Alumnus debuts show on ESPN

By Tara Snowden

In 1989, when communication alumni Darryl Silver graduated from NIU, he had no idea what he was going to do with his newly-acquired degree.

Tonight, Silver and his company, The Idea Factory, will premiere a show at 10 p.m. on ESPN.

“Bound for Glory” follows a high school football team that has been placed with Chicago Bears legend Dick Butkus for a coach.

“We wondered if you take these kids with all this heart who have none of the resources they need and give them these resources, ‘will they succeed?,’” Silver said.

Silver first got the idea while reading an article in Sports Illustrated.

“I was reading this story about a team in Illinois that hadn’t had a winning record in five years. They literally had the worst team in the nation,” Silver said. “Then I thought, what would happen if I gave them Mike Ditka as their coach? Just when we thought that Ditka was going to go through with it, he backed out.”

That is when the idea to bring Butkus into the picture came about. Butkus, who was a linebacker for the Bears from 1965-1973, agreed.

From there, Silver said his company developed the idea and sold it around Hollywood. Soon the show was looked at by three or four networks.

“It was originally a WB show, but then they changed their mind and ESPN bought it,” Silver said. “But by then we had missed the football season so it took longer to air than expected.”

Silver now looks back on his time at NIU with fond memories.

“My friends always used to joke with me and tell me that I was going to go to Hollywood,” Silver said. “But the thought really never occurred to me.”

Silver realized soon, however, he was wrong.

“Literally two weeks after graduation, I was on my way to Hollywood to look for a job,” he said. “I didn’t know what else to do.”

Silver found his first job in the mail room at Universal Studios.

“I was excited; I was delivering mail to the top producers and directors in the industry,” Silver said. “But the reality was, those people weren’t going to help me get where I wanted to go with my life. There was a lot more work ahead of me.”

After the job at Universal, Silver moved on to producing small TV shows and short films. He also worked three seasons of NBC’s “The Apprentice” and two seasons on CBS’ “Survivor.”

Despite the Hollywood fame, Silver still credits much of his success to NIU’s communication department and Professor Jeff Chown.

“Jeff inspired me and gave me a lot of guidance toward my future career,” Silver said. “It never occurred to me that I could do this for a career; I could write TV shows. He deserves my respect.”

Silver encourages other NIU students and undergraduates to be bold after graduation and to not settle for anything less than the best.

“I’m proof that you can have your own TV show and still graduate from NIU, You can either go do something local or you can be bold. There’s nothing wrong with being bold; do things big,” Silver said. “Graduate college and be bold. Go to Hollywood and don’t hold back.”