JMS Alumnus Chidozie Ononiwu’s passion and persistence lead to career success

Monday, April 22, 2024
Ononiwu smiling for the camera
Ononiwu smiling for the camera

Few college graduates can brag about starting their dream career straight out of college, especially when it’s working for a company like ESPN. JMS alumnus Chidozie Ononiwu (‘13) is one of those rare individuals who can say just that. It was a place he had dreamed about for a long time.

Throughout his childhood, Ononiwu’s passion for sports, particularly football, was a driving factor in his life. When considering what career path to take, it was a no-brainer that his choice would revolve around sports. 

Although sports were always on Ononiwu’s mind, JMS and SDSU were not. In fact, he fell in love with San Diego before he did with SDSU.

“I've always been a beach dweller,” Ononiwu explains, “so I came down to San Diego one day and my parents and I got lost on Coronado Island. I just loved the chill vibe there and the people were really nice.” 

After exploring the city some more, Ononiwu ended up on SDSU’s campus. 

“Walking on San Diego State’s campus and seeing all the mission style buildings, it just captivated me.”

It wasn’t until Ononiwu looked into the journalism program that he realized he wanted to pursue a journalism career. He found journalism to be the ideal career path as it offered plenty of opportunities to pursue any profession he desired. 

“From journalism, you can still do television but you can also be a writer if you want to. Anything that you want to do in the entertainment world can go through journalism.”

While at SDSU, Ononiwu decided to reach out to anyone he could find at ESPN in hopes of a response to jumpstart his career. Eventually, after attending a journalism convention in Los Angeles, he made contact with various employees throughout the company and was offered an internship.

“I got an internship with ESPN and that kind of fueled my next couple of years because at that point, it got me more laser focused on where I needed to go. And so I poured everything into my internship and actually ended up working for ESPN after school.”

Ononiwu credits his ability to stand out at ESPN to the skills he learned in the journalism classes he took while at SDSU.

“When I got to talking to them [ESPN], I think the thing that stood out the most was how diligent I was about finding facts. There were certain things that I was just not willing to compromise on in my writing and in my approach to journalism.”

While working for ESPN, Ononiwu helped produce many story ideas and worked on a range of projects. While one of the most successful projects he worked on was ESPN’s series 30 for 30, his favorite was his project done on the Savannah Bananas baseball team.

The story was centered around a couple who helped revitalize the baseball program in Savannah, Georgia by allowing the players to do funny skits, dances and songs throughout the game. ESPN had done a small story on the team but after their mass success, Ononiwu wanted to do something more. 

“ESPN did not want to do it and so I saw it and went to Savannah to go research it. I had to fight tooth and nail for it and the project ended up becoming a huge success.”

Recently, Ononiwu pivoted his career to work in eSports at Riot Games. Although he was skeptical to apply for the job at first, Ononiwu did so to be able to move back to California.

When reflecting on what advice he would give, Ononiwu urged students to start networking as early as possible and to not be afraid to reach out to people who work for a company you dream about.

“Networking is massive, and you need to start networking a lot earlier than you think. Before you step into the real world, you need to start making inroads where you want to go. That could be the difference between your diving into the industry – or not.”

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