By Jeff Shearer
AUBURN, Ala - They trained for years, working at their craft, hoping for a chance to one day go pro.
For recent graduates Torien Pippens and Robert Hodge, their investment on Auburn’s courts and fields earned them professional opportunities.
Unlike the student-athletes whose accomplishments they broadcast, Pippens and Hodge are behind the scenes, operating cameras and directing.
The hands-on experience they acquired as students working for War Eagle Productions, the video services team for Auburn Athletics, resulted in jobs this fall broadcasting games for ESPN.
“You’ve got that good feeling like, ‘My work paid off. Everything I learned paid off,’” Pippens says.
Just like the athletes they cover, Pippens and Hodge have worked hard to help put their team on top.
“We are the best in the SEC, especially with the partnership with the SEC Network,” Pippens says. “We are the standard they want to meet.”
“You don’t go to other schools and get this experience like when you come here,” Hodge said. “People are willing to teach. People want you. If you want to come learn, you will be working for ESPN by the time you leave here. That’s basically the opportunity students get.”
Students on Auburn’s video team, Pippens learned while shooting Kentucky’s spring football game, enjoy a reputation among their SEC peers.
“Talking to some of the guys running camera,” Pippens says. “They were saying, ‘And I heard about Auburn. Man, y’all were killing it down there.’”
Like all winning teams, that status as the SEC’s premier video production unit, is earned, not given.
“The leaders we have here, the mentorship we have, they’re constantly pushing us to do better, to be better,” Pippens says. “Even when you think you did good, there’s another critique coming right behind that. Don’t think you’re too good for anything. There’s always something to improve on.”
“It gives you the tools to work for the real trucks,” Hodge says. “It was easier for me to work on the ESPN truck than it was to work here at War Eagle Productions.”
For students willing to pay the price, the opportunities are limitless.
“When they see you’re eager to learn, and you’re always doing things correctly - it’s okay if you mess up – but when they just see that drive to learn, the sky’s the limit,” Pippens said. “This is really an opportunity to learn as much as you want.”
Pippens will work out of his hometown, Birmingham, where he plans to direct television newscasts and church services in addition to his freelance gigs at ESPN.
He wants to be a role model to college students who see him racing, camera in tow, from one end zone to the other.
“Just being an inspiration to somebody who wants to do this. I can tell them how I did it, and let them go their way,” Pippens says.
Hodge also will be based out of his hometown, Los Angeles. He hopes to eventually direct movies.
“War Eagle Productions taught me how to be a better leader. And how to stick with things,” Hodge says. “This is the first thing I’ve stuck with in my whole college career. And I’m glad I stuck with it.”
These newest Auburn alums have already discovered one of the secrets to career fulfillment: get paid for a job you would do for free.
“I never felt like I was at work a day since I’ve been here,” Hodge says.
Jeff Shearer is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @jeff_shearer