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Westport Teen Finds Career on the Sidelines

DJ Sixsmith suffered two concussions while playing football as an underclassman for the Staples High School football team. After the second one at the end of his sophomore year, he changed directions. “I said enough is enough,’’ says DJ, now a senior. “I look back on it now, and it’s the best decision I ever made.”

With his football career cut short, Sixsmith focused on polishing his skills as a sports broadcaster. Now, he has won two first-place national awards for sports broadcasting, developed a promising career path and attracted a loyal following on the school’s cable broadcast channel, radio station and website . D.J. and senior classmate Eric Gallanty have become the “Voice of the Wreckers.” DJ says, “I would’ve never been able to do the things I’ve done if I kept playing football.’’

Sixsmith and Gallanty broadcast home games for football, boys and girls basketball, boys lacrosse, baseball and volleyball. The football team’s first home game of the season in 2009 was the school’s first live televised sports broadcast. A sports staff with just five students when DJ started has expanded to 25. Staples is one of the few schools in the nation to have its own television production crew. “To see it all come fruition has been awesome,’’ DJ says.

The John Drury National Radio Awards in November recognized Sixsmith’s work. He won first place for best sports talk and sports update, a third place with Gallanty in sports talk, and second place for play-by-play with Ben Meyers and Jake Chernok. WWPT, the school’s radio station, was named the second best in the country. Sixsmith, Gallanty, Ben Meyers and Brandon Edelsen also founded the Staples Television Network.

DJ has had the broadcasting bug since middle school. He attended a broadcast journalism program at Northwestern University, which cemented his desire to become a broadcaster. He also writes his own blog , and compiled a clip of highlight reel of his broadcasting clips. His favorite broadcaster is Gus Johnson, the voice of the Knicks and on CBS during the college basketball season. “He’s so passionate,’’ DJ says. “That has rubbed off on me. Some people don’t like him. How can you say that about somebody who obviously loves what he’s doing?”

Sixsmith graduates this year. He’s uncertain where he will attend college but knows what direction his career will take. He will leave behind an audience at Staples that has grown accustomed to his sports broadcasts. He has set an unusually high bar for his successors.

“People will come up and say how good the broadcast was,’’ DJ says. “They comment about how professional the broadcasts are. The students and the school have been great. Everyone has really gotten behind it.”

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