Behind The ScenesJournalism Showcase

ESPN’s “Journalism Showcase” – November 11, 2016

It’s not until teenage quarterback Auburn Roberson takes her helmet off that opposing teams and coaches realize they’d been playing against a girl, and that’s just how she likes it.

ESPN.com deputy editor Michael Huang discovered Roberson when his friend sent him a video featuring the St. Charles, Ill., middle school and club team football player.

So I went into it with some skepticism, as any reporter does, but indeed found a girl who possessed abilities and leadership skills not just good for a girl but in fact outstanding among her age group.
– ESPN.com writer Melissa Isaacson on profiling 13-year-old Auburn Roberson

“One of my friends sent me an iPhone video of a 13-year-old right-handed QB rolling out to her left, eluding tacklers and having the athleticism and poise to pivot her feet, find the receiver in the corner of the end zone and loft a perfect jump ball she knew her receiver would catch,” said Huang. “As a former football player, I knew just how tough it was to make that throw as an adult, let alone as a 13-year-old. Then he told me the QB was female, which impressed me even more. You just don’t see many female QBs.”

That’s when Huang reached out to espnW and ESPN.com writer Melissa Isaacson with the story, published on espnW on Nov. 9.

Michael Huang came to me with the idea of this girl he had heard about, who was a fantastic quarterback. I told Michael that frankly, there were many girls around the country who now play football and I wanted to know what made Auburn special. I had even written a story a few years ago about a girl quarterback, who played in Florida (though she was third-string). He kept telling me that I had to see this girl, that she was really special,” said Isaacson.

In a day when so much of what we read about football is related to concussions, sexual assaults, and performance enhancing drugs, Aubby came in like a breath of fresh air – a girl who only wants to play because she loves the game.
– ESPN.com deputy editor Michael Huang

“So I went into it with some skepticism, as any reporter does, but indeed found a girl who possessed abilities and leadership skills not just good for a girl but in fact outstanding among her age group. The respect level she received from the boys her age, and the awareness a high school coach of a top program in Illinois has of her, tells me that while her size might prevent her from being a starting varsity quarterback one day, she definitely has a future in football. And her desire to pursue it as a profession in some capacity was also compelling, as well as giving me the chance to re-examine the state of girls in tackle football.”

Huang says Auburn’s story was unique to him because of her innocent love of the game.

“In a day when so much of what we read about football is related to concussions, sexual assaults, and performance enhancing drugs, Aubby came in like a breath of fresh air – a girl who only wants to play because she loves the game,” Huang said. “Aubby was the perfect antidote to the cynical, often obtuse discussions surrounding the sport these days. A sport that I happen to love. Aubby helped me remember that.”

Journalism on Display

  • David Vobora was once “Mr. Irrelevant.” Now the retired NFL veteran is highly relevant to military veterans. Vobora owns and operates a gym in Dallas where he trains disabled veterans, many with multiple amputations, and provides some not only a new lease on life but the ability to navigate it physically. ESPN contributor Anna Katherine Clemmons tells the story for ESPN.com on Veterans Day.
  • Dallas Cowboys star running back Ezekiel Elliott is under investigation by the NFL for alleged domestic violence and team owner Jerry Jones isn’t happy. espnW writer Jane McManus reports that at a recent NFL owners meeting, Jones crossed the line when he approached the league’s investigator by raising his voice at her. There were numerous witnesses; McManus writes the full story on espnW.com.
  • Investigative journalist Paula Lavigne has been reporting on the Baylor football assault since the story broke and her latest report involves alumni and major donors. The alumni are scheduled to launch a nonprofit organization that will demand an overhaul of the university’s board of regents as well as full details of the school’s sexual assault investigation.
  • In October, former Indiana basketball player Todd Jadlow published “Jadlow: On The Rebound.” In the book, Jadlow said there were instances in which former IU basketball coach Bobby Knight emotionally and physically abused him, including one incident in which Knight purportedly punched him the back of his head with a closed fist. The book recounts Jadlow’s life as a member of the Hoosiers’ 1987 national championship team, as well as Jadlow’s struggles with drug and alcohol addiction and depression. Outside the Lines host Bob Ley will talk with Jadlow’s teammate Rick Calloway and with Quinn Buckner, who was an IU captain under Knight and a member of the 1976 national champion Hoosiers on Sunday at 9 a.m. on ESPN2.
  • Panelists on Sunday morning’s The Sports Reporters (9:30 a.m., ESPN2; 10:30 a.m., ESPNEWS) will be Mike Lupica (host), Howard BryantManish Mehta and Ben Volin.

By Molly Mita

Back to top button
Close