“Nicole, I love you.” What!? Chad Johnson, aka ‘Ochocinco’, just said that to me? ME!?
I shouldn't have been surprised to hear those words. Johnson is notoriously known for telling others he loves them ‘just because’ as part of his playful antics.
Ochocinco was in Cincinnati last October to be honored for the Bengals NFL 100 Fantennial Weekend. My colleague and I were talking to him about his playing days and the love he has for the City of Cincinnati, I couldn’t help but flashback to my childhood when I had two loves: the Bengals and football.
I could name every player on the team. Their position, number, where they went to college — I’d even memorize random stats about a player. In 2006, when I was 11 years old, I wore a Bengals hat and T-shirt to a Reds game at Great American Ballpark. I was lucky enough to catch a foul ball along the third base line. The broadcasters jokingly said I was representing the wrong Cincinnati team.
Before the 2004 season and for a handful of years to follow, my dad gifted my mom two Bengals season tickets. I split games with my siblings and sometimes tagged along with my uncles and cousins. I was on cloud nine every time I stepped into Paul Brown Stadium.
There was no greater high than a game day. From the 'Who Dey!' chants and the high fives from other fans, to watching my favorite players on the field — everyone came together to cheer on their team.
I chose to work in sports because of the unified camaraderie and the mentorship that came with it.
During my sophomore year at the University of Cincinnati, I was hired to intern for the Bengals. I was behind the scenes contributing to the game day and fan experience. After years of sitting and cheering at Paul Brown Stadium, I got to see the game from a different view.
Opportunities continued to come my way and after graduation I happily accepted a full-time position as a member of the Bengals front office. I worked with corporate partners, broadcasts, and game day entertainment. I recently finished my time with the team after six seasons.
I will cherish the memories made during my time as a Bengal. I met many great people and had unforgettable interactions with some of the best players in Bengals’ history, including Anthony Muñoz, Ken Anderson, and Jim Breech. I even worked side-by-side with the legendary Dave Lapham.
One of the most influential chapters in my life has ended, but I can’t wait to see what’s next. Who knows what this chapter will write, but it’s exciting to be the author of it.
The one thing I do know is that I will be writing — literally.
I am thrilled to announce that I will be joining Sports Illustrated as a contributor, covering the Bengals!
My experience in the front office gave me my start in the sports world. I am ready to run with it by delivering honest and insightful content for every Bengals fan.
“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take – Wayne Gretzky” – Michael Scott (of course, I can’t leave you all without a quote from The Office).
I am excited about this new adventure and can’t wait to get started, Bengals Nation!