One day at work, Brittany Cervantes looked up at lunch and saw Les Miles, the LSU football coach, sitting at the next table.
Another time, the University of Kentucky's softball standout had her workday interrupted by meeting Maurkice and Mike Pouncey, the twin-brother duo of NFL offensive linemen.
"Very big people," she says of the 300-pound-plus former Florida Gators.
Yet for Cervantes, the biggest thrill of her summer interning at ESPN came when she breezed past the College Football Live studio and noticed a swirl of blonde hair.
"Erin Andrews is my hero," Cervantes says. "I just went up to her and said, 'Sorry to bother you, but you're sort of my idol.' ... We just had a normal conversation. That was huge for me."
As you'll see, Andrews even offered a little career encouragement to the senior-to-be broadcast journalism major.
On the weekend when the students are coming back to UK for the start of another academic year, Cervantes figures to be near the front in the category "Most interesting answer to the question what did you do over the summer?"
From June 19 through Aug. 12, Cervantes — one of the stars (.329 batting average, 15 home runs, 52 RBI) of Kentucky's breakthrough 2011 softball season that ended one agonizing loss short of the College World Series — was in a group of some 90 interns working this summer in Bristol, Conn., for the Worldwide Leader.
Since she was a little girl, the Chatsworth, Calif., product has been interested in a career in TV sports. Working with UK's Student News Network, which produces a television newscast that airs on Lexington cable TV, only whetted that interest for Cervantes.
One of her academic advisors in the UK Athletics tutoring program (CATS) encouraged her to apply for the internship with ESPN.
She did, and the call eventually came from Bristol telling Cervantes her application had been accepted. She was a little disappointed at first, however, because she didn't get the area of concentration, studio productions, that she had hoped for. Instead, she was assigned to "commercial operations" at ESPN.
About a week after California eliminated Kentucky from the NCAA softball tournament, Cervantes and her dad, Rudy, made the 14-hour drive (they split it over two days) from Lexington to Connecticut.
Once she got through "rookie camp" at ESPN and settled into a routine, Cervantes says she found her job interesting. Essentially, her department's responsibility was to organize when particular ads ran during shows all across the ESPN networks.
"Some advertisers had to run during particular events. Rolex ran during tennis," Cervantes said. "Some advertisers had in their contracts that they had to be in the first slot coming into a specific commercial break, or that they had to be the last (ad) in a given (commercial break). We also had to organize the ESPN (promotional) ads, make sure we weren't running the same ad too often or in the same commercial break."
When they had free time, Cervantes reports that the interns were encouraged to move about the sprawling ESPN campus and spend time questioning employees about their jobs.
"They had a panel discussion for us," she said. "Jay Harris, one of the anchors, was on it. And there were people there from all around the company. At ESPN, they're all about networking. They kept telling us if we were interested in working in an area there, go meet the people who already (work in that department)."
During her time up north, Cervantes did see some faces she knew from Lexington.
Ex-UK football player Marcus Davis (a former Herald-Leader intern) was also doing an internship for ESPN this summer. "We had lunch one day," Cervantes says.
When the SEC football coaches were in Connecticut promoting their schools on the ESPN platforms, Cervantes bumped into Joker Phillips in the cafeteria.
After working a summer at ESPN, Cervantes says she is even more sure than before that she wants to work in TV sports.
"What I learned mostly is that there are a whole lot of different ways to do that," she said. "That you don't necessarily have to be on the air, though I would still like to do that."
That career aspiration was reinforced by her brief chat with ESPN star Andrews.
"I told Erin I wanted to be a sports broadcaster," Cervantes reports, "and she was like, 'you absolutely should.'"
Reach Mark Story at (859) 231-3230 or 1-800-950-6397, Ext. 3230, or firstname.lastname@example.org.