“I’ve wanted to work for ESPN ever since I became a sports fan as a young kid. I spent all my mornings and nights of elementary school, middle school and high school watching SportsCenter,” Tyler Dencker said.
After he graduated from Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School (SPFHS), Tyler Dencker attended Marist College and majored in sports communication. He is now pursuing a career in sports production as a Production Assistant at exactly where he has always wanted to be: ESPN.
“My dream job was always to work at ESPN, but to be able to get it right out of college was something I never thought was possible, and I count my blessings every day to have gotten that opportunity,” Dencker said.
To achieve his goals, Dencker has had to work hard at every stage. Much of his journey took place inside Scotch Plains, and he attributes much of his success to the lessons he learned in the town.
“I was very involved with the Fanscotian, Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School's newspaper. I was a sportswriter my junior year and a sports editor my senior year, so that for me was probably the best experience I got from high school in terms of sports journalism,” he said.
“I also had a very valuable experience with TAPintoSPF, as I was a sports writer for them. I would cover some of the high school’s soccer and basketball games, in addition to any other sports going on in the town. I would say in terms of high school experiences, those definitely were the most valuable for me, and those kind of helped pave the way for me to get to where I am today. I feel very blessed to be a part of the Scotch Plains community... it’s been a big impact on who I am, and a big reason why I am in the position that I am today.”
Dencker was also considered the leader of Raider Nation, the fan-section for all SPFHS sports. His younger brother, Robert, assumed this position for the 2019-20 school year, continuing the legacy of uniting Scotch Plains-Fanwood under the many sports teams.
“It’s been so cool to see my brother take a lead of Raider Nation this year,” he said. “It’s something that I was able to enjoy so much my senior year, and many of my favorite high school memories came from Raider Nation. I know that stepping up into that position isn’t easy so I’m really proud of him for doing that… and I’m excited to see him succeed with it.”
When he graduated, Dencker moved on to Marist College to study sports communication. Marist has one of the few sports communication programs in the country, and offers classes to prepare prospective sports journalists for their career paths. His classes included: Sports Public Relations, Sports Broadcasting, Issues in Sports Media, and Sports Journalism. He believes that these classes and the professors who taught them helped him prepare for the many internships he had in college.
“I was lucky to have five internships over the course of my college career, in addition to being involved in the Marist Center for Sports Communication. Every semester, and during the summer, I was doing something outside of school in the professional world to better myself and get more experience,” he explained.
“I always say that I am lucky for being in the position that I’m in now at ESPN, but I also know that I did work hard for it... and that’s all it takes. It’s cliché, but if you want something, you can go get it as long as you put in the time and the work. You have to find ways to differentiate yourself from others,” Dencker said.
Dencker had to go through an extensive application process to land his job at ESPN, including numerous rounds of interviews, one of which featured a “sports knowledge test,” where applicants were required to complete a series of tasks relative to the responsibilities of a Production Assistant.
“As soon as I stepped onto the ESPN campus in Bristol, Connecticut for the first time during the last round of interviews, I knew that I needed to do whatever it took to get the job. Two days later, I got the call that I got it, and it was one of the coolest and most surreal moments of my life,” Dencker said. “Now, over two months later, it’s unbelievable how much I’ve learned. I could never have imagined I could ever learn so much about sports television and sports production in such little time.”
As a Production Assistant, Dencker is in charge of creating highlights for different games. Each day, he is assigned a game to cover. He then goes through a process in which he watches the game, creates the video highlight, as well as the “Shot Sheet” (a script for the anchor to follow along), which is ultimately aired on SportsCenter. Part of what makes the job so rewarding for Dencker is the relationships he forges with anchors he has long admired, as well as having the opportunity to be the person creating the highlights and telling the story about games that will be seen by millions across the country.
In addition to cutting highlights for SportsCenter, Dencker was recently able to cut a highlight for NFL Primetime, a show co-hosted by ESPN legends Chris Berman and Tom Jackson. Dencker was able to meet the two anchors before the show, and talk about the game he was assigned with them to help better their understanding before reading his highlight on-air.
“I’m very blessed and humbled to be in the current position that I’m in, and I credit that a lot to the people who have been surrounding me my whole life. My family, my high school and college friends, my high school teachers and college professors... There are so many people that have helped me get to where I am today and I couldn’t be luckier to have them all in my life. Being at ESPN is a dream come true, and I am excited to continue to work hard as hard as I can and make the most of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
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