From heart transplant to the NFL

From heart transplant to the NFL

From heart transplant to the NFL

Rowan Today, October 18, 2022

First year student Sam Prince in the broadcast booth of WGLS-FM

OK, so Sam Prince doesn’t play in the NFL, but he’s come closer to it than many of America’s greatest prospects ever will.

Born with a severe heart defect, Prince’s chances of living for five hours, let alone five years, were grim, but through a combination of great medical care, good luck, and the abiding love of his family, he survived, and at eight years old had a successful heart transplant.

Today, Prince is a first-year student in Rowan’s popular Sports Communication & Media (Sports CaM) program in the Ric Edelman College of Communication & Creative Arts. He arrived at the University after a stop through Las Vegas in April where the huge (HUGE!) New York Giants fan fulfilled his Make-A-Wish dream by announcing his team’s number one draft pick.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell personally introduced Prince to the stage.

“For the New York Giants pick, I am joined by Sam Prince, a lifelong New York Giants fan and Make A Wish kid," Goodell told a sea of cheering fans. "Tonight, his wish to announce the Giants first pick comes true."

With that, Prince announced linebacker Kayvon Thibodeaux from the University of Oregon.

“Welcome to New York, my guy!” Prince exclaimed, hugging and dancing with Thibodeaux on stage.

Moments earlier, when Goodell called Prince to announce the pick, the aspiring sportscaster also promoted the program that saved his life.

“I wear my green bracelet every day to represent organ donation,” he said, handing the Commissioner one of his own, which Goodell directly put on.

In his family, Prince told Goodell on stage, Giants fandom goes back generations.

“My grandpa’s had season tickets for 50 years,” he told the Commissioner.

“Really?!” Goodell exclaimed.

Budding broadcaster meets Superbowl MVP Eli Manning

A talented, ambitious, at times gregarious young man, Prince wasn’t done showing the NFL some love. Just off stage, cameras still rolling, he hugged and fist pumped Goodell, interacting with the league’s top boss like he’d known him all his life. (ESPN made a video of Prince’s Make A Wish experience and, since April, it’s been viewed more than 16,000 times.)

Oddly enough, Prince’s appearance on the Vegas stage was not the biggest thrill of his Make A Wish experience. His wish delayed by the pandemic, Prince learned how it would unfold through a ruse.

Ostensibly joining his grandfather to pick up his season tickets last spring, the two were surprised by Eli Manning, the team’s legendary former quarterback (and Prince’s longtime favorite), who proceeded to lead them on a tour of Giants Stadium, introducing them to co-owner John Mara and General Manager Joe Schoen.

Schoen asked on camera if Prince had any advice for his upcoming draft picks but wasn’t expecting Prince’s frank reply.

 “Don’t mess it up,” Prince said, fist bumping Head Coach Brian Daboll, a grinning Manning seated behind them, just a moment before Schoen told Prince his wish was granted and he’s going to Vegas to announce the pick.

“Recruited” to Rowan

Prince believes his first non-fan NFL experience surely won’t be his last and came to Rowan specifically to build the skills he’ll need to become a broadcaster.

An aspiring game analyst, he produces and airs a weekly sports podcast and came to Rowan after learning about its Sports CaM program from Neil Hartman, a former Philadelphia sportscaster who serves as senior director of the University’s Center for Sports Communication & Social Impact.

Hartman, who met Prince at a summer broadcasting camp, said he talked up Rowan’s Sports CaM program for two years, leading Prince to trek south from North Caldwell to check it out.

“To me it was obvious that Sam’s a driven young man with a deep passion for sports and a love for broadcasting,” Hartman said. “He visited, spoke with our students and decided this was the place for him.”

Settling in on campus, Prince has begun writing for The Whit student newspaper and is training at 89.7 WGLS-FM, Rowan’s long-running radio station.

“To be successful and thrive in any business, you need to be passionate about what you are doing,” Hartman said. “There is no doubt that Sam wakes up every day thinking about sports and what he can do to be a better broadcaster.”

WGLS Station Manager Derek Jones said if Prince is serious about broadcasting, he’s come to the right place – for the education and experience.

At WGLS, Jones said, students “get an opportunity to carve their own path in media. Whether it's learning how to produce and create content, become an on-air host or become a sports broadcaster, Rowan Radio provides opportunities to explore various career paths.”

Though he doesn’t spend a lot of time watching the ESPN video that captured his Make A Wish experience, Prince said he’s grateful to the network, the NFL, and, especially, the Giants organization.

“My two favorite parts were getting surprised by Eli and GM Joe Schoen telling me my wish was granted,” he said.

As for playfully advising Schoen not to mess up his draft picks, Prince grinned, as he did in the video, and said, “that’s just who I am.”