“I’ve always been an ESPN guy,” said CWU alumnus Mike Wells. “Sports news is the first thing I check out when I wake up and the last thing at night. Sports journalism is the second best thing to being one of the athletes.”
Wells has been a sports journalist for 13 years. But now not only does he get to watch ESPN, he’s working for the network.
“It’s definitely a dream come true,” Wells acknowledges. Ironically, he made the decision to join ESPN three years to the day that his mother had passed away. “I remember her telling me. ‘I can’t wait to see you working for ESPN.’ It was before my final quarter at Central that she told me that.”
A 2000 CWU communication graduate, Wells is now responsible for writing about all aspects of the Indianapolis Colts, of the National Football League, on a daily basis for ESPN.com and its expanded NFL Nation blog. He is one of 32 NFL Nation reporters who will contribute multiple reports—including news, commentary, analysis, audio, and video.
“If it’s worthy, I’ll be posting throughout the day,” Wells explains. “But they won’t always be long stories. There’s no set quota on how much I have to write or how long the stories are. Basically, I’m my own self-editor on how much a story is worth.”
Even so, it’s a demanding job. From now until the Super Bowl, if the Colts make it that far, Wells will live out of a suitcase, traveling with the team whenever and wherever it plays on the road. When he’s not on the road, he’s spending long hours at the Colts’ training facility.
“It’s not meant for everyone,” he added. “But, if you’re passionate about it, it’s a dream job.”
The dream is not what Wells expected to do when he was a CWU student. A video communications major, he was planning a career in television. But, after a successful summer internship writing about the Seattle Seahawks for the Associated Press, Wells was offered a job straight out of college with the AP Seattle bureau.
“I like aspects of both television work and journalism, but I knew that journalism would give me more opportunities faster,” he said.
In his new position, Wells is also able to utilize the radio and television skills he honed at CWU.
“It could be for a phone interview or something on camera,” Wells says. “The TV side will be on an ‘as needed’ basis. ESPN keeps a camera at each [NFL] facility and I could go on live.”
It’s likely Wells will get some face time on camera, as ESPN television has begun using its beat reporters, like Wells, as analysts instead of former players, as had been the case in past years.
Wells has always been a sports fan, and when the opportunity to become a full-time sportswriter presented itself, he jumped at it. Between 2000 and 2005, he worked at the St. Paul Pioneer Press, covering the Minnesota Vikings football team, Minnesota Wild hockey team, University of Minnesota men’s basketball team, and Minnesota Timberwolves basketball team. He then was hired by the Indianapolis Star to become the beat writer for the Indiana Pacers basketball team.
In July, the Star, Indiana’s largest daily newspaper, reassigned Wells to cover the Colts. Ironically, within a week, ESPN came calling.
“Our objective in staffing NFL Nation was to identify and build a diverse team of first-class journalists with distinct voices, experienced reporters with multimedia skills and indefatigable work ethics, and authoritative and credible analysts who can contribute to our all of our platforms—print, digital, TV, audio and social,” said Patrick Steigman, vice president and editor-in-chief at ESPN.com. “Mike met or exceeded our standards in all of those areas. He has the ideal mix of energy, enthusiasm, and experience, given his background covering the NBA, college sports and, of course, the NFL. He's been a great addition to the ESPN team.”
Wells officials started his ESPN job on August 5. Despite working for the Bristol, Connecticut-based network, he gets to continue to live in Indianapolis.
The first in his family to earn a college degree, as a CWU student Wells volunteered for every opportunity available in the communications field. He spent two years on the Observer, the university’s student newspaper, worked in the sports information department, spent two years hosting a radio program and one year as news director at KCWU, CWU’s student radio station, and worked in Public Affairs.
“Anything communications related, I did,” he said, noting that such varied experience has been instrumental in his success. “I had the opportunity to do hands-on work in a lot of areas, opportunities I probably wouldn’t have had if I’d gone to a bigger university.”
Wells hopes to someday return to academia. “I’m very passionate about my job, but at some point, maybe 10 or 15 years down the road, I would love to teach journalism. I’ve had first-hand experience and I would love to pass that on.”
Asked if he’d be interested if the chance to do so at his alma mater came up, he said, “I would love to come back to the Central campus,” he said. “Without Central, I don’t think I’d be where I’m now. My experience at Central was great from beginning to end, and something I wouldn’t trade or ever forget.”