University of Tulsa graduate Sam Walker has had some of the best views of the last four Super Bowl matchups.
Walker works with SkyCam as a camera operator and was part of the crew starting with Super Bowl 51.
This year, Walker is sidelined as the company chose just one set of workers throughout the season as part of its COVID-19 safety protocols.
"It's the nature of the business. You win some, you lose some and you just keep on moving and keep looking for more work," Walker said.
This year will look much different for Walker as he watches the game from home. The pandemic has changed a lot for sports production workers.
"I took the longest break I've ever taken on being on a commercial airplane for 170 days,” Walker said. "That was very strange. Once I got back into it, the sports production world just looks totally different. It's been really hit hard in the beginning and it's forced everybody to be creative and now I'd say people are making better TV than this time last year."
Walker remembers the moment sports came to an unexpected stop on March 11, 2020 when a game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Utah Jazz was called off after a player tested positive for COVID-19.
"I had a 4 a.m. flight the next morning to go cover major league soccer," said Walker. "It was going to be the inaugural FC Miami game at home. Flew to Miami, before I even landed, the season had been postponed. So, I got up that morning, flew to Miami, worked all day helping pull out the TV equipment, came home and that was March 11, and it was probably a solid four months before the phone rang again."
Walker's focus during the pandemic has been on those large projects that net the most amount of money but also on smaller projects closer to home.
"A lot of my work does come through SkyCam. I'm a freelancer for everybody I work for, so whether the phone rings and it's SkyCam or the phone rings and it's you guys needing tornado coverage, I show up and do whatever,” Walker said. “I really have focused over the last year on my personal inventory tools here in Tulsa. I want to have the best available gear for anybody who needs it."
Walker owns Over the Top Ariel Productions in Tulsa, which focuses on professional video and pictures from the air and on the ground.
Walker said he's not sure when he will be called to work another Super Bowl, but when the call comes, he'll be ready to go.