Game-Winning Shots

NKU sophomore’s passion for sports leads to a courtside role.

By J. Atley Smedley | Photography by Dave Bushle | Published April 2, 2018
Tori Watkins headshot

Whether it’s watching a breakaway dunk from the student section or cracking peanuts in the bleachers behind home plate, most sports fans have any number of indelible memories watching their favorite teams.

Tori Watkins is certainly no exception, though she sees sports from a slightly different perspective. The sophomore electronic media and broadcasting major in Northern Kentucky University’s College of Informatics is a student worker for the NKU Norse and ESPN.

Tori’s journey started in middle school, when a relative, noticing her developing communication skills, encouraged Tori to join a TV/media class. 

“My aunt knew that I was interested in this field because I was in speech,” says Tori. “She helped me get my feet wet in the newsroom. Even though it was for our local school news, it was a great experience. Every day I came in, I wanted to be in charge of the sports section. It came to the point when they told me it was someone else’s turn.”

The passionate Reds fan spent the next five years taking advantage of every opportunity her school offered. She remained involved in news production and added announcer duties for her high school’s baseball, women’s basketball and soccer teams. At some point, it became clear that this was what Tori wanted to do for the rest of her life.

Tori was dead set on attending Western Kentucky University, as the school offered a broadcasting program and was close to home. But then NKU caught her attention. Tori recognized that the opportunities Greater Cincinnati offered far outnumbered those in western Kentucky, so she applied to NKU.

Her acceptance letter started Tori on the next chapter of her life.

“It was weird. I told myself OK, I’m going to Northern. This is where I want to go,” says Tori. “I kept thinking about all the amazing opportunities in the area.”

Once she arrived at NKU, any lingering doubts about her decision disappeared. The welcoming campus allowed her to become heavily involved, and she joined as many organizations as she could, including Delta Gamma, Presidential Ambassadors and the Norse Leadership Society.

Tori’s hard work did not go unseen. By the end of the spring semester, she was presented with the Freshman of the Year Award at Gold & White Gratitude.

“It was so crazy because I’m a first-generation college student, and that never happens to anyone,” she says. “It’s strange and exciting to see all my hard work from freshman year pay off.”

Tori has taken what she has learned in the classroom and turned it into a unique student employment opportunity. As part of a partnership between the university and ESPN, Tori records Norse home games in all sports and produces highlight videos and postgame interviews. Most recently, she worked with the men’s basketball team during its run to the 2018 Horizon League regular season championship.


Tori's weekly NKU sports recap, "NKU Sports Break," allows her to practice and hone her skills as on on-screen news anchor.


“Any time the Norse cross half court, I hit the record button because I don’t want to miss a highlight play,” says Tori. “I’m always making mental notes on what was a highlight play, what questions to ask or what is the best footage.”

One of her favorite parts of recording the games is being close to the players. Tori’s role allows her to be courtside, and sometimes on the court itself, capturing the emotion and turmoil of the players and coaches around her.

“You’ll never be able to see a game in the same way as you do when you are sitting courtside or literally on the court. Whenever they get excited, you can feel it,” she says, adding that she sometimes has to resist the infectious enthusiasm. “When sitting courtside, you can’t cheer for either team. I’m a very ‘Go NKU’ girl, so I have to be professional with no preference.”

Along with recording sporting events, she has her own show on Twitter­ called “ICYMI,” a daily NKU sports recap video. “ICYMI” allows Tori to hone her skills as an on-screen news anchor, a skill she learned in eighth grade.

Tori hopes to be an ESPN field correspondent someday. Perhaps the only thing she loves more than the sports she covers is capturing those indelible memories and delivering them to sports fans everywhere.