The more David Lubbers explored the Tyler Sash story, the more it struck a chord.
Both were small-town Iowa guys. Both attained success on a national level. And both loved football.
The primary difference: Sash’s death on Sept. 8, 2015 fueled the debate about brain injuries in football, and Lubbers produced a compelling piece for ESPN that told his story.
“Even if I wouldn’t have been from Iowa, it would have probably been one of the top stories emotionally and impactfully that I’ve done.
“The fact I was from Webster City, I absolutely identified with that.”
Lubbers, who lives in Des Moines, traces the origins of his career to working for his high school paper.
Every week, he would meet with iconic football coach Dick Tighe.
“The last thing he probably wanted to do was talk to some high school kid on Sunday night, but he was so gracious,” Lubbers recalled. “It gave me a little bit of confidence and he had a big part in making me believe that I could actually do it.”
Lubbers went to Drake in the 1980s, joining the basketball team as a walk-on for two seasons.
He got an internship his freshman year at WHO TV (Channel 13), where Jim Zabel was his boss for six months, and spent time at KCCI, where he produced, directed and shot the Rudy Washington Show.
“That was a great experience,” Lubbers said of putting together a weekly program focused on the Drake basketball coach. “I didn’t get much sleep the whole season, but I took those tapes and sent them to a couple places.”
After spending time in Chicago and New York, Lubbers became a key contributor and eventual full-time producer for ESPN’s Outside the Lines.
He and reporter Steve Delsohn collaborated on the telling of Sash’s post-football struggles. It was the first time Lubbers did a project based in Iowa, and he describes meeting Sash’s family as touching and heart-wrenching.
“They impacted me greatly,” said Lubbers, who reached out to the family last week on the one-year anniversary of Sash’s death. “Their courage and their willingness to tell the story and the strength with which they did that… I’ll never forget it.”
ESPN’s Ryen Russillo and Danny Kanell discussed whether oddsmakers in Vegas are scared of Iowa, which began the season as a 100-to-1 longshot to win the title, but moved to 25-to-1 last week. “This is a program who knows exactly who they are,” Kanell said. “They have a very specific identity and they play in the Big Ten.” He went on to say the Hawkeyes should start 8-0.
Marc Tracy of The New York Times used Iowa State as an example of how winning in football is not as important as being in a Power Five conference, and why Houston is making a play to join the Big 12. “…while the Cougars took in about $3 million in media rights payments as a member of the American Athletic Conference, Iowa State’s membership in the Big 12 was worth 10 times that — about $30 million — even as the Cyclones won 10 fewer games than the Cougars, who were 13-1.”
NBC Sports Digital launched a new weekly, live show focusing on Fantasy Football and hosted by former Iowa quarterback Paul Burmeister. Rotoworld Fantasy Football airs 2 p.m. Thursdays on NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app.
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Andrew Logue has been with the Register for 20 years. Follow him @AndrewMLogue.