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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Even without degree, Shanks prospers

Thursday, September 9, 2004

Eric Shanks, right, with Emmy co-winners, Carlos Aguero, senior designer of FOX Sports and Gary Hartley, art director of FOX Sports, holding the award. The ceremony, held at the New York Hilton in 1997, was Eric's third time winning an Emmy.

Part two of three

Eric Shanks enrolled at Indiana University majoring in Film and Television after graduating from Northview High School in 1990. With a love for sports and technology, he was pursuing a career in sports broadcasting.

When he got to college, family friends Jim Dressler, managing editor of The Brazil Times, and Chuck Crabb, IU associate athletic director, hooked him up with the sports information department at IU.

During basketball season, IU men's basketball was on CBS TV every week. Starting in 1993, Eric did some stories for CBS, while still in school, and got acquainted with many of the network personnel.

When CBS went to Lillehammer, Norway, in 1994, to cover the Winter Olympics, they asked Eric to go with them.

It was in the middle of the semester of his senior year but he wasn't about to miss this opportunity. He intended to make up the missed classes when he returned.

When he got back, however, his professors said he'd missed too much. They advised him to skip the rest of that semester and finish up the next year.

Then CBS offered him a full time job. Eric dropped out of IU and moved to New York almost immediately, thinking he'd complete his degree later. But the enterprising, talented and hard working young man made his career grow quickly without it. He never made it back to school.

"My mother is still hoping I'll get the degree," Eric said.

He understands the importance of a college degree and would not discourage anyone from pursuing one. In many professions, such as medicine and education, a specific educational background and degree is required to even apply for a job.

But the lack of a degree doesn't bother Eric because it was not required, either to enter or advance, in his chosen field. He realizes, though, that his college experience was instrumental in his development and achievement. Actually the university gave him something more valuable than a degree. It gave him exposure to the people who could open the doors he needed opened.

And timing is crucial. Frequently the door of opportunity can be ajar, oh so slightly, and you have to push through quickly. Eric didn't hesitate. If he'd stayed in Bloomington to finish his degree, it might have cost him his career entirely or decreased his level of accomplishment. At the very least, it would have delayed him.

In 1994, FOX network commandeered the National Football League contract away from CBS after 38 years. Eric's producer, Richie Zyontz, left CBS to go to FOX. He'd worked with Eric in Lillehammer and knew his capabilities. Zyontz asked Eric to join him.

The gifted, young producer from Brazil worked at FOX Sports for 10 years and what a phenomenal decade it was. He won Emmy Awards for his NFL coverage in 1994, 1995 and 1997. He was on the road for three of those years doing NFL games.

"I've been to every town in America that has an NFL team or a NASCAR track," Eric said.

He did NFL Europe for a season and traveled all over Europe. London was his residence for a summer. He lived in Italy for a year. And he produced the World Cup of Golf in New Zealand in 1998.

Eric also produced the first episodes of "The Best Damn Sports Show Period," a popular sports talk show hosted by Tom Arnold, John Salley and Chris Rose. Salley is the only person in NBA history to win world titles for three different teams as a player, the Detroit Pistons, Chicago Bulls and LA Lakers.

"With Tom Arnold, there's always lots of Rosanne jokes flying around," Eric said, laughing. "He may get his own talk show next year."

Tomorrow: Eric talks about Nelson Mandela and plans for a trip back to Brazil.

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