For the latest edition of Oberlin and Beyond, I had the opportunity to interview the accomplished Jason Hewitt. Hewitt was a student-athlete who played football and majored in English at Oberlin. Currently, Hewitt is a writer for Sports Illustrated where he covers the Carolina Panthers.
In our interview, we discuss Hewitt's experience as a Black student-athlete at Oberlin, the path that led him to pursue a career in writing, and his plans for the future. I hope you enjoy.
TM: How did you first hear about Oberlin? What made you want to attend?
JH: I first heard about Oberlin after one of their (now) former coaches reached out to me. I wasn’t really interested initially, but then, I told my mom about Oberlin and she was ecstatic. She’s an opera singer with quite a few Oberlin connections, so she knew a lot more about the school than I did at the time. I eventually had a great discussion with an alum (Chris Macklin ‘04) and felt more comfortable with the idea of going to school in Ohio.
Then, I took a visit and fell in love with the place. The people (especially my future teammates) made it feel like the right fit for me at the time. I still say that the best aspects of Oberlin are the people.
TM: On the topic of comfortability, what was your experience like as a Black student-athlete on campus at Oberlin? How do you feel it affected your overall experience at Oberlin?
JH: My experience as a Black student-athlete at Oberlin was definitely unique. It was the first time I had been at a school that wasn’t predominantly Black in years, so there was definitely a little bit of culture shock. I faced my fair share of incidents that involved micro-aggressions and stuff like that, but that’s a day in the life of a Black person in America. I wrote an article about some of the stuff I heard non-Black folks say on the field and it received some attention from the conference even though I feel like they could do more but anyways...
I eventually grew close with many people in the Black community at Oberlin and I’m very grateful for those relationships. The camaraderie was always genuine and I really appreciated that.
TM: You mentioned writing an article about the black experience on the football field, did you know you wanted to become a writer when you first came to Oberlin? What inspired you to pursue this path?
JH: I had thoughts about becoming a sportswriter, but I never fully engaged with the art until my sophomore year. I decided to come up with a sports journalism site called Golden Standard Sports and people really enjoyed it. It got to the point where the editor of the Oberlin Review hit me up and asked if I could join as a sports columnist, and I said “Absolutely!”
I wrote for the Review, the Grape, and the Blogs all while playing football. During my junior year, I reached out to one of the editors of SBNation and asked if I could write about the Carolina Panthers on the site. I sent my resumé, he was impressed, and the rest was history. My work with SBNation confirmed that I was all in on sports journalism. I LOVED my writing team, the process, everything. Juggling all of those writing platforms was a challenging experience that really taught me a lot about time management which is a very important life skill to have.
TM: Can you go more into detail on what it has been like writing for major companies like SB Nation and Sports Illustrated? What does your typical schedule look like on a day to day basis?
JH: To say that this isn’t your normal 9-5 is an understatement. My schedule is 100% dependent on the news that needs to be covered that day. Sometimes I’m writing at noon, and sometimes I’m writing at midnight. It just depends on what’s going on. COVID-19 forced us to operate remotely, but we still have access to pressers and inside information.
Since Carolina didn’t make the playoffs, my schedule is freer, but I still do my best to provide our audience with quality offseason content. Things will start to pick up once the NFL Draft gets closer. Our writing team tries to have an average of 5+ articles per day, so we make sure that we balance out the type of stuff that we put out.
TM: What are your long term career goals? Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
JH: Who knows? Life is unpredictable, right? I like to take my career day by day. How do I become a better journalist than I am today? I feel like if I’m process-oriented, then more fantastic opportunities will come my way.
As much as I love sports, I wouldn’t mind engaging with other forms of news over the next few years. I feel like writing about topics other than football allows me to access more of the information that I have outside of sports. Maybe I won’t even be covering football in five years. Journalism is a very unpredictable field with opportunities galore, so we’ll see how everything plays out. I’m just going to continue writing about my favorite team for one of the best sports media companies in the world.