GILLETTE, Wyo. — To kick off “Mingle with Engel” is an image of a golden, spinning globe throwing off city names like Hong Kong, London, Dublin, Cairo and Seoul into space.
Then comes the introduction and it’s clear the show is from nowhere near those locations around the world. It’s from Gillette, Wyoming, and centers around a school of about 1,100 students.
Adam Engel sits in an office chair, spins around and doffs his glasses in one smooth movement, showing an intense game face. The gesture — now often copied among students — opens “Mingle with Engel” each week, a show in which Engel is the cameraman, broadcaster, writer, editor and producer.
That whipping-off-his-glasses move — he calls it the “head turn” — only begins to tell the story.
His face shows his love of sports. It’s apparent from the enthusiasm in his voice when he begins his always-gaining-speed spiel.
It’s all part of a take-no-prisoners attitude that earned his show a cult following at his high school and around the community.
Engel wonders if he should change the intro because he recently got a haircut. It’s not an easy question to answer. After two years and about 40 YouTube videos, that intro — designed with the help of fellow student journalist Brayden Bryngelson, who’s now in college — has morphed into a touchstone for Engel’s fans.
That’s the signal for Engel to enthusiastically spell out the sports results for the Thunder Basin High School Bolts each week, whatever season it is.
In the two- to four-minute program, he waves his arms, punches the air with a finger or his hand to make a point. His voice becomes louder as he tries to convey the enormity of the Bolts’ accomplishments.
Something subtle and infectious is at work. It could be that he uses a fake microphone or stuffs tissues into the camera’s rolling tripod to keep it upright. It could be that he changes T-shirts for each show — trumpeting Michigan State, a tie-dyed look or FBLA, for instance — that reflect his personality. Or it could simply be his enthusiasm.
But it grabs you.
“I love Adam. Adam is my favorite little dude,” said Marcus Glick, a lineman on the school’s football team.
Engel’s show, included with the TBHS journalism package of announcements and awards each week, is required viewing in weekly advocacy classes that are similar to a homeroom to discuss a variety of social or school issues and projects.
“It’s always fun because everybody loves Adam,” said English instructor Jeri Anderson as her advocacy class watched Engel’s show last week. “We were talking two weeks ago and they wondered what we’ll do next year after Adam graduates and if someone will replace him.
“I don’t think anyone can replace him,” she continued. “For Thunder Basin, he’s a constant.”
Engel records his own sports scenes each weekend. He writes his script each Sunday in his home.
Then he films himself delivering the sports news with descriptions ranging from “massacre” to “slayings” early each Monday morning. He sits in a spare room in front of a green cloth background and equipment scrounged up by students and teachers. Other Thunder Basin students often pass by in the hallways and watch him work.
A few hours later, he edits his own shows as part of his media literature class.
Through dedication and willingness to work at his craft, Engel has molded himself into a popular one-man expert on all things sports at Thunder Basin High School.
“When I watch his show, I think it’s cool how a student is reporting sports news and stuff instead of a teacher. I think he’s a relatable person, because sometimes he runs over words too fast. It makes him seem more down-to-earth, more relatable to your average Joe,” said TBHS freshman Cole Guseman.
Engel has some theories, but even he can’t explain why his show has become such a hit.
The senior has produced his sports show weekly for the past two years while school is in session. He’s missed only once a year ago when he was absent on a Monday.
“What really gets people interested, I don’t know. I think it’s the head turn. It’s the glasses,” he said.
He’s been asked for his autograph twice. Athletes and students at Thunder Basin continually ask him when they’ll be on his show.
That is all unexpected. But Engel points out that there is a 100 percent saturation at Thunder Basin for the target audience.
Still, that doesn’t explain the numbers of viewers.
“It’s his enthusiasm and his knowledge and his passion,” said former Thunder Basin Principal Dennis Holmes. “He has made virtually his own legacy. That’s important. I tell kids it’s not what you do while you’re here, it’s what you leave.”
The first show Sept. 22, 2017, drew 872 views. That was the night before Thunder Basin played the Camels in the first rivalry game between the two Gillette high schools.
In that show, Engel handled all of the broadcasting duties. Since then, Matt “Rat-a-tat” Harris has taken on news duties and others announce the weekly Spark award winners. It’s left Engel free to work on his unique sports show.
Since then, viewer numbers have ranged from 35 to 368 per episode. This school year, there’s been an average of more than 200 viewers each show because of the advocacy class. That represents each class showing the video. It’s not a count of every individual student who watches.
In reality, his numbers each week are close to the all-time highest viewed video from TBHS journalism, the 2018 lip dub that has 1,500 views.
“He has quite the following,” said journalism teacher Claire Carter. “When he walks down the hall, there’s often kids giving him high fives.
“He’s gotten quite good,” she added. “He is a unique talent. He’s such a success story.”
That isn’t why Engel got into this, though. He had other motivations.
“He’s never really played any sports but he knows more than I do about some of that stuff. I didn’t know the one call during the game and he told me what the call was and he told me why they called it like that. He’s so smart and it’s ridiculous,” said TBHS football player Brendan Jordan.
Engel jokes that he was holding the sports section of the newspaper in his hands just a few months after being born. He was too young to read but looked at the photos.
“My mom says I came out of the womb destined to do something with sports,” he said. “I’ve always been a stat nerd. ... I’m the type of guy who could talk sports all day long.”
He wants to be a play-by-play broadcaster and produce a sports show. The senior looks up to NBC Sports hockey play-by-play man Mike “Doc” Emrick and his dream since sixth grade is to reach an ESPN-level job.
“Mingle with Engel” is his way of “getting my foot in the door,” he said. “Now I’m open to everything. I’m willing to get better.”
His talent has progressed this school year, as has his popularity. He was chosen as homecoming king for Thunder Basin High School a few weeks ago.
It wasn’t always that way.
He was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome on the autism spectrum as a young boy, he said. As a result, he underwent speech therapy through fifth grade.
Now, he may communicate through slight pauses in his delivery as he makes sure he pronounces words correctly. Those pauses have become less frequent as he reads his scripts.
It’s all about practice, Engel said, which he’s doing a lot of these days.
He doesn’t normally interview sports figures for his show but recently made an exception, interviewing the “Wyoming Guy” who hopes to visit all of the state’s 65 high school sports stadiums this year.
That episode has become a favorite for Anderson.
Engel presented the young man a Bolts T-shirt embossed with “the Wyoming Guy” on back and then questioned why the Wyoming Guy, a Kemmerer native who now lives in Colorado, wants to visit all the Wyoming stadiums and has added 4,000 miles to his car’s odometer while doing so.
His humor and the interview are a hoot. Those in doubt should note the show where he played the theme from “Super Mario Bros.” to illustrate the climbing score in a game.
Yes, Engel has his own style.
“A lot of times I like to use alliteration,” he said. “I really try to develop my own style, if you will.”
As in: “Friday night in Casper the Bolts football team slayed the Kelly Walsh Trojans in the very windy, windy city of Casper, Wyoming.”
Or “the massacre” of the Bolts’ 50-0 win last week.
The son of Christine and Scott Engel, Adam grapples with many issues teens his age do. That includes where he should go to college to learn more about broadcasting.
He plans to attend Gillette College — where his father works — next school year and is considering Oklahoma State University after that. He’s already done some sports shows focusing on the Pronghorns and he’ll do more next year.
“At the end of the day, I’m just a normal student,” he said. “This is just a small step of getting me ready for my career. It’s something I’ve loved.”
His enthusiasm is “not in miniature,” Engel said. His enthusiastic vocal delivery will cruise “from 0 to 100” in just a few seconds.
Luckily, his fans are strapped in for the ride.