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Dick Harmon: Granite High grad, NFL Films producer Kevin Bushman believes faith works

Published: Saturday, July 4 2015 12:03 p.m. MDT

The building housing National Football League's NFL Films is seen, Monday, Jan. 22, 2007 in Mount Laurel, N.J. Granite High grad Kevin Bushman had no idea someday he'd be doing Emmy Award-winning work as an associate producer with NFL Films. (Mel Evans, ASSOCIATED PRESS) The building housing National Football League's NFL Films is seen, Monday, Jan. 22, 2007 in Mount Laurel, N.J. Granite High grad Kevin Bushman had no idea someday he'd be doing Emmy Award-winning work as an associate producer with NFL Films. (Mel Evans, ASSOCIATED PRESS)

When Kevin Bushman graduated from Granite High, he wanted to major in math.

His fascination with crunching numbers remained as he attended Ricks College and went on an LDS Church mission to Venezuela before graduating from BYU.

He had no idea someday he'd be doing Emmy Award-winning work as an associate producer with NFL Films, soaking in the emotion of Dick Vermeil and setting a mic to the very private and powerful New England coach Bill Belichick.

But one day, a dream hatched for Bushman and he chased it. Gone was the desire to do equations and measure triangles. In its place came a desire to tell the stories of football's giants. Bushman's story teaches a lesson that you can do what you hope to do, regardless of the odds.

Today, Bushman is in his 15th year with NFL Films and lives in Mount Laurel, N.J., with his wife Rhonda. They are the parents of five children. He is the only BYU graduate among the 200 employees at NFL Films and the only Mormon he is aware of on staff.

"If it's important to you," Bushman advises young people, "take a chance. You will be surprised how many people will help you reach your dreams if you show them how important it is to you."

How did Bushman get from math major to a producer of some of NFL Films top programs like "Hard Knocks," "A Football Life," "America's Game," "NFL Films Presents," "Top Ten," "Road to the Super Bowl" and "Inside the NFL"?

One day while attending BYU, he approached his uncle, Bob Gillman, who worked at KBYU-TV, to see if he could do something at the station. One of the things he was allowed to do was hold a mic on the sidelines of a BYU football game. "I enjoyed that," he remembers. Within a week, he changed his major to communications.

This was about the time Steve Young and the San Francisco 49ers made their last Super Bowl run in the early '90s. Bushman watched an NFL Films Superbowl video on the event and was fascinated. He decided one day he'd like to tell the stories of NFL heroes.

Bushman got on the Internet and found an 800 number for NFL Films. "I needed to do an internship and I called the number, not knowing if it was a number to order videos or if I'd actually get to talk to somebody."

What he did get was positive reinforcement from that call. The person was impressed that he'd be willing to come across the country and work for nothing for half a year, just to be an intern.

Bushman packed his bags and moved to New Jersey without a place to stay. Once in town, he called the local LDS stake president, Burt Willis, and asked if he knew anybody he could stay with during his internship. Willis said he'd check and call him back the next day. Within a few hours, Willis called Bushman back and said, "Why don't you just come over and stay with us?"

Bushman's internship was filled with basic grunt work, gofer stuff. But one day toward the end of his tenure, the company started up nfl.com, a website devoted to the league. Since Bushman was one of the only gofers who could operate the software and knew how to work a computer, he was given the responsibility.

This led to full-time employment at NFL Films and then the title of associate producer.

Even today, Bushman's attitude and willingness to work on anything has served him well, and it's a lesson to those who want to get into a new business, be it sports, marketing or journalism. Actually, about anything. He was willing to pay the price.

"There isn't anything at work I think is beneath me to work on. I enjoy it. We do get kids in who are new and they immediately want to be working on the highest-profile programs. They want it now."

Bushman advises, you have to take chances, make sacrifices and be willing to accept what happens.

As the only member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints onboard, Bushman says everyone is aware of it and he's put under a microscope in all he does. Staffers are also aware he graduated from BYU and they're constantly asking him about the Cougars, especially when BYU defeated Oklahoma in the grand opening of Jerry's House in Dallas.

When he came to Mount Laurel as an intern, he found himself in the same LDS ward as Ty Detmer and Chad Lewis, former BYU football players. His LDS bishop was Vai Sikahema, whom he ended up living with for a few months after he married.

And that's another thing. While in Mount Laurel, he met Rhonda, who is from Michigan but just happened to be working as a nanny in the area. Both had attended Ricks College at the same time, both had been in Provo the same general time, but it took this leap of faith to go work for nothing in New Jersey for his official run-in with his future spouse.

"Things work out for a reason," he said. "I believe that. I really do."

The mantra of NFL Films, founded by Steve Sabol in 1962, is a direct edict and plan of action for those who work and produce the award-winning pieces.

"Deliver the moment," is this mantra, said Bushman. "That's what they drill into to us, to always deliver the moment. We are like Hollywood in that we tell stories but unlike Hollywood, we can't change the script because what we do is real life and we don't know the ending. We have to be able to deliver the moment of a game, a championship, a personality — and that's the key to what we do."

The founder of NFL Films, Ed Sabol, was a World War II veteran who sold topcoats and had a hobby of carrying a motion picture camera he received as a wedding gift everywhere he went. He began taking sports shots at high school games in which his son Steve played. He later began Blair Motion Picture Studios and won the bid to film the 1962 NFL championship for $4,000.

Sabol's work impressed NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle so much, he proposed to NFL owners they hire Sabol's studio, a suggestion they rejected. The following year, they reversed their decision and gave him $20,000 seed money to rename his company NFL Films.

There's a common element to all this.

Live your dreams. Take chances on things you believe are worth it.

If you believe, you've won a big chunk of the battle in your heart.

email: dharmon@desnews.com twitter: harmonwrites

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