First become a Vantage writer, then cover the Super Bowl

By: Vantage Staff

The last time the Kansas City Chiefs won the Super Bowl, Newman graduate Tejay Cleland was watching with his baseball teammates on a bus headed back from a tournament in Texas.

This time around, though, his Super Bowl seat was significantly closer to the action.

Cleland, who graduated from Newman in May and has been working as an on-air reporter at Wichita’s KWCH Channel 12 for a little more than a year, was at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona, on Sunday as the Chiefs won their second Super Bowl in four years.

While there, he got to attend a press conference where star quarterback Patrick Mahomes was in attendance, he got to watch Rihanna perform her epic halftime show, and he got to walk onto the field after it all was over and gather up some of the red-and-gold confetti that rained down on the Chiefs when the game was over.

The Super Bowl assignment capped off a crazy year that included Cleland being sent to cover Wichita State, KU and Kansas State playing football and basketball games all across the country. He even covered the game in Arlington where Kansas State defeated TCU to win the Big 12 Championship.

“These are the teams I grew up watching,” Cleland said. “This is crazy.”

Cleland, who grew up in Arma, Kansas, played baseball at Newman and majored in communication. He began thinking about a career in broadcast journalism and volunteered to work at his hometown television station early in his college career. He also was the editor-in-chief of The Vantage student newspaper at Newman, and during his senior year, he was named the College Journalist of the Year by the Kansas Collegiate Media Association. He also worked with athletics at Newman producing videos about various sports on campus.

Cleland was a semester away from graduating when he decided to take a chance and apply for a job at a couple of local television stations. Both offered him jobs, and he accepted the one from KWCH, the local CBS affiliate. He started working in January of 2022, juggling both work and his final semester of school.

Cleland, who produced 37 separate “live shots” while in Arizona covering the Super Bowl, said he remembers many people warning him during college that if he pursued a job at television journalism, he’d likely have to pay his dues in a small market for years and work his way up over time. But it hasn’t been that way for Cleland. In just a year, he was promoted from covering general news to covering sports, and now, he also often appears on air as a sports anchor.

Many journalists would consider an assignment like the Super Bowl a career apex. Cleland has done it at age 21, just as his career is launching.

On game day, Cleland was awake 27 consecutive hours before completely crashing. He arrived home on Tuesday and was able to catch up on texts he’d gotten from many Newman friends asking what the Super Bowl was like.

His parents back in Alma were also pretty impressed.

“They were jealous that I got to go to Arizona without them,” he said.

PHOTO: Courtesy Photo, Tejay Cleland