Shrader helps power success in Nebraska’s sports media program

Monday, November 14, 2022 - 9:15am

by Kateri Hartman | University Communication and Marketing

Nebraska alumnus John Shrader is bringing 45 years of experience working in the highest levels of sports media into classrooms at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln.

An associate professor and coordinator for the College of Journalism and Mass Communications’ sports media and communication program, Shrader returned to Nebraska U in 2017 after working the previous 37 years in sports broadcasting in California.

His work ethic and talent, led to positions at top radio and broadcasting networks and covering thousands of professional sports games, including Super Bowls and Major League Baseball All-Star Games. Shrader has won numerous awards, including an Emmy for his broadcast of the 2009 Stanley Cup Finals game for the San Jose Sharks.

A College of Journalism and Mass Communications graduate, Shrader now dedicates his time to educating and preparing the 300 (and counting) sports media majors for their dream careers.

And, the native of Neligh, Nebraska, can wholeheartedly say he fulfilled his own childhood dreams.

“I was about 10 or 11 years old, watching Nebraska and I got the idea that I wanted to be in broadcasting or journalism,” he said. “It never went away. I don’t know why or where it came from, but it was like a bug that never went away. It gets me out of the house in the morning, and that’s why I’ve been doing it for 45 years.”

After college, Shrader worked in television in Kearney and Hastings before heading west to the Golden State.

“I was just working at my job in Hastings when I got a call and they said, ‘would you be interested in applying for this job in the Bay Area?’ And I said, ‘OK’” Shrader said. “I was 23 years old and just trying to make my way, and I got the job.”

Shrader’s life in California wasn’t glamourous at the start.

“My wife and I got married shortly after we moved there and we weren’t making a lot of money,” he said. “She was accustomed to big cities, but I was not. I’m glad we hung in there because it turned out to be a very interesting place. We love the Bay Area, we loved living in San Jose and we got to watch Silicon Valley grow from this little idea to this world-class technology center.”

During his time in the Bay Area, Shrader spent 15 years at KNBR, which for decades served as flagship station of NBC’s West Coast radio operations. The gig included covering the San Francisco 49ers as one of the first radio broadcasters to cover a professional sports team year-round.

“It was a first-class operation and the best broadcasting job I’ve ever had,” he said.

Shrader spent more than 10 years on television, working as an anchor and covering the Oakland Athletics and Golden State Warriors, among other things. Highlights of his career include covering world championships and meeting some of sport’s greatest names.

“I was lucky to cover Super Bowls, World Series and couple of Major League Soccer Championship games,” he said. “I was really lucky to do a lot of interesting things and meet really interesting people along the way. Dusty Baker, who just won a World Series with the Houston Astros, and Steve Young of the 49ers are two of the most interesting people I’ve ever been around in sports.”

Shrader has seen thousands of professional sports games and been to most stadiums in the country. While he couldn’t afford to be awe-struck by athletes on camera, he still had his “wow” moments.

“You’re a kid from a small town in the middle of the country, and you’re driving to cover the Super Bowl and you think, ‘wow,’” he said. “You’re a small-town kid, you know. It’s the 60’s and you look up in the air and the planes are flying by and not to sound like a small-town stereotype, but you think wouldn’t it be cool to go someplace? Then you wake up and you’re in San Francisco and you’re doing some of those cool things that you thought were really cool when you were growing up and you’re getting paid for it. You’re meeting interesting people and you love your job. The hours aren’t great, but you do it anyways because it’s fun.”

Shrader has completed many other notable freelance projects. He also created an award-winning documentary film on the ethics of Barry Bonds as part of his master’s program at San Jose State University. Shrader has also published literature about American soccer, British soccer and the future of sports journalism.

Most notably, Shrader won an Emmy for his broadcast of the 2009 Stanley Cup Finals game for the San Jose Sharks.

“Winning the Emmy was pretty cool,” he said. “That may be as close to a perfect broadcast as I’ve ever been involved with. I’m proud of the awards I’ve won because they mean that people thought I did good work and recognized me for it.”

Shortly after earning his master’s degree in mass communications, Shrader taught at California State University, Long Beach.

In 2017, he came back to Nebraska the same way he left it — through a phone call offering an opportunity.

“I was teaching at Cal State Long Beach, and I got a call from one of the people I went to school with, Rick Alloway (associate professor of broadcasting), and he said we’re hiring a professor of sports media-would you be interested,” Shrader said.

Shrader admitted that if the call came 10 years earlier, the answer probably would have been no. But it was the right opportunity at the right time, and Shrader has a lot of faith in the program, which has grown leaps and bounds past its projections.

“It’s been great,” he said. “I think the college is just going up and there are so many cool things that are going on here. My colleagues are great. We’re all working very, very hard. There’s a lot of stuff going on and we’re doing great things. I’m very, very happy here.

The College of Journalism and Mass Communications added the sports media and communication major to its repertoire in 2017, becoming one of the only programs of its kind in the country. In the program, students learn about all aspects of sports media. The program continues to upgrade the tools it provides to students and innovate the ways that sports media is taught.

“The business of sport is billions and billions and billions of dollars in this country,” Shrader said. “So much of what has made sports as big as it is, is involved with media. If a student wants to be well versed in all kinds of sports media and the sports business, I think this is a really good place for them to be.”

Students have quickly caught the sports media bug. When the program was beginning, the program hoped to have 50 students within five years. The program had 50 students its first year and grown to 300.

Above all, Shrader teaches his students to follow their passion and work hard.

“Figure out a way to make a career out of what really you can’t wait to go do again,” he said. “I think success starts with having a little bit of talent, a lot of hard work and a little bit of luck.”

Shrader sees great potential in every one of his students.

“I really believe this having lived on the coast for a long time and taught at a couple of universities in California, our students can play in the sandbox of anybody in the country,” he said. “They really can because they’re smart, they’re driven, we train them well, they’re interesting and bright and all those things. All they need is just the opportunity to go and get into that sandbox, and they’ll be just fine. They’ll do very well.”

Through his time in sports, Shrader has learned that the long hours and hard work pay off. Having accomplished so much in his career, he looks forward with hope for the future of the sports media and communication program.

“I would like to see us continue growing the sports media program,” he said. “I would like to see us innovate the sports media program so that somebody on the outside looks at it and says, ‘wow, those guys are doing stuff that the students need to know next week, next month next year, and not what they needed to know last month or last year.’ We could be a place that innovates sports media, and experiments with new ways to deliver sports media. I think that would be really cool.”

Shrader enjoys mentoring his students and is passionate about passing along his knowledge and helping students find great opportunities.

“I think most people who’ve been in a career for a long time want to pass that along,” he said. “I think they do want to share what they know and what they’ve learned. The young people and young people are like sponges, they just want to know everything, and they want to know it now.”

John Shrader gestures as he talks about describing great defense in a basketball game during his BRDC 375 - Sports Broadcasting course in the UNLimited Sports multimedia classroom in Andersen Hall.
John Shrader gestures as he talks about describing great defense in a basketball game during his BRDC 375 - Sports Broadcasting course in the UNLimited Sports multimedia classroom in Andersen Hall.