NBC reporter encourages class of writers

Julie Torres

Last Friday, NBC 10 sports anchor and former Eagles running back Vai Sikahema visited the University to speak to the students in Professor Mary Beth Simmons’ tutoring writers class.

Simmons, also director of the Writing Center, was watching the news one evening in February when she heard Sikahema report: “Well, there’s nothing going on now since the end of the game, except the women’s team practicing.”

Simmons wrote Sikahema an e-mail expressing her disapproval of his statement.

Sikahema immediately replied, “Come on Mary Beth, lighten up!”

Since then, the two have maintained an e-mail correspondence that culminated in Sikahema’s visit last week.

Sikahema spoke to the class about the role writing has played in his life.

“If I could make a living at writing, I would,” Sikahema said.

But Sikahema did not always love writing.

The native of Tonga migrated to the United States when he was seven years old. He faced the difficulties of learning a new language and adapting to a new culture.

“The first time I wore shoes was when I boarded the plane to come here,” Sikahema said.

It was Sikahema’s high school English teacher who first encouraged him to write.

She invited Sikahema to compete for a position on the newspaper staff.

“[She] told me, ‘This may make the difference between you going to a community college or you going to Arizona State University,'” Sikahema said.

Sikahema went on to attend Brigham Young University. There, he struggled with academics.

“The only thing I knew how to do [was] write,” Sikahema said.

Sikahema left BYU to play professional football for the Phoenix Cardinals.

He later played for the Green Bay Packers and the Philadelphia Eagles.

In 1986, Sikahema began his broadcasting career in Phoenix with KSAZ-TV. He then became a reporter for WFRV-TV in Wisconsin.

Sikahema joined NBC 10 as a sports anchor in 1994.

He credits his success, in part, to his writing, which over the years he has collected in a green vinyl binder.

“I protect this,” Sikahema said, as he held up the binder for the entire class to see.

“If my house burned down, I’d grab my kids and this and run out the door.”

Sikahema will celebrate his tenth year with NBC 10 in April.

“I want to go back to school and get my Master’s [degree]. Eventually, I want to teach,” Sikahema said.

“If you notice that I’ve left Channel 10, I’m probably off teaching somewhere.”