On Wednesday, Oct. 21, Hal Chapman Wingo, better known as Trey Wingo, joined the Marist College community via Zoom, adding to the list of guest speakers that the Center for Sports Communication has welcomed. Jane McManus, the program’s director, introduced her good friend and referred to him as a “versatile person in sports broadcasting.”
Wingo began his career with NBC News in New York City and eventually worked his way to ESPN in 1997. He ended his 23-year career at the network last month. During his time there, Wingo hosted NFL Primetime, NFL Live, and ESPN Radio morning show.
After graduating from Baylor University with a communications degree, Wingo decided he simply did not want to do it. Out of college, his first job was with a PR firm in Washington D.C., showing all the hopeful students that everyone’s journey is unique and different.
Eventually, Wingo left that job and decided he wanted to pursue a career in sports media. He moved back in with his parents in Connecticut and landed a job with NBC, giving guided tours and worked on shows like Saturday Night Live.
Wingo quickly spoke to those on the call about working in the sports media industry, explaining that the process of making it in the industry is one of the toughest things you can do. Wingo was not shy to let the students know the challenges and struggles everyone will face early on in their careers but he also gave great advice.
“Only do this if you love it because it can be a miserable experience [otherwise],” Wingo said. “When I worked in Binghamton, NY, I was miserable. I thought I was never getting out of there and thought to myself, ‘What am I doing with my life?’”
“Along the way, there will be a million people who tell you can’t do it, and you’re not good enough, and do not listen to them, listen to yourself,” he continued. “You have to decide it for yourself, if you want to pursue it, don’t let someone decide for you. If you let somebody else decide that for you, you’ll be miserable for the rest of your life.”
After landing his job with ESPN, Wingo quickly reached the top of the mountain and was one of the main anchors at the network. He covered multiple NFL Drafts and stated that it was his favorite event to host and cover due to the fact that it is not an “athletic event, but a personal story event.” Wingo shared some of those experiences with the students and provided great advice about being on air and how to handle the immense pressure it brings.
“When you’re on camera, you have to look at the camera and think it’s not there,” Wingo said. “You need to look through the lens and believe you are having a one-on-one conversation with someone.”
“It’s like being a quarterback, if you want to be good, you have to have a lot of reps,” he continued. “You have to take any opportunity that’s available and take it, it’s all about repetition.”
Wingo spoke very passionately about being ready and prepared for when that camera turns on. He made students aware that you don’t want to get on camera unprepared, or else things could get ugly. “The information is always your friend,” he said. “Do the preparation, do the homework. At the end of the day, preparation is king and will never fail you. It’ll always help you.”
Wingo gave his wisdom on how to burst onto the scene and make a name for yourself, or at the very least, stick out more than others. Covering sports, no matter the gig, is a coveted job for most and that makes the playing field more competitive. Wingo experienced that first hand when he first started in the business.
“Everybody wants these jobs,” he said. “And there aren’t a lot of jobs.”
“There’s a very fine line between stalking and aggressively pursuing a job,” Wingo continued. “You need to be persistent and kind of be a pain in the butt. You want them to get to say one of two things, ‘stop calling me because it’s not going to happen,’ or ‘fine, come in for an interview,’ you have to be pushy.”
Before Wingo left, he thanked everyone for having him speak, but he also gave one more piece of advice to all the students, in which he believes was the best guidance he could give someone.
“Do it, until you can’t,” Wingo said. “Make sure you’re the one who decides when the journey is over.”
Next week, the speaker series will continue as Marist’s Sports Communications department hosts the Concussion Legacy Foundation for a workshop on covering head injuries in sports.
Edited by Sam DiGiovanni and Bridget Reilly