CBS4’s Jamie Leary is driving to California’s Bay area with photographer Mike Abeyta for Super Bowl 50. They left from Denver early Monday morning will be filing reports about the Denver Broncos along the way.
My alarm went off at 5:30 a.m. Tuesday in Montrose. Mike woke up shortly after and not long after that, we headed straight for Orem, Utah. We both agree will never forget the subject of our story, Talon Peterson. I’ll get to him in a minute…
The drive to Orem was far from boring. Mesas as far as the eye could see, covered in snow, except for the tops where the snow didn’t stick. It made for quite the contrast in color. The five-hour drive from our wonderful Montrose goat family went by in the blink of an eye. We passed a wind farm just before Provo and you’d have thought Mike and I had never seen a windmill before. Seeing these massive structures in action was quite spectacular and pictures just don’t do them justice.
As we neared Orem, I phoned my contact, a lovely woman named Gerine.
“It’s Gerine, like Tangerine!” She told me when I first called her.
Gerine works in the Lake Ridge Junior High school district in Orem and she truly was my saving grace for this story. I told her someone in our newsroom saw a local story on this 14-year-old kid who had won Super Bowl tickets for his Peyton Manning impression. She immediately knew whom I was talking about and began to work with us to help set everything up.
When we arrived his mom, grandma, sister, and aunt were excitedly waiting, clad in Broncos gear. I thought it would be fun to add an element of surprise and pop into Talon’s classroom, camera in tow, and put him on the spot. Gerine and his mother were on board with this plan as well. I don’t recall a minute where any of those women WEREN’T smiling. Completely infectious.
We walked to Talon’s food class where they were baking cupcakes, which you could smell all the way down the hallway. Much like the Herbergs’ candied bacon from yesterday, it was hard for me to focus on the story rather than the food.
The second Mike and I walked into the classroom, we saw the white No. 18 jersey. I called out Talon and explained what we were doing.
“Are you nervous? Am I embarrassing you?” I asked.
I wasn’t trying to make him more nervous, I was serious! I put myself in his shoes and realized this would be mortifying for me.
“Nope.” Talon confidently replied.
“Alright, as soon as you give your class a demonstration, you get to skip school!” I said.
When we got back to Talon’s house, the first things I noticed were the family photos. In every single photo, (all over different periods of time), mom, dad, sis and Talon were ALL wearing football jerseys. “We are a Broncos family,” Talon said.
But that’s not even the best part. Talon’s room was absolutely wall-to-wall football. I noticed things like the piece of confetti he had tacked to the wall from the AFC championship celebration, and the newspaper clippings he had saved from the game. Unfortunately this is the kind of stuff that doesn’t make some news stories; reporters can only do so much with our limited amount of airtime. This is the time you wish you were a documentary crew.
The way Talon talked about life was completely engaging. This young kid could not be more grateful for winning the opportunity given to him by ESPN. He truly believes that it was fate and after hearing his story, I do too. He said he begged his mom to skip church to watch NFL countdown and she reluctantly agreed. Turns out that was the day ESPN announced the contest.
The catch was he had to tweet a video of his Peyton impression. Luckily his mom had just bought him a phone and luckily dad was home sick to record it. Talon created a Twitter account just for that purpose. When he checked later to see who he was up against, he scrolled FOREVER to see the submissions. Somehow, as Talon put it, “things aligned.”
Talon’s mom told me the producers called ahead of time to have them record his reaction, “in case he won.” How could he not? This kid is incredible.
I’m lucky to have photographer Mike Abeyta on the road with me because he is so much more than just the guy behind the camera. He came up with this brilliant idea to have Talon do his impression and toss me a ball. I know it sounds simple but let’s just say my football catching skills aren’t quite up to Emmanuel Sanders’ standards. So when you watch the story, you’ll understand why it was so … AWESOME.
Not gonna lie, I didn’t catch the ball on the first try. I did catch it on the second time around, and got so excited I spiked it into the ground! This slightly offended Talon. He classified what I did as a “Gronk Spike,” made famous by New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski. I agreed that it was completely unacceptable to have a rival player’s celebration in the story, and was yet again impressed at this kid’s devotion to his favorite team. I am laughing with Mike remembering it right now. Oh Talon!
We continued to check in with Talon’s mom, Amy, after we hit the road. She told me Talon said it was like hanging with friends rather than being interviewed. That meant the world to Mike and me. I can easily say the same thing about Talon and his family.
Thank you Petersons!