Fans on the front row at BYU football games have it pretty good. Those who sit in the luxury boxes have nothing to complain about either. No fan, however, has more inside access than Brayden Woodall.
Woodall, a student cameraman, has had the experience of sitting high above BYU’s football practices, perched on a 75-foot scissor lift. It is Woodall’s job, along with a team of four other students, to shoot non-stop video of every practice the entire season and later cut and edit plays together. It’s hard work, and at times it has left Woodall exposed to the natural elements — but there is no other place he would rather be.
Woodall has always been a diehard BYU fan. His family has held season tickets for the past 35 years and travels over an hour from Roy to see every game. Many students aspire to get paid to do something they love. Woodall, a junior, counts himself lucky to do so before he even graduates.
“With this job I’m living the dream,” Woodall said. “I get to be around the team almost every day, and I get to travel with the team. … (I enjoy) feeling like I can contribute to their success, seeing the guys work hard and enjoy their time at BYU.”
Almost every day for the past three months, student cameramen such as Woodall are behind the scenes producing video of both practices and games the team later uses to strategize and improve on its mistakes.
Quarterbacks coach Jason Beck said they do the job well.
“They know what they are doing,” Beck said. “They are football guys. They know the game. They are closely scrutinized when they are hired, and they are monitored to make sure they do a good job.”
Although he might not be as high profile as quarterback Taysom Hill or receiver Cody Hoffman, Woodall is just as valuable to the coaches. They rely on him to produce something that is key to the team’s progression and improvement.
“We watch everything that is filmed in practice, every day,” Beck said. “Once in a while something will happen, a glitch or something technically, and it can be a major crisis. So yeah, we watch every part of it.”
Woodall, a major in information technology, he brings expertise to the team with his ability to work through any technical problems that may arise. After practice is over, the task of editing the film and making it immediately team accessible begins.
“We film the game, edit it, and by the time the team gets to the airport, the players and coaches have the film on their iPads ready to watch on the airplane,” Woodall said. “It’s fascinating how we can turn raw footage into edited game film so quickly.”
Woodall has worked in his dream scenario for nearly two years. But sometimes, it can be nerve wracking.
The most hazardous part of the job is filming high in the sky from the scissor lift. Now that Woodall is a little higher on the totem pole, he is rarely assigned to the scissor lift specifically; his are mostly editing and sideline duties. When he needs to fill in, however, Woodall said nerves never really go away that high in the air.
“Every gust of wind makes me cringe and fear for my life,” he said. “My grip on the camera gets tighter. I am terrified of heights.”
If the weather becomes severe, cameramen are not expected to stay up on the hydraulic lift. In 2010, Declan Sullivan, a student at Notre Dame, was filming practice atop the same type of lift when the wind picked up and the tower fell over. Sullivan was rushed to the hospital and died shortly thereafter. After she first learned of the tragedy, Woodall’s wife, Mikaela Hadley Woodall, made him promise to be as careful as possible.
Woodall travels extensively with the team, having already visited Charlottesville, Va., Houston and Logan. Last season he traveled to the team’s contests against Georgia Tech and New Mexico State. It is a sacrifice for him and his newlywed family, but he and his wife agree it’s more than worth it.
“Even though he’s gone all the time, it’s still a really cool job and opportunity,” Mikaela Woodall said. “Everyone I tell about his job thinks it’s the coolest job in the world and wants to know more.”
Woodall will travel to the game against Notre Dame on Nov. 23, a trip he has been anticipating for a long time.
“The opportunity to go to Notre Dame is sweet. I have heard it’s beautiful there,” Woodall said. “The school has a lot of history to it, (which) makes me excited to visit the campus and see how our boys do on a national scene. Taking down a national giant (would) add to our national relevance. Hopefully we can accomplish something big there.”