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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Job shows Shanks many faces, places

Friday, September 10, 2004

Part three of three

A boyhood dream of working in sports broadcasting became a reality for Brazil native Eric Shanks. The 1990 Northview High School graduate initially worked for CBS while still in school at Indiana University.

He put his education on hold, temporarily he thought, when CBS asked him to help with the Winter Olympics at Lillehammer, Norway, in 1994, his senior year.

Upon his return to academics, his professors said he'd missed too much class work and would have to finish his degree the next semester. Almost simultaneously, CBS offered him a full time job in sports broadcasting. It was an offer he couldn't refuse.

He joined FOX Sports, owned by News Corporation, in 1994 after they wrestled away the National Football League contract from CBS. Eric continued at FOX until last February, when he was promoted to Senior Vice President of Advanced Services and Content at DIRECTV, which is also partly owned by News Corporation.

Throughout his career, the friendly, likable and very talented Brazil native has met many famous and interesting people.

Early in his career with FOX, Eric was on a crew with Matt Millen who was an analyst on NFL FOX Sports.

"Millen played for the Forty Niners NFL football team and won a couple Superbowl rings," Eric said. "He's now the General Manager for the Detroit Lions."

Eric was on the production team who traveled with John Madden doing the Thanksgiving games. He said it was a pretty good time away from home.

"With John, food is always a priority, so we ate well."

Eric recalled one particularly unusual and fascinating experience.

He was working with FOX Sports when the Internet really started catching on. His boss told him to find out what this Internet thing was and see how it could help FOX Sports.

"Internet on-line chats were becoming popular then," Eric explained. "I did a live, on-line chat with Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones during a Cowboys game."

Eric trekked around the football field with Jones. This owner frequently walks the sidelines with the players and coaches during games rather than watch from the owner's suite.

Wired with the necessary equipment, Eric took chat room on-line questions, asked them of Jones then transferred his answers back on-line in the chat room almost instantly.

Jones usually has a celebrity guest attending the games with him. On that day in November of 2000, his special guest was Nelson Mandela, one of the world's most revered statesmen. Mandela, who had been released from political imprisonment in 1990, after 26 years, became the leader of the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa. He received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993 and in 1994 became the first democratically elected State President of South Africa.

"I walked around with them all afternoon. I got to meet and ask questions of one of the most prominent political figures in recent history," Eric said, obviously still enthralled with the experience.

Eric has no regrets about his life choices. He left Brazil at 18 but still loves the town. He'll be returning the weekend of Sept. 25, to go to a wedding reception for one of his high school friends. Mitch Wilson, who lives in North Carolina, recently married and is having a hometown reception so everyone can meet his bride.

Eric hopes to see many of his childhood and high school buddies then.

"Some of my best friends are the guys I went to high school with," Eric said. "Roy Dressler, Shawn Pell, Brad Emmert, Mitch. I hope we can all attend the YMCA fish fry. When you come back home, there has to be a fish fry, bean dinner or pancake breakfast.

"And I hope to see Steve Stoelting," Eric said. "He was the ag. teacher at Northview. His wife Lynn is the school nurse, I think. Steve wrote a new book on ants and is trying to get it published. He's a great guy."

Eric has never married and has no children but he does have a girlfriend, Brenda Sheer, and his dog, Sid.

"When I first got my dog I was working at the IU Sports Information Department," Eric said. "I'd sneak him into the office in a box and sit him under my desk. But eventually, he got out of the box and started walking around. The people liked him and got attached to him. He didn't have a name then and everybody laughingly called him the Sports Information Dog. An acronym evolved and his name became SID.

"I love Brazil," Eric continued. "I loved growing up there. It's a great place to raise kids. The values it instills. Most of my family has moved away but I still have a lot of friends and contacts there. I don't get back as much as I'd like, but l think of it as home."

And it's still a place where a boy can have a dream and grow up to accomplish that dream.

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