“Get your foot in the door and you expand,” Gant said.
DALLAS — After nearly 49 years in news, one of WFAA’s most prolific sports photojournalists and sports editors is putting away his camera for the last time.
Assistant Sports Director Jose Gant, 66, is officially retiring after working 43 years at WFAA and six years at his hometown station, KTBS-TV in Shreveport, Louisiana.
He has touched the hearts of so many across the sports world and the WFAA newsroom with his infectious smile, his positivity and his humbleness. He’s a friend to any and everyone. He will be truly missed.
So, how did the self-described “Black kid from Shreveport, Louisiana” land at one of the top legacy stations in the United States, travel overseas and meet and build relationships with countless of professional athletes and coaches?
Gant says that’s easy: He just followed God’s path.
Gant says he never wanted to work in television, let alone become a photojournalist.
In August 1974, he was a junior at C.E. Byrd High School in his hometown of Shreveport, Louisiana, when he was approached by his high school counselor about signing up for a career-oriented course. He said the appeal: he only had to attend school for three hours and then go to a job from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.
So, the counselor gave him a list of possible opportunities, including KTBS-TV. The local television station was just 12 blocks away from his home and he knew he could catch the bus. So, that’s what Gant chose.
“I got out of school, went and ate lunch for 20 cents and waited for the bus right in front of the high school, went downtown and transferred…” Gant said. “It dropped me off right at the front of the TV station.”
For a year, he learned how to run the movie schedules, logs and announcements. He also worked in the copy and printing room.
Then, computers were installed! And as exciting as that was, Gant said he was no longer needed to manually operate the machinery used to run the schedules and logs. So, with five months left in his senior year, the station moved him to production to help operate the studio cameras for the newscasts.
But still, Gant said he wasn’t sold on working in television.
During his senior year, he and his girlfriend were expecting their first child together and decided to get married on April 26, 1975. Three weeks later, he and his wife graduated high school together.
Gant said he wanted a more stable job, something that would guarantee an income. So, he and his brother decided to enlist in the Marines. But he never heard back from them.
“I took the test, and they never called me,” said Gant.
As luck would have it — and, if you ask Gant, also by God’s grace — KTBS needed someone to work in production full-time. So, he was newly married and had secured a full-time position.
“God had blessed me to go into a field he had put me in, like, 1973,” he said.
Then, the sports department at KTBS-TV needed more help, especially after their photographer was fired. He shot basketball and football games with two different cameras – one for B-roll and one for audio – all over Louisiana.
In the first year of that position, Gant said he and his crew started driving to Texas Stadium to shoot Dallas Cowboys games.
The legacy begins
Gant shot his first Super Bowl game in January 1978 when the Cowboys took on the Denver Broncos.
Guess who won – the Cowboys!
Then, the following year, he got to experience another Super Bowl.
While shooting these games, he met photojournalists from several different stations, including WFAA.
WFAA’s chief photographer, David Goldberg, needed some extra training before securing an assistant director position, so he took a job at Gant’s station in Shreveport. After a year, when Goldberg decided to leave and head back to WFAA, he invited Gant, Arnold Payne (known to all as “AP,” and another WFAA legend in his own right) and two other employees to go with him in 1980.
But Gant’s first job at WFAA wasn’t in sports. He became a news editor, which he says still holds a special place in his heart. Today, he takes the time daily to greet everyone in the edit bay.
“Never forget where you came from,” Gant said. “I came from that pod with Ray, Alan, all of them guys there… That was me back in November of 1980.”
Gant said, in 1980, whoever finished editing first got to work on sports highlights: Rangers, Mavs, SMU basketball games, etc.
Since he had the experience, Gant was asked to edit for sports over the course of two years.
In 1982, Bill Macatee, who was the sports director at WFAA (and is currently the sportscaster for CBS Sports and the Tennis Channel), asked Gant if he wanted to work full-time in sports as an editor.
By 1986, Gant was editing for sports, going to Cowboys games and Cowboys camp in Thousands Oaks, California with another name you might know – Dale Hansen.
Eventually, he was met with another once-in-a-lifetime experience: shooting the first-ever American Bowl in London at Wembley Stadium when the Cowboys faced the Super Bowl champions, the Chicago Bears in 1986.
“God had blessed me,” Gant said. “So, my first Cowboys Charter ride was to London, England.”
And he has ridden on Cowboys charters ever since.
Gant said following his England adventure, he was on a steady schedule of editing through the week and shooting Cowboys games on Sundays.
“Get your foot in the door and you expand,” Gant said. “I went from running a 3 ft. printing machine to studio camera to audio on the 10 o’clock news, film cart, audio cart, sitting in the audio booth…”
And it’s history after that, Gant says.
His favorite moments
Some clear highlights in Gant’s career, if you ask him? The trip to London in ’86 when the Cowboys took on the Bears, and the trip to London in ’92 under head coach Jimmy Johnson.
Gant also went to Toronto with the Cowboys when they played the Buffalo Bills.
Then, he was off to Monterrey, Mexico.
But it’s not only the Cowboys games Gant remembers as exciting. He traveled to San Juan, Puerto Rico, with the Texas Rangers for the 2001 season opener against the Toronto Blue Jays.
He also got to attend two World Series with the Rangers – although they lost both.
But Gant’s all-time favorite moment? It’s surprisingly not with the Cowboys. He says it was when the Dallas Stars won the Stanley Cup in Buffalo. He and the WFAA crew worked throughout the whole night and into the early morning hours with some fun sprinkled in. They took a mini road trip to Niagara Falls and shot scenery.
When he thinks back to everything he’s experienced over those years, Gant is thankful for the life he’s been blessed to lead.
“A little Black kid from Shreveport, Louisiana is in London, England,” he said. “I never expected when I decided to take this in high school that I’d be in London, England, 11 years later.”
What he wants his legacy to be
Gant said he didn’t feed into the stereotype of his race or living in a single-parent home.
“I was one of the ones who made it out of a bad neighborhood,” he said. “I’m a living witness… God had his hand on me. I just had to follow the path that God gave me. I just humbled myself, like I do now, and I thank God for everything that I have and everything that I get.”
He tries to share his wisdom and knowledge he’s gained over the past 49 years in TV to the younger generation, to encourage them to believe in something bigger than themselves.
He also makes it a point to talk to everyone in whatever building he ends up in, and at whatever job he takes.
“We have to love everyone,” Gant said. “You show people love, they show you love back. I want my legacy to be ‘Jose came to me and prayed for me.’”
And after five Super Bowls, two Stanley Cups, two World Series and two NBA finals and countless other Texas-OU Red River rivalry games, the one thing he says he’ll miss most about working in journalism is the people.
“I’m a people person,” he said.
It’s evident if you’ve ever seen Gant in action at any sporting event; you’ll find him speaking to all the workers there, including maintenance teams, cooks and servers.
The game is great, he said. But praying with people and talking with people at the game is what makes him happy.
He treats everyone like family.
And now that he is retired, with family is where you’ll find him. Gant plans to use his retirement spending much-needed time with his wife and helping others in his community.
He laughed when pointing out that he’s already been asked to come back to help with several sporting events.
He laughed, too, when Mike McCarthy even gave him a shoutout at the last Cowboys press conference he shot for WFAA.
“I was shy and embarrassed,” Gant said. “I don’t like fanfare.”
Gant is proud of where he’s been, and of where he is being led.
We’re pretty proud of him, too. Jose: You’re due for a break — even if we know that’s not your style. We know whomever you come across will be lighter because of your prayers, your wisdom and your love.
Congratulations on an amazing legacy!