During his radio and broadcast career at Staples, DJ Sixsmith covered football — and soccer, basketball, volleyball, indoor track, rugby, everything except (I think) Ultimate Frisbee — with the skill and professionalism of pros like Jim Nantz.
Which, last summer, brought him to the attention of — Jim Nantz.
Stamford Advocate sportswriter Dave Ruden (a Staples grad) had taken an interest in DJ. Dave asked his friend Jim (CBS’ star broadcaster, and a longtime Westporter) to meet with DJ and his WWPT/Wrecker radio colleagues Eric Gallanty and Brandon Edelson.
“Jim is so busy. We expected a half hour lunch at Gold’s,” DJ says. “But he spent 2 hours talking about sports and TV. It was amazing he took that much time for us.”
At Staples’ Back to School Night this year, DJ’s mom saw Jim. She introduced herself, thanked him for his help — and was surprised when he suggested DJ join him in an NFL booth. Jim gave her his email.
DJ had just begun his 1st year at Fordham University. Most freshmen start at the bottom at WFUV, the school’s highly regarded radio station. Thanks to his Staples experience, DJ was already covering women’s volleyball, and helping with football broadcasts.
Seizing the opportunity, he emailed Jim. The broadcaster quickly invited him to last Sunday’s Giants-Bills game at the New Meadowlands Stadium.
On Friday, DJ spent hours in the production truck. He watched all the planning sessions, and asked plenty of questions.
Two days later he was in the CBS booth. The sightlines were fantastic; the inspiration, intense.
He met Phil Simms — Jim’s broadcast partner — then went back down to the truck for the 1st half. During the 3rd and 4th quarters DJ stood a few feet from Jim and Phil, wearing a headset, listening to and watching them work.
“It’s a view almost no one has,” DJ recalls. “And there I was, in my second month of college. It blew my mind.”
He was awed by how easy the broadcasters made everything look — and how difficult calling a game is. “You’re not following a script,” DJ says. “You really have to be alert and creative, all the time.”
He was also impressed by the number of people involved in the telecast, from graphics to ads to go-fers.
Not to mention the food. “No one went hungry,” he laughs.
“It kind of made our little operation at Staples seem like a different world,” he says.
The experience “reaffirmed how much I want this as my career,” DJ says.
“Jim was so happy, so enthusiastic about what he was doing. I realized that’s how happy I am too.”
Back at Fordham — and college women’s volleyball, not NFL football — he says, “I’ll continue to hone my skills however WFUV wants to use me.”
He is thankful for the boost Mike Zito and Jim Honeycutt gave him at Staples — and for the kindness Dave Ruden and Jim Nantz are showing him now.
It’s no stretch to say that one day he will pay it forward to a Staples student — perhaps yet unborn — who wants to be a star broadcaster too. Just like his hero, DJ Sixsmith.