Dylan Dixon, a 2014 graduate of Fort Lauderdale High School (a stone's throw from Insight), is home from Gainesville for the summer and reached out to share his story with us. Dylan has since gone on to narrate articles on several athletes for "Current Biography", which Insight volunteers record monthly for the Florida Division of Blind Services.
I hope you'll find his essay as inspiring as we do. -Matt Corey
By Dylan Dixon
Of the many struggles people face throughout their lives, one of the most common issues that younger people must deal with is figuring out what it is they want to do when they grow up. It is a predicament that comes with more difficulty to some than others. I have friends who are now in their twenties who have no idea what occupation they want to pursue, and one friend in particular who has already changed his college major twice after just two semesters. I consider myself lucky, as I am on the opposite end of the spectrum. Choosing what I wanted to do with my life came as easy to me as it takes a person to count to ten. This is because I found my passion in life at a very early age, and it is passion that has done nothing but continue to grow and get stronger the older that I get. That passion is for sports.
My grandmother and grandfather introduced me to baseball around the age of 7 when they would put Florida Marlins games on their TV set every time I visited their house in Delray Beach. I fell in love with the game almost instantly. When guys like Miguel Cabrera and Hanley Ramirez stepped into the batter’s box, or Dontrelle Willis took the pitcher’s mound, I couldn’t take my eyes off the television. Since my family didn’t have cable at the time and didn’t get Marlins games, I used to go crazy every time I found out we were going to see my grandparents because I knew that meant I was going to get to watch baseball. I was absolutely hooked. Later I realized that my passion went further than just baseball. It transcended to all sports. After watching Dwyane Wade and Shaquille O’Neal lead the Miami Heat to an NBA Championship over the Dallas Mavericks in 2006, I became as passionate about basketball as I already was for baseball. After watching the Colts win Super Bowl XLI and the Ducks win the 2007 Stanley Cup, football and hockey followed suit, and I became completely engrossed in the world of sports at the age of 11. It was then that I knew that the one and only thing I wanted to do when I grew up, was to become a sports journalist.
Fast forwarding seven years later, to the end of my senior year of high school, I received my acceptance letter from the University of Florida. UF has one of the most well respected journalism programs in the country, and has produced sports journalists such as Erin Andrews of Fox Sports and Jeff Darlington of the NFL Network. It was a dream come true for me, and I couldn’t have been happier to join the Gator Nation. I enrolled in the College of Journalism and Communication and became a Journalism major. My first semester at UF was awesome. I took several journalism classes, including Sports Media and Society where my class got to skype with people like Chad Ochocinco and Adam Schefter of ESPN, and I also joined the Sports Media and Society club which had guest speakers come in and talk from both Bleacher Report and ESPN. It was a great start to my college career, but I decided that I needed to do something my second semester that was more hands on than just going to class and joining a club.
The first day of my second semester I went into the College of Journalism and Communications and sat down with Renee Gork, the student experiences coordinator inside the college. I told her that I wanted to become more involved, and she introduced me to the WUFT-FM Radio Reading Service. The Radio Reading Service is a program run by UF that broadcasts 50 hours a week of readings from newspapers, books, and magazines for blind and visually impaired people. The service started in 1992 and is listened to by about 1,000 people from all around north central Florida. There is a specific show called “All Sports,” where live readers read and then discuss sports stories every Thursday from 8-9 PM, and Renee asked me if I was interested in participating. I was more than happy to accept her offer, and began the show the following week.
Doing the “All Sports” show for the Radio Reading Service was one of the most enriching experiences I have had in my life. It gave me my first taste of what it will be like to one day work for a news entity covering sports. Our producer, three other readers and I would meet in the studio an hour and a half before each show, where we would choose the stories we wanted to read and prepare for what it was we wanted to discuss. We would then go on the air at 8 PM, and for the next hour we would take turns reading the sports stories we found interesting for that day. It was the first time I ever got to be in an environment where I was doing something that I truly love, talking about sports. It was some of the most fun I have ever had.
However, what I took away from my experience with the Radio Reading Service goes far beyond getting to be on the radio for the first time, or getting to talk about a subject that I am passionate about. It gave me a new appreciation and perspective on life, as it reminded me to be thankful for everything I have and to take nothing for granted. I learned that the joy that I get from doing something for myself doesn’t compare to the feeling of being able to do something for someone else. It was a privilege being able to be of service to others, and one that I was honored to have. Sports have become one of the most important things in my life over the past 7 years, and being able to share that passion was the most rewarding part of the entire experience. I plan on being a part of the show again next year as a producer, and can’t wait to continue to be a part of the WUFT-FM Radio Reading Service at the University of Florida.