Covering the National Championship Game is eye-opening for young reporter-intern

Starting out as an intern reporting for The Clemson Insider two years ago, I never would have expected to be covering Clemson in a College Football Playoff National Championship game.

Arriving to the media hotel in Tampa, Fla., the Thursday before Clemson faced Alabama for the 2017 National Championship Game, I then realized that something that I had always dreamed of was about to come true. I would get to cover Clemson for the next five days during the biggest game in college football.

Leading up to game day was very busy but a lot of fun. I started out covering Saturday’s media day featuring every player and coach from No. 2 Clemson and top-ranked Alabama. I was able to interview and talk with these players and coaches alongside renowned sports reporters and analysts such as ESPN’s Tom Ronaldi.

The next night in Tampa I attended the College Football Playoff blue carpet event, where I was given the chance to interview former Clemson football players along with various ESPN analysts and the American rock band X Ambassadors. During the event, I was lucky enough to interview sports analyst Paul Finebaum, who is well known for his coverage on the ESPN’S SENetwork.

Mixing in on-camera work with article writing, interviews, and early morning coach’s press conferences made for several busy but exciting days leading up to the big game.

However, as game day arrived, I knew that this day would be the cherry on top. Standing on the sidelines moments before kickoff watching fans yell and players anxiously prepare for the biggest game of their lives, made my experience seem even more real.

Throughout the game, I spent most of my time covering it in the media press box but near the end of the fourth quarter I made my way back down to the sidelines to watch and cover the most exciting ending to a football game I have ever seen.

While some of it seems like a blur, I remember watching from across the sidelines as Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson found wide receiver Hunter Renfrow for a 2-yard touchdown pass with a second remaining to seal the Tigers’ National Championship victory over the Alabama Crimson Tide.

Running on the field with the 2016 National Champions as orange and purple confetti swarmed the air, is a moment I will never forget.

I ended my exciting week with a morning press conference with Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney, Clemson quarterback Deshuan Watson, and Clemson linebacker Ben Boulware. Listening to them talk about achieving one of their most desired goals, made me realize that I also got to achieve one of my most desired goals; getting to cover the Clemson Tigers in the College Football Playoff National Championship game.

To end, I would like to thank The Clemson Insider for giving me this unforgettable experience. I have really enjoyed the opportunity to work with such a great staff.

(Publisher’s note: Bates is a Williston native who recently graduated from Clemson University.)