Journey 100: Producers, editors look back on 100 episodes

@BTNJourney

Journey 100: Producers, editors look back on 100 episodes

In the days leading up to the 100th episode of the BTN Originals series “The Journey,” we asked each member of the show’s production team to look back on the years to date.

These are the people who travel across the conference each week of the football and basketball seasons to tell the stories around and inside the games. What were their favorite Big Ten moments? Who were their favorite people? What were the best games?

The 100th episode of “The Journey” airs at 9:30 p.m. ET Sunday, Jan. 31, but you can always go back and watch previous episodes from this season as well as past seasons, thanks to BTN2Go. Watch all available episodes on demand right here. Remember, too, that these are the same folks from “The Journey” make up the team behind the show’s social accounts on Facebook, Twitter (@BTNJourney) and Instagram.

[MORE: ‘Journey’ celebrates 100 episodes |  Journey 100 All Stars Part I & Part II | Q&A: OSU walk-on & ‘Journey’ subject Mark Titus ]

Here’s what the team members told us.

KEVIN SHAW, Producer

What was your favorite story that you have worked on for “The Journey“?

It’s rare for us to document what goes on in the locker room of the losing opponent, but in the first “The Journey” first season, we told the story of a resurgent Michigan basketball program, then led by a high-scoring Manny Harris and bruiser DeShawn Sims. The Wolverines were facing a Michigan State team that had just come off a National Championship appearance the following season. Michigan fought and clawed their way throughout the entire contest, but a clutch bucket by Michigan State’s Kalin Lucas and a missed putback at game’s end by Sims sealed Michigan’s fate (watch the full Michigan-Michigan State episode on BTN2G0).

Emotions in the Wolverine locker room were to be expected. Frustration, anger, sadness filled the air. But when one of the student-athletes questioned whether the game was meant for him anymore, Michigan head coach John Beilein stepped in with some amazing words of comfort and resilience. No cliches were spoken. Honesty and candor prevailed. It was an incredible teaching moment, one that showed the character Beilein would use to help build his Michigan program into an eventual Big Ten Champion and National Runner-Up in the years to come.

Who has been your favorite coach or student-athlete to interact with while working for “The Journey” ?

Tom Izzo is the preeminent college coach in America. For a man of his stature to be as friendly as he is speaks volumes to his character. Former Penn State head coach Ed Dechellis was incredibly gracious with his time and access to his senior-led group featuring Talor Battle in 2011 the year the Nittany Lions almost won the Big Ten Tournament. John Beilein has been a believer of the show from Day 1, opening the doors to his program with confidence. The stories we told about the resurgence of Michigan basketball early on displayed what type of show The Journey could be when trust was earned.

What was your favorite game that you covered while working for “The Journey” ?

It was over. I was speaking to a media colleague as Jim Harbaugh’s Michigan Wolverines readied to punt to their in-state rivals with the game in hand. And then, it happened. The fumbled snap, a swell rushing through the Big House crowd. I turned my camera to the Michigan State sideline as players witnessed a miracle occur in front of them. Next thing I know, helmets are tossed in exuberance. We stopped at the corner of the end zone, focused on a mosh pit of green and white celebrating an improbable victory on the last play of the game. The Spartans 27-23 triumph was truly one for the ages — and one I’ll never forget (watch the entire Michigan-Michigan State game episode on BTN2Go).

What does the 100th episode mean to you?

The 100th episode of “The Journey” means longevity. It means the stories we’ve told carry weight, that there’s an audience that appreciates the student-athletes they cheer for and root against. Here’s to one hundred more — to a journey, like in life, that is far from ending.

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MATT ENGEL, Producer

What was your favorite story that you have worked on for “The Journey” ?

So difficult to pick a favorite. I would have to say the Meyers Leonard story when his older brother, Bailey, a Marine came back to surprise Meyers at Illinois.  I was told at the time that, then Illinois men’s basketball coach Bruce Weber only watched two things on TV – The Weather Channel and “The Journey” on BTN.  When Illinois heard that Bailey Leonard wanted to come back from active duty to surprise Meyers after months of not seeing each other, Weber and the Illinois staff agreed to keep Bailey’s surprise a secret. Only one television station/network should get the story and they agreed to allow BTN’s “The Journey” be the only ones allowed to have cameras rolling.  The visceral reaction Meyers had to seeing his brother was one I won’t soon forget.  The edit itself was simple in nature. We didn’t have much to work with other than pictures and Bailey’s words to act as the narrative to tell this story. Bailey was an excellent storyteller and having him in his uniform was a beautiful visual. What surprised me more than anything was the nationwide reaction to the story.  To say it went viral is an understatement.

Who has been your favorite coach or student-athlete to interact with while working for “The Journey” ?

I would like to be allowed to select two coaches. One for football and one for basketball. For me, Wisconsin’s Bret Bielema was my favorite football coach to interact with. His affable nature and trust he honored me with was second to none. Bret truly let me in to his program and into his personal side. I was allowed to produce several stories with Bret and the Wisconsin football program. To this day I consider Bret to be a friend. A person I can call if I have a question or just to check in to see how he’s doing now that he is the head coach and Arkansas. He always picks up the phone – which I consider an honor.

When it comes to basketball the two most iconic active college basketball coaches in the country are Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski and Michigan State’s Tom Izzo. One of my favorite stories about Izzo came on New Years Day 2014 when the Spartans football team was playing in the Rose Bowl. Coach Izzo agreed to allow our cameras in his house as he was hosting a watch party for his team. There was quite a bit of snow on New Years Day in East Lansing. I will never forget pulling up to his house and getting my camera equipment out of my car. Several of the players were just arriving and walking into his home ignoring the guy snow-blowing the driveway. To be honest, I didn’t pay much attention to the guy using a small red Toro snow blower either. After taking a closer look I was amazed to realize that the guy behind that snow blower was none other than Izzo himself.  That is a visual I won’t soon forget, and it serves as a perfect illustration into who Izzo is as a person.

What does the 100th episode mean to you?

The 100th episode means a great deal to me! I am truly honored to have been allowed to have been a part of each and every one of the 100 episodes of “The Journey.” The stories we’ve been allowed to tell, the relationships that have been built with the teams, coaches and schools are an incredible thrill. But I think what will stick with me the most are the relationships built and collaborative efforts with everybody associated with “The Journey.” I can honestly say I have never had more fun working with a group of incredibly talented people. I have an immense amount of respect for everybody associated with the show.  Much like the football and basketball teams we cover – we are a team in our own right with the singular goal of doing the best job we can each and every week.

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Watch Michigan State men’s basketball coach Tom Izzo reflect on 100 episodes of “The Journey” below.

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JULIAN DARNELL, Producer

What was your favorite story that you have worked on for “The Journey“?

I can’t pick just one so here are four.

Trey Burke and Jared Sullinger and the the first time they met as opponents (watch the full episode on BTN2Go). Did their entire backstory on how they were lifelong friends, coached by Jared’s father, Satch, in high school, and coached by Trey’s dad, Benji, in AAU.

Darius Morris and his relationship with his friend from Windward H.S. in Los Angeles, Dan Tan. Tan, who is now deceased. He used to always talk to Darius about making his free throws. That came to fruition in a game against Wisconsin when a few Morris misses opened the door for the Badgers. Josh Gasser hit a game-winner to beat the Wolverines.

Michael “Juice” Thompson’s Senior Day at Northwestern. Local star who stayed home to play in Evanston and helped make Northwestern respectable and relevant. Was with him and his family when he was introduced for the last time. To see him get emotional at that moment was one of proudest moments I captured for the show.

Victor Oladipo and Dwyane Wade. While interviewing the Miami Heat star for another Indiana story, I asked Wade a couple of questions about Oladipo. When I played Wade’s quotes on my computer to Victor, he was literally moved that the greatest player in Miami Heat history actually knew who he was and held him in such high regard. Both were under the radar prospects before being coached by Tom Crean at Marquette and Indiana respectively.

Who has been your favorite coach or student-athlete to interact with while working for The Journey?

Our first star, Evan Turner. We covered his story from Chicago, his old Chicago high school in Westchester, Illinois to Ohio State, and then Indianapolis, where he hit a game-winning basket against Michigan. And we were there in New York City when he was selected No. 2 in the NBA Draft. Along the way, he won just about every major award in college basketball that year including Big Ten Player of the Year and the Naismith. Loved seeing a local player develop to have the success he did. It was special because it happened our first year of doing the show.

What was your favorite game that you covered while working for The Journey?

Michigan State at Michigan in Draymond Green’s final season in 2012. Michigan won a tight game at home on Jan. 17 when Green missed a chance to win the game. Green took responsibility for the loss and had the quote of the year in the locker room about playing Michigan again in 18 days. Feb. 5 was that chance and Green responded. Playing after spraining his knee the game before at Illinois, Green had a 14-point, 16-rebound game as the Spartans won by 10 (watch the full episode on BTN2Go).

What does the 100th episode mean to you?

One hundred episodes means we made it this far thanks to the assistance of the coaches and SIDs who trusted us enough to tell the stories of the coaches and student-athletes. I appreciate that greatly.

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SAMANTHA EISENBERG, Producer

What was your favorite story that you have worked on for “The Journey“?

My favorite story I’ve worked on was the Adreian Payne and Lacey Holsworth Senior Night piece. This was a story I began working on the year prior, not long after Adreian and Lacey first met and began a friendship. To have the chance to show how their bond grew over a year was both rewarding and inspiring.

This story was as real as it gets. To witness a delicate but strong seven-year-old battling cancer, fighting for her life. And a Big Ten superstar who fought through his share of obstacles and be part of each other’s support systems was beautiful. The look Lacey gave Adreian before he escorted her on to the court for Senior Night was one that melted the hearts of so many. We will forever be grateful for the time, honesty and tough questions Adreian, Lacey and her family answered. Their story touched so many.

Who has been your favorite coach or student-athlete to interact with while working for “The Journey“?

Adreian Payne. His humility gave me a completely different perspective on what college athletes are capable of. During his time at Michigan State he did so much more than just play his sport well.

What was your favorite game that you covered while working for “The Journey“?

Michigan State vs. Michigan at the 2014 Big Ten Tournament championship game. The image of Lacey climbing the ladder with Adreian to help cut down the net during the Spartans’ celebrations was not only a breathtaking shot but an unforgettable moment for anyone who saw it. It gave that story the perfect closure. And those who loved Lacey an image to forever smile from.

What does the 100th episode mean to you?

The 100th episode means that we have effectively found a way to give viewers a look into the lives and unforgettable moments of a number of very impressive Big Ten student-athletes and coaches. We have done our best to entertain our viewers with the humility and dedication Big Ten coaches and players bring to this competitive conference. We are honored that the stories we have told and the games that we have shared in the past 100 episodes have been able to capture and inspire our audience throughout Big Ten Play. We look forward to sharing more incredible moments, so stay tuned!

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KEVIN RITCHIE, Producer

What was your favorite story that you have worked on for “The Journey“?

My favorite story that I worked on was with Devin Gardner. I really enjoyed getting to spend the entire day with him as we toured the practice facility in Ann Arbor, visited his former high school and finally ended the day at home spending quality time with him as his mother. It gave me a sense of just how far this young man had came to becoming the quarterback at Michigan.

Who has been your favorite coach or student-athlete to interact with while working for “The Journey“?

My favorite coach to interact with on “The Journey” has been Jim Harbaugh. Coach Harbaugh does not do many one-on-one interviews, so being able to sit down with him and talk all things football for a bit was very exciting.

What was your favorite game that you covered while working for “The Journey“?

My favorite game that we covered had to be the Ohio State at Penn State football game from 2014. It was a “white out” night game at Beaver Stadium that went into two overtimes! Between the atmosphere with the fans and the pregame access in the locker rooms, it made for one of our best game treatments to date.

What does the 100th episode mean to you?

To me the 100th episode shows true longevity. We are in an age where shows only run for a few seasons before viewers lose interest or the network cancels it. So the fact this show is still going, still gathering a large audience, and still coming up with new creative ways to tell stories is tremendous.

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DAVID PARFITT, Producer

What was your favorite story that you have worked on for “The Journey“?

My favorite story I’ve ever worked on for the Journey comes from this last football season when I got the honor to cover Northwestern linebacker/special teamer and former Navy Seal Tom Hruby. He is a real inspiration. At 34 he juggles football, Northwestern academics, a wife and 4 kids, all while commuting 1.5 hours each way from Indiana. He was so open and honest – the best things you can ask from an interviewee – and everything seemed to just work out perfectly. He only plays on kick return, and in their game we filmed against Penn State he even had a block that sprung a kick return touchdown! The Cats won with on their last possession with a field goal, the locker room was wild, and the episode aired on Veterans’ Day. I couldn’t have asked for more (watch the full Tom Hruby episode on BTN2Go).

Who has been your favorite coach or student-athlete to interact with while working for “The Journey“?

Unfortunately I never got to interview him, but every time Jerry Kill made the show, it was a memorable one. Whether he was dancing in the locker room, or barging into dorm rooms to get his freshmen to class, you could tell that guy really cared about his players. The conference is surely going to miss him.

What was your favorite game that you covered while working for “The Journey“?

Nov. 15, 2014. Wisconsin was beating Nebraska in Camp Randall as big fluffy flakes of snow began to fall. At the end of the third quarter when all the fans began “Jump Around” and the video board announced that Melvin Gordon had broken the single game NCAA rushing record … Wow. I had my first job in that stadium (popcorn vendor), and that snow globe atmosphere was surreal. It vindicated the hard work I had put in to get to that point.

What does the 100th episode mean to you?

Well, I just added up how many Journey episodes I’ll have worked on by Jan 31. and the tally is 50. Holy cow! Exactly half! It really makes me think about the immense amount of man hours that have been put into the show. Whether it’s driving through snow storms or digging through hours of old footage for one five-second shot, a lot of people have put a lot of effort into this show. To see all that hard work translate to 100 episodes is special,http://www.btn2go.com/video/the-journey-2012-episode-9 and hopefully we’ll see hundreds more.

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BILL FRIEDMAN, Producer

What was your favorite story that you have worked on for “The Journey“?

For me, the Senior Day feature I produced on Ohio State’s Mark Titus during our first season remains a favorite of mine. One of the goals when we started this show was to document each season from a variety of perspectives – whether it be a star player, coach, or someone associated with the program. When we discussed our first Senior Day episode – which has become one of my favorite Journey traditions – we wanted to balance the show by showing what Senior Day means to someone who doesn’t get a lot of playing time, but is a loyal member and contributor to the team.

In discussing Titus, we were really impressed by his creation of the “Trillion” stat – playing one minute and recording no stats – resulting in a box score line of a “1” for minutes played and a bunch of zeros that follow. He also had his entertaining blog, his playful friendship with Evan “The Villain” Turner who was the star of our first season, and his humor. I vividly remember interviewing Mark in his off-campus apartment and asking him what would be a perfect Senior Night for him. His answer: Ohio State wins easily, he gets to play a minute, records a Trillion and they cut the nets down. Which, of course, is exactly what happened the next night. Chasing Mark around with my camera to capture his joy during the storming of the court remains a wonderful image (watch the 2010 Senior Night episode on BTN2Go).

Who has been your favorite coach or student-athlete to interact with while working for “The Journey“?

As far as coaches, we’ve been blessed to earn the trust of all of them as well as work with some people who have been very receptive to our mission. On the basketball side people like John Beilein, Tom Izzo, Bo Ryan, Tim Miles, and Ed DeChellis. On the football side there are people like Mark Dantonio, Urban Meyer, James Franklin, Gary Andersen and Jerry Kill. Each of those coaches have opened their doors to our cameras and our crews and really allowed us to capture some memorable moments – both in the locker room after wins and losses – and riding along with their teams through the journey that is the Big Ten season.

As far as players, two come to mind. Purdue’s Robbie Hummel was one of our featured characters during the first three years of our show. I happened to be the producer on location in 2010 at The Barn when Robbie tore his ACL for the first time. I will never forget his outlook and dignity in the aftermath of that injury. He had some family members who lived in Minneapolis attend that game, and I happened to be next to them outside the locker room after the game and remember the first thing Robbie asking them was whether they had good seats that night.

I felt for someone in his position. He had just sustained a major injury, one that could derail a possible Final Four season. And for him to be that unselfish at that time was a sign of a special individual. To see Robbie stand on the sideline the following winter as his classmates and friends JaJuan Johnson and E’Twaun Moore celebrate their Senior Day and then to see Robbie finally get his moment in the sun at Mackey the following year are very memorable moments in our show’s history (watch the Robbie Hummel Senior Night epsiode on BTN2Go).

The other player is Michigan State’s Draymond Green. We chronicled his journey for three seasons as well, and one moment in particular sticks out in my memory. At the Big Ten Tournament in 2012, Michigan State was on the way to a lopsided win over Iowa. With a minute left, Draymond jumped off the end of the bench and whispered something in Tom Izzo’s ear. After the game while Draymond was speaking to reporters in the locker room, someone asked him what he had said. Draymond answered that he knew you needed a certain number of appearances in games to earn a varsity letter, and he knew that one of the walk-ons was one game short of earning that letter. He had asked Coach Izzo to remind him to put the walk-on in the game so he could earn his letter. When you see that kind of thoughtfulness, Draymond’s success at Golden State should come as no surprise.

What was your favorite game that you covered while working for “The Journey“?

So many great memories through the years, from Evan Turner’s buzzer beater against Michigan in the 2010 Big Ten Tournament (watch that full episode on BTN2Go) to Michigan State’s upset of Ohio State in the 2013 Big Ten Football Championship Game. For me, the one game I’ll never forget was Penn State’s win over Michigan State in the 2011 Big Ten Tournament – not so much because of the game, but because of the aftermath.

One of our camera crews and I trekked over to the Omni in Indianapolis to capture Penn State’s arrival back at the hotel. The win had catapulted them into the Big Ten Tournament Final and likely sewed up an NCAA Tournament bid. Walking in behind Coach DeChellis, we were blown away at the turnout of Penn State fans at the hotel. They lined the lobby and the mezzanine level and chanting loudly “I believe that we will win, I believe that we will win.” The Nittany Nation student group had made the long drive to Indy, and to see the enthusiasm on their faces as their heroes returned home to the hotel was an image that will stick with me. That’s what college sports should be. Anytime I watch that scene, I still get chills. You had to be there.

What does the 100th episode mean to you?

Not a lot of television shows get to 100 episodes. With that in mind, I’m incredibly proud of what the show has accomplished over the past seven years. Those of us who were on the show the first year, we created an idea and a template for a show — and we had no idea if it would work. Thanks to the efforts of a number of wonderful and talented people on our production team, those ideas have continued to evolve into a recognizable show that has created its own brand.

But more rewarding than the content that we have produced are the friendships we have been able to build, both as a production team and also with the schools, coaches, student-athletes and the unsung heroes of the show – the sports information directors at the Big Ten schools. We hope our viewers have enjoyed the first 100 episodes and we pledge as producers, editors and cinematographers to keep evolving and improving the show moving forward.

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Watch Indiana’s men’s basketball coach Tom Crean reflect on 100 episodes of “The Journey” below.

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MEEJ ADAD, Editor

What was your favorite story that you have worked on for “The Journey“?

The favorite story I ever worked on was the Lacey Holsworth and Adreian Payne relationship because I found it to be very touching.

Who has been your favorite coach or student-athlete to interact with while working for “The Journey“?

I had the chance to be there for the interview with Penn State linebacker Michael Mauti on football media day in Chicago. This was after all the sanctions hit Penn State and he was rather emotional, and witnessing his responses to the producers questions made me a Penn State fan that season.

What was your favorite game that you covered while working for “The Journey“?

My favorite game or really I should say games are all the Senior Night ones. When pieced together it ends up being an emotional ride for an entire segment of the show.

What does the 100th episode mean to you?

To me it means, Boy, I sure have looked through a ton of game footage.”

BTN.com staff

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