By TYLER ELLYSON
KEARNEY – Jacob Roth was just a few weeks into his first semester at the University of Nebraska at Kearney when he got the opportunity to announce a Loper football game for the campus radio station, KLPR 91.1 FM.
“It didn’t go very well,” he said with a laugh.
Roth realized pretty quickly that his broadcasting skills needed some work, but he also recognized UNK’s sports communication program would help him reach his career goal of becoming a play-by-play announcer.
“That’s the best part of this program, how many opportunities there are if you’re willing to put yourself out there,” he said.
Sports have always been “a really big thing” for Roth, who participated in football and track while attending Milford High School and was the student manager for the boys basketball team.
He loves talking about sports – they have a way of bringing people together, he said, allowing complete strangers to connect over a shared interest – and he’s always quick with a fun fact. Did you know Brady, Nebraska, is Exit 199 on Interstate 80 and Tom Brady was the 199th pick in the 2000 NFL Draft?
The 20-year-old still competes through UNK’s numerous intramural activities, but he found another way to get involved in athletics during his junior year at Milford High School, which started livestreaming games through the website striv.tv and needed a commentator. Roth signed on for volleyball and girls basketball.
“I had a blast doing it,” he said of sports broadcasting. “That was a really big step for me toward realizing it’s an attainable goal and something I can do professionally.”
Following his senior year at Milford, Roth attended the Digital Expressions Media Camp hosted each summer by UNK’s Department of Communication. That sold him on UNK.
“I’m so glad I chose UNK,” he said. “I genuinely love being a Loper.”
Roth remembers walking through Mitchell Center and being greeted by each faculty member. Those interactions showed him the professors and lecturers at UNK truly care about their students.
“They’re teaching for a reason,” he said. “That was definitely something I found really positive.”
Roth also made an immediate impression on the faculty, specifically senior lecturer Ford Clark, who can’t help but smile and laugh when talking about the junior sports communication major.
“Jacob is a great person and a great student,” Clark said. “He’s just such a likable guy, always has a smile on his face. I can’t say enough good things about him.”
The KLPR general manager uses a lot of adjectives to describe Roth – friendly, outgoing and funny among them – and gushes about his potential.
“He’s got a fantastic broadcasting career in front of him,” Clark said. “He had some skills when he came to school, and he’s worked very hard to improve in all areas. I’m really proud of him and all the things he’s been able to accomplish.”
Over the past two-plus years, Roth has called numerous Loper athletic events, including football, volleyball, basketball, softball and soccer, and he currently hosts “The Jacob Roth Show,” which airs 11 a.m. Tuesdays on KLPR and is available on YouTube.
That likable personality and work ethic are assets outside the radio booth, as well.
Roth served as a New Student Enrollment (NSE) leader last summer, welcoming incoming freshmen and their families while they were on campus to learn about services, meet with faculty and staff and register for classes.
“That was one of the best jobs I’ve ever had,” said Roth, who went above and beyond to ensure these guests had a positive experience.
“We always challenge the NSE leaders to remember as many names as possible during the day, but when you have 100-plus people on campus, it can be difficult,” said Brad Green, associate director of undergraduate recruitment and admissions at UNK. “Jacob took the challenge to the next level. He wanted to be able to recall everyone’s name during the event, and I believe most days he was successful.”
Roth is also involved in Men’s Project and Loper Programming and Activities Council, a student-run group that organizes numerous events and activities for the UNK community each year, and he’s a resident assistant in Randall Hall.
“I had RAs who I got to know really well and I had positive relationships with them,” Roth said. “It’s the perfect position for me because you get to interact with different people, help them out and learn new things.”
Roth, who works for Jimmy John’s in Kearney, had his most exciting week at UNK earlier this month during the annual homecoming festivities. He served as an emcee for the lip-sync contest, and was named homecoming king shortly after that event ended. His best friend, Makenzie Petersen of O’Neill, was UNK’s homecoming queen.
“That was really humbling,” Roth said. “It’s crazy that many people know me.”
Adding to the excitement, Roth proposed to his girlfriend, Cassidy Pofahl of Kearney, three days later. Of course, the Central Community College pre-nursing student said yes.
“That’s a weekend I’ll remember for a long time as one of the best weekends of my life,” Roth said. “Everything was going my way I guess.”