That same evening, Maria Taylor followed me on Twitter. I'd be lying if I told you I didn't scream in the car. 

Strap in ladies and gents, because Saturday morning is the basically the real-life equivalent of the juiciest part of any Netflix original.

So my friend Chris had been asking me about my "Maria Taylor Fangirl Moment" from the day before and I had a chance to explain how in shock I was about meeting her. I ended up spilling my guts a little and told him how I was losing my drive for sports journalism because I was not feeling affirmed in my career choice. I explained how it felt impossible to be a big fish in UCF's big pond and even told him that I was gearing up to change my major that next week. With all that in mind, what my friend did next is truly incredible: during the taping of College GameDay, he somehow got to stand right near the backstage zone for ESPN personnel only. This allowed him to tell Maria Taylor everything that I had told him: my dreams, my doubts, and my plan to just quit. Maria Taylor decided it was time to take action and sent me a video inviting me to shadow her on the sidelines of the UCF/Cincinnati game that night and told me to "never give up...ever!" When I received it, I was a wreck. I felt like my life was coming full circle because here I was, ready to give up on my dreams because of how long the road looked, and my role model showed up at the nick of time to tell me to keep walking along that road no matter what. *Cries typing article*

After struggling to breathe upon the news that Maria wanted me to shadow her, I direct messaged her on Twitter asking how I could get on the sidelines and from that she gave me her phone number (yeah sis, I freaked out too!) and just said to get to the game at 6:45 pm and she would give me this all-access pass, aka my “golden ticket.” Once I got into the stadium, I called her and she came over to me and had one of the guys throw me an all-access pass. I was low-key shocked that the pass worked and they didn’t stop me! When my feet touched the field, I was immediately overwhelmed.

Five seconds into being there, I already lost Maria and freaked out (silently). I felt like I didn’t belong there. One guy even asked to see my pass due to my evident awkwardness! Eventually, I found her. They gave me a headset to listen to the producers, the reporters, and pretty much all the audio you would hear on during a televised live game. It. Was. Surreal.

There were many moments when I felt like I needed to be pinched because it all felt like one giant dream sequence. She let me hold her official microphone and clipboard, asked me to look out for players, and took me everywhere she went. I felt so official that night! I was speed walking from end zone to end zone, running up the bleachers to retrieve a clipboard full of stats, rubbing shoulders with legends, and learning from one of the best in the game.

During halftime, I got to go on the tour bus and eat some food and just chill out with Maria. We talked about fun things. like hair and makeup, and serious things such as why its so important to be precise and hardworking in this industry. She told me that as a girl, and as a minority, there is no room for error. You must be on it and you must be accurate at all times. She explained that some people want nothing more than to point a judging finger at you. CREDIBILITY IS KEY!

Although I wanted to impress her with my sports knowledge, I soon realized that pretty much everyone on that field had sports knowledge so it would simply just be a drop in an ocean to spew out what I’m sure everyone already knew. By the third quarter, I felt so in my element. The fast pace, constant focus on the replays, and the tiny glances at her notes all restored my passion for sports broadcasting. It allowed me to see what my future could be like and gave me a visible goal to work towards. 

A truly affirming moment happened immediately after the Knights won and Maria asked Mackenzie Milton the question about how his value of “Ohana” from growing up in Hawaii plays into his leadership role as quarterback on this team. That was my question! I got a chance to spitball ideas on things to ask him and gave Maria this question. She thought it was good enough to be used on primetime television. That was a real moment for me. “So maybe I can do this after all!” I thought to myself.

At the end of a long but truly impactful night, I took some photos with her and gave her a big hug and said my goodbyes! She let me keep her pen and some GameDay production schedules she had. I then thanked the team and left the bus feeling important, but more than that, believed in. Maria herself even called me “The future Maria Taylor!”

I woke up on Sunday to about 60 notifications asking how I got this opportunity and how it all went down. Was it overwhelming? Yes. It also scared me a little because I had this inner battle between wanting to enjoy the experience privately for a  while, but wanting to share the details in a way that didn't seem like I was bragging. So I wrote a to-do list, caught up on many hours of sleep and decided it was time to share this amazing yet unexpected story with the world.

To anyone who has a certain aspiration and dream in life: shoot your shot. Cast your net into the ocean of opportunity because you never know when you may catch your biggest moment yet! I’m a firm believer in putting oneself out there as much as possible because you will never regret trying and doing. You will only regret what you don't try and do. Fear disables us. You have to fight through self-doubt and reach for the realness of your dreams. I can speak from experience and tell you that you really never know what could happen! 72 hours. That is about how quickly my life changed. Think about your 72 hours and step out in faith to one day live out those hours

My "Dream Big" biopic will be out next year. Beyoncé will be portraying me, of course!

All images provided by the author.