The first couple weeks of December were fairly newsworthy for newsman Chris Hassel '07.
First, the 28-year-old with a St. Ambrose bachelor's degree in communications landed a job with national TV network ESPN. A few days later, he was named Iowa's Sportscaster of the Year.
"I couldn't even fit through a door for about a week there, my head got so big," said Hassel, who left WHO-TV in Des Moines on Jan. 1 and began his assignment as a Highlight Express anchor for ESPNews in late January. "I am a little worried I have used up all my luck a little too early in life."
Not if it is true that luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity, he hasn't. Hassel said the opportunity he found at St. Ambrose absolutely prepared him for this big career break.
"You hear about all the big ones. The Syracuses. The Missouris," he said. "I couldn't have asked for a better college experience than the one I got at St. Ambrose. It's not about the name. It's about what you can experience. First-hand. Hands-on. And I was able to do way more than even I thought I could."
Don "Duke" Schneider '76, operations manager at SAUtv, said it was obvious when Hassel transferred to SAU in the fall of 2004 that the young man from Muscatine could-and would-take advantage of every opportunity he was given to grow behind a microphone and in front of a camera.
"Right away, we said ‘This guy is good,'" Schneider recalled of listening alongside KALA operations manager David Baker '88 as Hassel handled studio duties during the 2004 football season opener. "He did his homework. He was articulate. You could tell he was passionate about sports. So the very next game, we put him at the stadium and had him call the game. He was phenomenal. We had him stay there the next three years. He was that good."
Radio play-by-play was Hassel's initial passion. He learned to love the camera here, too. "I just went face-first into TV and radio," he said. "Doing commercials. Coach's shows. My junior and senior years during basketball season, I was calling five games a week."
He also landed Sunday sportscasting duties at the Quad Cities Fox-TV affiliate and handled morning news and Friday games of the week for WOC radio. A job in Iowa's biggest TV market followed graduation. And now, Iowa's Sportscaster of the Year is part of the self-proclaimed worldwide leader in sports.
"The great thing about ESPN is if you do a good job and they really like you, the sky is the limit," he said. "You can go all the way up to where Mike Tirico is now, being able to call the biggest sporting events in the world. He started calling highlights on ESPN's SportsCenter 20 years ago."