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Mr. Hill Goes to Washington (Thanks to the Power of the Vandal Family)

A junior at the University of Idaho learned the power of the Vandal family when he was offered a dream opportunity as a sports writer with the Washington Redskins and an alumna opened her home — and heart — to the fellow Vandal

When Brandon Hill was offered a marketing internship with the Washington Redskins, he knew it was an opportunity that he couldn’t pass up.

A junior at the University of Idaho, the Greenleaf, Idaho, native was skeptical of his chances of getting the position given the large number of applicants.

“I figured there were probably hundreds of applicants. There is no way they are going to take a kid from Idaho,” Hill said. “And then, they sent me an email that said, ‘We’d love to have you, when can you fly out?’”

When Hill started working out the logistics and the cost of living by himself, he got nervous about the financial strain the internship would place on his family.

“In late July, my parents and I were really stressing because all apartments back there are super expensive and I needed to buy a car because I had to drive myself everywhere,” Hill said.

That’s when then Vandal Family stepped up to help.

Vandals Everywhere

As soon as Hill was offered the position, his family started searching for options for him to live cheaply.

“We were looking every day on Craigslist for places to live,” Hill said.

An unexpected door opened when Hill’s aunt created a post on Facebook asking for someone who would be willing to take in her nephew.

Celeste Fackrell ’84 lives right outside of D.C. A mutual friend of Hill’s family shared the post with her, and she was happy to help.

“I called Celeste and asked if there was anything I could do for rent and she said don’t even worry about it, this is your opportunity and we are just here to help you as much as we can,” Hill said.

“My mom called me and said they thought they had found a place and I just thought, ‘I can’t believe it.’’ Hill said. “I called Celeste and asked if there was anything I could do for rent and she said don’t even worry about it, this is your opportunity and we are just here to help you as much as we can.”

Fackrell said agreeing to take Brandon in felt a bit like she was paying it forward.

“Deciding to take Brandon in felt sort of like the perfect storm,” said Fackrell, whose own son had just graduated from high school and moved to North Dakota, before he planned to move to New Zealand, leaving an empty bedroom in the house.

Fackrell said that knowing Hill was a fellow Vandal was a deciding factor in the family’s decision to take him in for the semester.

“I knew we had to have some shared values, having the Vandals in common,” said Fackrell, who received her degree from the College of Education, Health and Human Sciences.

Hill became like one of the family.

“I knew that he would work out when, at dinner one night, my girls started harassing him and instead of backing down, he just gave it right back to them,” Fackrell said. “The girls turned to me and said, ‘OK, we’ll keep him.’ My girls joke that I replaced Cameron with Brandon.”

Writing for the Redskins

During his internship, Hill was able to get real-world experience in his field and earn internship credit.

“When I started out, I was really shy, and I didn’t want to talk to anyone. I just wanted to write my stuff and hope I didn’t have to talk to anyone,” he said. “But then, I thought, ‘That’s not what I came here to do,’ and so I started to put myself out there and approach players one-on-one, and I became way more confident in my abilities.”

Each day, he would arrive at Redskins’ practices and be given rivalries and team match-ups to turn into a story. He and the other interns would watch some of the team’s practice, before heading into the locker rooms to ask questions of the football players. They would get quotes for the next day’s stories, working alongside reporters from ESPN and The Washington Post.

“I definitely became a better interviewer because here it was like you were interviewing three different players every single day, and so I got a lot better at thinking of questions on the fly and thinking of story lines. But I also got to be a better writer because I was writing two articles each day,” Hill said.

Hill is majoring in marketing in the College of Business and Economics and minoring in journalism through the School of Journalism and Mass Media. He has written for U of I’s student newspaper, The Argonaut, since 2015. He is the newspaper’s news editor and was previously in charge of Vandal Nation, The Argonaut’s sports website.

Article by Madison Perdue ’18, Public Relations, CLASS
Published April 2018

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