By MICHAEL WANBAUGH
THE GOSHEN NEWS
MIAMI — Monday night, with an electric anticipation surging through Sun Life Stadium, Alabama coach Nick Saban paced on one side of the mid-field BCS logo while Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly paced on the other as their two teams stretched during warm-up drills.
Between them, standing directly in the middle of the 80,000-seat stadium, was 1993 Goshen High School graduate Shawn Dechant with a 40-pound wireless television camera on his shoulder. When the two coaches shook hands, it was Dechant who captured the moment for the millions watching at home.
“It’s tough to describe the feeling standing there,” Dechant said shortly after Alabama crushed Notre Dame, 42-14, Monday night in the BCS National Championship game. “People ask me if I’m having fun all the time. Well, it’s pretty cool, but I’m working out there and I’m very focused on doing my job.”
Dechant’s job that night was working as part of the ESPN crew filming the biggest college football game of the season, as well as one of the most anticipated college events of all time.
His primary responsibility was to bring as much of the experience of the game alive to the viewers watching elsewhere.
“That means I’m shooting the fans, the mascots as they run out and the celebrities on the sideline,” Dechant said. “The goal is to show the color of the event to the people at home.”
He is also often responsible for shooting sideline interviews with injured players who may be out for the game, as well as “bump shots,” for pre-game telecasts. A bump shot, Dechant explained, is the shot of a player or coach as they get off the bus to the stadium and walk down the tunnel.
After the game, Dechant keeps his camera pointed toward one of the top performers. In the case of Monday night that was Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron. Dechant filmed McCarron congratulating players and celebrating with his parents and girlfriend, who happens to be Miss Alabama Katherine Webb.
Webb became a social media sensation Monday night after ESPN broadcaster Brent Musburger repeatedly made reference to Webb and how attractive she was after the game had gotten out of hand early. As a result Webb’s Twitter followers jumped from about 3,000 to more than 100,000 in the matter of minutes. ESPN later offered an apology for Musburger’s continued comments.
“I heard Brent say something about her, but I didn’t think much of it,” Dechant said. “I didn’t see her until after the game in my shot with McCarron. I don’t think it was that big of a deal.”
For Dechant, being able to cover Notre Dame, his favorite team growing up, in the BCS title game was a big deal. This was the fourth BCS title game he has shot for ESPN/ABC and it meant the most to him.
“I was so excited about this game,” Dechant said. “Not just because Notre Dame was in it, but because 15 weeks ago I couldn’t imagine Notre Dame would ever be it.”
Dechant, who lives in Phoenix, is an independent contractor and said about 90 percent of his work is for ESPN/ABC. The other roughly 10 percent is for NBC Sports.
He worked the Notre Dame-USC game this past November, the win that capped Notre Dame’s perfect 12-0 regular season and punched its ticket for the BCS National Championship game as the nation’s top-ranked team.
Just before that game Dechant had an idea.
“I called my brother (1995 GHS graduate Colin), and asked if he wanted to be my assistant for the BCS,” Dechant said. “He was totally pumped. It didn’t take him long to say yes.”
“He asked me if I was in,” Colin said. “I said, ‘Absolutely!’ I had only been waiting for that call for 10 years.”
So Colin was in Miami Monday night, staying next to Shawn all night making sure he had what he needed at a moment’s notice, such as fresh batteries for the wireless camera.
“The only way I can put it is surreal,” said Colin, who is a salesman for Forest River in Millersburg. “It was surreal to experience the game from the angle with not just the players and coaches but all the celebrities and former athletes on the sideline.”
Colin said the ESPN people and personalities couldn’t have been any nicer to him.
“Everybody was so gracious to me,” Colin said. “I could tell they were happy to have Shawn and I experience this as a family. It was the best gift a brother could give another brother.”
Shawn Dechant has plenty of experience covering major sporting events. He shoots the Rose Bowl each year and last summer shot the Olympics for the second time in London. He was in Beijing, China in 2008 and captured swimmer Michael Phelps’ historic eight gold medal performance.
Not bad for a guy who graduated from the University of Indianapolis and cut his teeth professionally shooting high school football and basketball games locally for FOX 28 and WHME 46.
Now Dechant has moved from shooting the Northern Lakes Conference to the pinnacle of American sport. He’s also on the lead crew for ESPN’s NBA coverage and frequently shoots the biggest games. When LaBron James and the Miami Heat won the NBA title last June, Dechant shot the game from center court in front of the scorer’s table.
Monday night Dechant, who is a pretty big guy, was all over the field, kneeling, running, getting bumped around by players, fans and other photographers.
“I can definitely feel I’m aging after a broadcast,” Dechant said with a chuckle. “I don’t think I could do it without regular visits to the masseuse and the chiropractor.”
Dechant certainly seems to be holding up well in the spotlight. Sometimes, he admits, he’d rather be sitting the stands, drinking a beverage and cheering like everybody else. But he also realizes that his hard work has paid off and he’s exactly where he wants to be.
“It’s my absolute dream job,” Dechant said. “I just love being down in the middle of it all.”