No longer a knucklehead

Myron Medcalf speaks with students at Edison High School in Minneapolis.
Myron Medcalf covers University of Minnesota Men's basketball as a sports reporter for the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Photo by Margo Ashmore
Students from Edison H.S. in Minneapolis interview Myron Medcalf.
Students of Edison H.S. in Minneapolis interview Myron Medcalf. Photo by Margo Ashmore
“I was a knucklehead in high school. I think I was afraid to be smart." -- Myron Medcalf, Star Tribune sports reporter

Reprinted with permission of the Northeaster newspaper.

His love of sports led writer Myron Medcalf to get serious about school and journalism

When Myron Medcalf was a student reporter, he tried to get an interview with then-quarterback Duante Culpepper at the Minnesota Vikings training camp in Mankato.

Sure, Culpepper told him, wait right here. So Medcalf waited. And waited. And waited. No Culpepper.

About a half hour later, he went around a building and saw Culpepper giving an interview with someone else.

Sports figures don’t stiff Medcalf like that anymore.

Now, at age 27, Myron Medcalf is a seasoned sports reporter for the StarTribune, covering University of Minnesota men’s basketball for the state’s largest newspaper.

That’s following a student career as a high school track star, college football player, radio host, travel writer, reporter for ESPN The Magazine and the first African American — and youngest — editor of his college newspaper.

Medcalf has learned that he couldn’t be intimidated by the celebrities that he covers, can’t be a fan of the teams, that he gets to travel widely, but his job is sometimes hard on family life.

“I wanted to do something that was fun for me,” said Medcalf, who was interviewed Feb. 24 by literacy arts classes at Edison High School. “It opened up opportunities I never thought possible.”

Medcalf has become a master of New Media, using blogs, Twitter, audio and video as well as the written word, in his work. His career has been defined by family as well as fun, by education and, of course, by sports.

Medcalf grew up in Milwaukee, the son of a teacher and a quality assurance official who also served as a minister. He recalls waiting “like a little leech” to grab pages of the Sunday paper as his dad finished reading them.

“I was a knucklehead in high school,” he said. “I think I was afraid to be smart,” as were many African American kids. His biggest mistake may have been “not doing better in school,” he said. “You only get one shot.”

But his interest in journalism was helped along by seeing his photo in a newspaper as a member of a state champion high school track team. He took a keyboarding class, and he was a good enough student to get into Minnesota State University, Mankato, where he played football – until a collision with another player’s helmet broke his jaw in three places. (“I lost about 50 pounds” when he couldn’t eat, he recalls.)

Then he turned to journalism, and that led to internships with ESPN The Magazine and the StarTribune and, in 2005, a fulltime job with the StarTribune.

He’s missed only two Gopher games in four years, and the November-to-March season is sometimes 24/7 intense, he said.

His coverage includes more than the games. He’s written about coaching strategies, player injuries, national basketball perspectives, even the use of Twitter by players.

“The season is a story, and every game is a chapter,” he said. Sometimes his coverage has angered fans, coaches and players, but it’s part of the job, and “I’m not intimidated by much,” he said.

To compensate for his winter schedule, Medcalf probably will take off all of June, play a little golf and basketball, hang out with friends and spend time with his wife, Lynette, and their daughters, Jasmine, 2 ½, and Janae, 6 months. The family lives in Woodbury.

In the future, he wants to “strive to get better,” perhaps become a columnist, cover pro basketball and work for ESPN.

He said he’d like to start a publishing company for those “who have got stories but don’t know how to put them into print.” That might include writing a book about African American mothers of the 1960s, based partly on relatives’ experiences.

His large family extends back to sharecropping days in the South, when many African Americans weren’t allowed to go to public school.

“My grandfather was a sharecropper who could barely read or write,” he said, and now “I communicate with hundreds of thousands of people.”

Editor’s note: This article was a group project of Carmen Elate’s ninth-grade literacy arts classes at Edison High School, working with ThreeSixty Journalism program volunteers Robert Franklin, a retired StarTribune reporter and editor, and Margo Ashmore, Northeaster publisher. Photos by Margo Ashmore. Article reprinted with permission by the Northeaster.