Devon’s 2022 Top 5 Rewind

Happy New Year’s Eve! Today when I love to look back on all the incredible things that the past 12 months have brought my way.

It is a privilege to work with this Sports360AZ team, full of incredible storytellers with a contagious work effort who are even better people. 2022 allowed me to do things I never thought imaginable just last year. You might know that I love living in the world of motorsports. This year I was able to cover the Daytona 500, NASCAR at Indianapolis, and race weekends at Texas Motor Speedway and Las Vegas Motor Speedway while once again spotlighting NASCAR Championship Weekend at Phoenix Raceway.

I’ve also been able to expand on my dream of making a career doing play-by-play announcing with the opportunity to call the eNASCAR International iRacing Series and the AIA Open Division Championship Game between Basha and Saguaro at Sun Devil Stadium. There are plenty of memorable moments in between as well, full of storytelling.

When Claudia Collins started our Top 5 Rewind last year, I knew I wanted to take part and go through my own favorite stories. Below sit my Top-5 favorite stories that I had the privilege of helping tell in 2022 along with what I think are the Top-5 stories to come from our incredible team this year. So sit back, relax, and let’s take a look back at 2022!

 

Devon’s Top 5

5. Peoria District Media Day: Ask Coach Anything

A common theme in my personal Top 5 are stories that became surprises. This piece was something I knew would be fun to make but I was not prepared for just how spontaneous and hilarious this would become. After Claudia and Chris did some tremendous “Ask Coach Anything” segments prior to the 2022 high school football season in the East Valley, I wanted to carry that idea to the west side for the Peoria Unified School District football media day. And these athletes LOVED IT. Every player took this VERY SERIOUSLY and it was HILARIOUS to watch happen in real-time. After I told them I wanted them to interview their head coach with any questions they could think of, the players would almost instantaneously huddle up (without me even telling them to do that) to come up with the best possible questions. And then, the magic happened.

 

4. UArizona Adaptive Athletics Continue to Grow Paralympic Pedigree

One of the most extraordinary sporting events of the year in Arizona goes highly unnoticed. The Desert Challenge Games in Mesa, hosted by Arizona Disabled Sports, takes place every summer and brings the most awe-inspiring athletes as well as current and future Paralympians to the valley. Jordan Hamm gave me a heads-up on the level of excellence that the University of Arizona’s Adaptive Athletics program continues to uphold. The UArizona Adaptive Athletics Program has been around for 40 years and has sent 38 athletes to the Paralympic games, including 15 former and current athletes for the 2020 Tokyo Games. It was a pleasure to get to know Jacie King and this project quickly turned into one of my favorite stories I’ve ever been able to help tell.

 

3. The Home Grown Talent Behind Arizona Christian’s Success

I graduated from Cactus High School in 2014 and began doing play-by-play announcing my senior year. Even after graduation, I continued to do announcing for the school’s broadcasting club, the Peoria Student Broadcasting Network. As a Cobra, my favorite game of the year was Cactus vs. Peoria. But a close second at the time was another classic rivalry, Cactus vs. Greenway, a pair of schools on the same road about 3 miles away. I got to see a lot of Greenway quarterback, Tyler Duncan, and Cactus receiver, Zaachary Cullop. Naturally, they would end up meeting in the middle at Arizona Christian University as part of the team’s homegrown plethora of talent. And now, ACU has become a two-time visitor to the NAIA national playoff with Duncan leading the offense and players from all over Arizona making a massive difference on this team.

 

2. Alex Bowman & Best Friends Vie to Save Animals Across the Nation

The most incredible part of my year was the opportunity to travel to the Daytona 500. I knew it would probably bring some of my favorite pieces of content I’ve ever made, including a one-on-one with the defending Daytona 500 champion, Michael McDowell from Glendale. I also knew I wanted to do a story on fellow Arizonan, Alex Bowman, and the two most important things in his life: Finn and Roscoe, his dogs. I never could have imagined what that little desire of storytelling evolved in to. Chatting with Alex’s PR handler, led me to Ally Financial’s work with Best Friends Animal Society and eventually brought me to The Barn House, a Peoria-based and family-operated shelter that would be the latest recipient of a donation from Ally and Alex Bowman. The work of the Porter-Whistman family and their love for animals is incredible and they’re making an obvious difference in their community and across the state. What I thought would be just a fun piece about Alex’s dogs turned into one of my favorite stories I’ve ever been able to help tell.

 

1. NASCAR Championship Weekend TV Special

There was nothing more rewarding this year than the collimation of all my effort on NASCAR coverage for Championship Weekend at Phoenix Raceway. From the Daytona 500, to Indianapolis Motor Speedway, a trip to Texas, and another ride to cover Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Brad Cesmat again gave me the freedom to make a half-hour tv special ahead of Championship Weekend. This time around, I not only hosted the entire show, but I also produced, directed, and edited all 21 minutes of content in the show with the help of my trusty cameraman, Chase. It was a massive undertaking and an extreme boatload of work but it was so rewarding to see the show airing Friday night on the big screens at Top Golf as we drive back home after the first night of action. I still can’t believe how this show evolved from last year and all I was able to accomplish with it.

 

Devon’s Top 5 Sports360AZ Picks

5. ‘Broadway Meets Baseball’: Former D-Back Eric Byrnes Dishes on Savannah Bananas

There was no possible way for me to omit one of my favorite “gets” of the year from our Sports360AZ team. I LOVE the Savannah Bananas and Banana Ball. I cannot wait for them to come to Arizona! On top of that, the new leader of the Bananas dugout happens to be the former Arizona Diamondback and one of my mom’s all-time favorite players, Eric Byrnes. I absolutely loved this interview with Jordan Hamm and I hope they’re able to reunite in 2023 when the Bananas come to Arizona.

 

4. 2022 Bleacher Talk

Our team took on some massive undertaking of projects in 2022. Week in and week out, Jordan Spurgeon and Claudia Collins joined Bruce Cooper, Eliav Gabay, and a variety of special guests for Bleacher Talk, which might be the most insane and exciting collimation of a show in high school football. This team puts together an incredible product each and every week, traveling from school to school and spotlighting so many athletes, schools, and topics, that doesn’t always get enough love. The amount of work and effort they put into every episode is easy to see and I can’t wait to see how this team evolves and grows in 2023!

 

3. Snowflake Lobos Legacy

Storytelling is what we excel at with our squad at Sports360AZ. Claudia Collins decided to take a road trip to the White Mountains and told a story about a town and their love of high school football. We see this culture in the movies and tv shows where a town comes together to root for their football team but we rarely see it in real life. Claudia did a masterful job taking the legacy of the team from up north and telling an amazing story of the pride of an entire town.

 

2. 2022 National Football Foundation Valley of the Sun Chapter Awards Show

There is no show I love to put together more every year than the National Football Foundation Valley of the Sun Chapter Awards Show. It’s one of the few times all year that we bring our small team at Sports360AZ together as one and create a phenomenal show to showcase the best of the best that Arizona has to offer. It’s an honor to recognize these athletes, a privilege to help such a prestigious organization in doing so, and an absolute blast to do it with such incredible individuals on our team and at Arizona Varsity.

 

1. Jordan Spurgeon and Brandy Aguilar – ALS to Ashes: The Cory Nochta Story

When I teach journalism at the high school and college level, I have one final lesson where I say, ‘if you take just one thing away from this class, I want you to remember this:’ All forms of journalists acquire a special superpower. The ability to change lives and change the perspectives of the masses. What Jordan Spurgeon, Brandy Aguilar, and their team put together did both of those things in a substantial way. This incredible story moves you in so many ways emotionally as Jordan and Brandy tell the story of Cory Nochta, his life as both an athlete and a firefighter, and how ALS has impacted his life and the lives of those around him. Find 20 minutes in your day sometime and watch this. It will without a doubt change your perspective on life and maybe even impact your life as well.

ALS to Ashes: The Cory Nochta Story | Documentary

 

Another incredible year filled with incredible people and insane opportunities comes to close. I can’t wait to see how this Sports360AZ team grows and what we are able to accomplish in 2023. Happy New Years to you and yours! Can’t wait for all 2023 has in store!