Nebraska alumnus John Shrader brings 45 years of experience working with sports media at the highest level to the classrooms of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
Shrader, associate professor and coordinator for the College of Journalism and Mass Communications’ sports media and communications program, returned to Nebraska U in 2017 after spending 37 years working in sports broadcasting in California.
His work ethic and talent led to positions on leading radio and broadcast networks, 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 coverage of the 2009 Stanley Cup Finals game for the San Jose Sharks.
A graduate of the College of Journalism and Mass Communications, Shrader now dedicates his time to educating and preparing the 300 (and counting) sports media majors for their dream careers.
And a native of Neligh, Nebraska, he can wholeheartedly say he fulfilled his own childhood dreams.
“I was like 10 or 11 years old, I was watching Nebraska and I got the idea that I wanted to work 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 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 I was just trying to assert myself and I got the job.”
Shrader’s life in California wasn’t glamorous at first.
“My wife and I got married shortly after we moved and we weren’t making a lot of money,” he said. “She was used to big cities, but I wasn’t. I’m glad we stuck with it because it turned out to be a very interesting place. We love the Bay Area, we loved living in San Jose and we’ve seen Silicon Valley grow from this small idea to this world-class tech hub.”
During his time in the Bay Area, Shrader spent 15 years at KNBRwhich served as the flagship station of for decades ABCRadio operation on the west coast. The appearance included coverage of the San Francisco 49ers as one of the first radio stations to provide year-round coverage of a professional sports team.
“It was top notch surgery and the best broadcasting job I’ve ever had,” he said.
Shrader has spent more than 10 years in television, working as a presenter and covering, among other things, the Oakland Athletics and the Golden State Warriors. Highlights of his career include coverage of World Cups and encounters with some of the sport’s biggest names.
“I’ve been fortunate to cover Super Bowls, the World Series and a few Major League Soccer league games,” he said. “I’ve been really fortunate 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 with in the sport.”
Shrader has seen thousands of professional sports games and has been to most stadiums across the country. While he couldn’t afford to be impressed 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’re like, ‘Wow,'” he said. “You’re a small town kid, you know. It’s the ’60s and you look up and the planes fly by and it doesn’t sound like a small town stereotype but you think it wouldn’t be cool to go somewhere? Then you wake up and you’re in San Francisco doing some of these cool things that you thought were really cool growing up and you get paid to do it. You meet interesting people and love your job. The lessons aren’t great, but you still do it because it’s fun.”
Shrader has completed many other notable freelance projects. He also directed an award-winning documentary on Barry Bonds ethics as part of his master’s program at San Jose State University. Shrader has also published literature on American football, British football and the future of sports journalism.
Most notably, Shrader won an Emmy for his coverage of the 2009 Stanley Cup Finals game for the San Jose Sharks.
“Winning the Emmy was pretty cool,” he said. “This is maybe as close to a perfect show as I’ve ever been a part of. I’m proud of the awards I’ve won because they mean people thought I did a good job and recognized me for it.”
Shortly after receiving his master’s degree in mass communications, Shrader taught at California State University in Long Beach.
In 2017, he returned to Nebraska the way he left – through a phone call that presented him with an opportunity.
“I was teaching at Cal State Long Beach and got a call from one of the guys I went to school with, Rick Alloway. [MAYBE WE CAN SAY HE IS A PROFESSOR HERE?] and he said we’re hiring a professor of sports media – would you be interested,” Shrader said.
Shrader admitted that if the call had come 10 years earlier, the answer probably would have been no. But it was the right opportunity at the right time, and Shrader has great faith in the program, which has outpaced its projections.
“It was great,” he said. “I think college is booming and there are so many cool things happening here. My colleagues are great. We all work very, very hard. There’s a lot going on and we’re doing great things. I’m very, very happy here.
The College of Journalism and Mass Communications added a sports media and communications major to its repertoire in 2017, making it one of the few programs of its kind in the country. In the program, students get to know all aspects of sports media. The program continues to improve the tools it provides students and innovate the way sports media is taught.
“The sports business in this country is billions and billions and billions of dollars,” Shrader said. “So much of what has made the sport so great has to do with the media. If a student wants to be knowledgeable about all kinds of sports media and sports business, I think this is a really good place for them.”
Students quickly caught the sports media frenzy. When the program began, the program hoped to have 50 students within five years. The program had 50 students in its first year and grew to 300.
Above all, Shrader teaches his students to follow their passion and work hard.
“Find a way to make a career out of what you really can’t wait to do,” he said. “I think success starts with a little bit of talent, a lot of hard work and a little bit of luck.”
Shrader sees great potential in each of his students.
“I really believe that after living on the coast for a long time and teaching at a few universities in California, our students can play in anyone’s sandbox in the country,” he said. “They can really do that because they’re smart, they’re motivated, we train them well, they’re interesting and smart and all those things. All they need is just the opportunity to get into that sandbox and they will be fine. You will do very well.”
Through his time in the sport, Shrader has learned that the long hours and hard work pay off. Having achieved so much in his career, he is hopeful for the future of sports media and communications programming.
“I would appreciate it if we continued to expand the sports media program,” he said. “I’d like to see us refresh the sports media program in a way that someone on the outside looks at it and says, ‘Wow, these guys are doing stuff that students need to know next week, next month, next year, not what they needed to know last year month or last year.’ We could be a place that innovates sports media and experiments with new ways of delivering sports media. I think that would be really cool.”
Shrader enjoys mentoring his students and is passionate about sharing his knowledge and helping students find great opportunities.
“I think most people who’ve been in a career a long time want to pass that on,” he said. “I think they want to share what they know and what they’ve learned. The youth and young people are like sponges, they just want to know everything and they want to know now.”