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From CCC&TI to the Super Bowl

Published: 4/29/2023

By Kelsey Dukes
Appalachian State University

From the halls of Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute to the world’s biggest stage – Super Bowl LVII at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Ariz. – James Tatum continues to add new chapters to his incredible comeback story.

Tatum’s path to success began at South Caldwell High School, where he spent four years on the football team and experienced homelessness as a youth. Terrie and Bill Johnson, a local couple, took Tatum in and gave him the opportunity to reach his potential.

“They believed in me at a time where many people were questioning me,” Tatum said. “I’ll always be in debt to them.”

Thanks to the support from South Caldwell coaches, teachers, staff and the Johnsons, Tatum continued his education at CCC&TI. He was the first in his family to get a high school diploma and the first to attend college. At CCC&TI he earned an associate degree, and now he’s ready to graduate again. Tatum is currently studying at Grand Canyon University, working toward a bachelor’s degree in sports management. He plans to graduate this fall.

“There’s no mistake that the foundation of what I’m doing now was built during the years I was at CCC&TI,” he said.

CCC&TI allowed Tatum to explore different career options and helped him build a strong work ethic. TRIO, a program at CCC&TI that supports first-generation college students, was another important part of Tatum’s success. Since his graduation, the TRIO staff members continue cheering Tatum on.

“James is one of the most determined individuals I have ever known, and when he sets his mind to something, he goes for it,” CCC&TI TRIO Director Emily Garrison said. “We helped him with course advising, tutoring, obtaining campus employment, but more than that, we were a place he could land any time during the day.”

It was at CCC&TI that Tatum discovered his passion for sports, working with the basketball teams and building relationships with current head men’s basketball coach Jamison McIver and former coaches Matt Anderson and Richie Covington. Tatum credits their support for his pursuit of a degree and career in sports. Though he’s still working toward the degree, he has a head start on his career.

In 2021, Tatum created The Gauntlet, a sports podcast that focuses on NFL content such as the draft, free agency and other news. What started as a hobby quickly became another rung on the ladder to his sports career. Media company Sideline Sports Network LLC, picked up The Gauntlet podcast and assigned Tatum to cover Super Bowl LVII in February. He has since been named President of Recruiting and Events for Sideline Sports, and is now preparing to cover the NFL Draft in Kansas City in late April.

His dream job is to be a reporter covering the Philadelphia Eagles, a goal he remembers discussing with Garrison during his time at CCC&TI.

“Once you think you’ve made it, that’s when you will fall,” Tatum said. “I know I’m at a place in my life where I cannot afford to fall. So I will keep going.

“I am simply somebody who wanted something more than what I had, and that is still true today,” he said.

For CCC&TI students and the staff who supported, Tatum is an example of how hard work and education can help someone achieve their goals.

James Tatum

CCC&TI graduate James Tatum, founder of The Gauntlet podcast and President of Recruiting and Events for Sideline Sports, was a credentialed journalist at Super Bowl LVII in Glendale, Ariz.

James Tatum & Emily Garrison

James Tatum poses with CCC&TI TRIO Director Emily Garrison at a TRIO awards ceremony. Tatum graduated from CCC&TI in 2019 is now completing his bachelor’s degree at Grand Canyon University and working as a sports journalist in Philadelphia.