What started with a love of sports has grown into a successful side hustle, popular social media accounts and an internship with the National Football League (NFL) for UB undergraduate Michael Hunter.
Hunter, a sophomore in the Department of Media Study in the College of Arts and Sciences, began editing video clips of famous athletes at age 16 as a hobby to integrate his passion for sports with an interest in video creation. “Thunder Productions” was born his junior year of high school, and started to gain the attention of the famous athletes who were featured in the highlight reels Hunter produced.
“After I began posting the highlight videos I made, I would get messages from business managers asking to collaborate and create highlight reels and hype videos for the professional athletes they represent,” Hunter explains. “JuJu Smith-Schuster’s business manager saw the videos I made of him during his time at USC and asked me to make more.” Smith-Schuster was a second-round pick by the Pittsburg Steelers in the 2017 NFL draft.
The entrepreneurial venture also led Hunter to work with other stars, including Le’Veon Bell from the Kansas City Chiefs and Jamal Adams and DK Metcalf from the Seattle Seahawks. When his editing abilities became known throughout the NFL, teams like the Jets and the Steelers asked him to work freelance to create content for the organizations’ social media accounts.
The videos Hunter produces aren’t popular just with the athletes and the NFL; his “Thunder Productions” (@thunder.prod) social media accounts have more than 100,000 followers and subscribers across YouTube, Twitter and Instagram.
When it came time to attend college, Hunter knew he wanted to continue to pursue his passion for video creation. He registered for a prospective student tour at UB with his sights on the media study program.
“I loved UB the very first time I visited,” says Hunter. “I saw the diversity on campus and loved the professors. I knew it was a fit.”
Wasting no time as a freshman, he immediately became involved with UB Athletics as an assistant video operator doing what he does best: editing footage and creating hype videos.
“Mike is just scratching the surface of his abilities,” says Jimmy Le, UB Athletics video coordinator. “He has a tremendous feel for the latest trends in editing, storytelling and videography. He is not only enhancing our brand, he is becoming his own brand.”
Hunter’s experience and network within UB Athletics prepared him for what was next: an internship with the NFL.
As a live content correspondent (LCC) for the NFL, Hunter films crucial plays for the Bills and opposing teams’ social media accounts. According to the NFL, the league selects “creative and social media-minded photographers and videographers in every NFL market to capture content for NFL stakeholders.”
It’s a position Hunter doesn’t take lightly. In between his busy schedule taking remote classes, he drives nearly six hours from his hometown in White Plains, N.Y., to the Bills stadium in Orchard Park to work each home game for the experiential learning opportunity. Although the number of people who are allowed inside the stadium is extremely limited this season to keep the players and staff safe, Hunter is part of the core press team granted access.
“It’s an extremely fast-paced environment,” says Hunter. “Every clip I take, I have to download and send to the team’s Slack channel within two minutes of the play. I am getting better at shooting my own video, too.
“I’m learning a lot about cameras and how to film, and I get a lot of great footage stationed in the end zone. Stefon Diggs looks at the camera a lot,” he laughs.
With most NFL fans watching from their homes this year, Hunter’s position is pivotal in maintaining a heightened experience for viewers. The key plays and candid moments he films for the teams’ social media accounts allow the Bills and their opponents to give social media followers an insider’s look in lieu of the in-person experience.
“We very rarely bring people into the LCC program who are still in college, but Mike has been a critical piece of our operation in Buffalo and we’re thrilled to have him,” says Russell Simon, manager of the NFL Live Content Correspondent Program. “He’s a very talented shooter and editor, and has gotten some amazing shots on game day. More importantly, he always has a positive attitude and works really well with the other members of our team. His future is bright.”
“This internship is really valuable to me because I’m making such a big jump in a short amount of time,” says Hunter. “It’s really cool to be mentored by experts in the field, and I’m truly humbled by the experience I’m getting.”
A recipient of an award from the College of Arts and Sciences’ Walter and Miriam Hass Student Excellence Fund, which supports students pursuing activities to increase their exposure to the business world, Hunter plans to continue with his hype video editing business after the NFL season ends. But now he will proudly use his own footage.
And he hopes to maintain his relationship with the NFL and return as an LCC for the 2021 season.