ESPN Salutes America’s Heroes from Air Force Academy

CV-22 Osprey in the Snow at the Air Force Academy
CV-22 Osprey in the Snow at the Air Force Academy

It was the perfect storm. In honor of Veteran’s Day, we were set to broadcast segments of Sports Center live from the Air Force Academy parade grounds – starting with hosts Hannah Storm and Kevin Negandhi emerging from the back of a CV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft. But Mother Nature had other plans.

On that exact day and time, Colorado decided to throw winter’s inaugural blizzard our way. After a beautiful warm sunny fall, suddenly came freezing temperatures and fresh snow propelled by thirty mile-an-hour winds.

These are not ideal conditions for an outdoor set filled with expensive cameras and lights. Not to mention our hosts and honored guests!

But we saw the storm coming, and our crews and the incredible production team from ESPN adjusted accordingly – including pre-shooting some of the segments, and doing more indoors.

What we ultimately pulled off was a fitting, albeit slightly modified, tribute to our nation’s heroes.

Segments included:

• Wings of Blue: A profile on the award winning Air Force Academy parachute competition and demonstration team, narrated by Kevin Negandhi. We also filmed Kevin introducing his first-ever parachute jump, and then cut to the amazing GoPro footage shot by members of the parachute team.

• Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger: Face to Face: Hannah Storm sat down with the Air Force Academy grad to discuss the lessons he learned as a cadet and how those lessons helped when he landed crippled U.S. Airways flight 1549 in the Hudson River on January 2009. We had the pleasure of filming Hannah’s opens and tags on one of the academy airstrips in front of a glider used to train cadets – like Captain Sullenberger.

• Interviews with former Air Force football player and Dallas Cowboy Chad Hennings and Air Force head football coach Troy Calhoun.

• Essays beautiful written and narrated by ESPN correspondents Tom Rinaldi and Sal Paolantonio (a Navy veteran), and Retired General Colin Powell.

• Air Force quarterback Karson Roberts walks with Hannah Storm through the lab where his capstone project group is preparing a satellite for a September launch.

Live from the Air Force Academy
Live from the Air Force Academy

So did we ever get our shot from the Academy parade grounds in the middle of the storm?


The two Ospreys had flown in the day before from the 27th Special Operations Wing in New Mexico. So while we scaled down our set, the aircraft and their crew made a perfect backdrop for Hannah and Kevin to open the show, with special guest Lt. General Michelle D. Johnson, the Superintendent of the Academy.

Everyone persevered, and I can say it was an honor to be a part of pulling it off!

Big Pictures crews included Zumi Hidalgo, Trevor Nordeen, Benjamin Rader, Tom Miller, and Don Garcia.


Written by Tom Miller, Photos courtesy Zumi Hidalgo and Benjamin Rader

Copyright © 2015 Big Pictures Media, Inc.