By Ed Odeven

First impressions can make a huge difference.

From time to time, in fact, I’ve wondered … what if?

What if Mike “Gabe” Gabrielson made a lousy first impression? What if he barked out, “Get lost, kid.”

In the summer of 1990 — early August, to be precise — I visited the KTUC (news/talk-radio station), showing up in the lobby one weekday afternoon. And I asked if I could speak to the sports man-in-charge.

That guy was Gabrielson. I was 16 and eager to gain experience as a radio announcer, specifically in sports. I asked Gabe, as he was known on his weekday afternoon show, “Sports Talk Tucson,” if there were any current or upcoming opportunities at the Tucson radio station.

He eagerly said yes.

That caught my attention.

Another guy working at the station, Tony Fernandez, hosted a Friday night football show with student correspondents from across Tucson and Southern Arizona. Fernandez needed students to call in post-game highlights and statistics, quotes and scores, including somebody for Sahuaro High School, my school.

It was a volunteer position, Gabe said.

I said OK.

He told me to get in touch with Fernandez. I did that, too.

And that marked the start of my reporting career. (I made the right choice; of that I’m certain every day.)

For my junior and senior years at Sahuaro, I began learning how to report and succinctly summarize the action in a small notepad, then use a payphone to call in the highlights.

I remember a few routs — Sahuaro was a gridiron powerhouse at the time – and winning 72-10 or 76-13 wasn’t a stunning feat for the school. It was expected against some of the area schools.

Cramming in all of those scoring highlights into a 2- or 3-minute phone call seemed like a daunting task at the time. But really, it was just something I needed to learn.

I haven’t seen Mike Gabrielson or Tony Fernandez in more than 20 years, but they gave me a start in sports journalism and for that I’m forever grateful. They gave me a chance to rush over to the local Dunkin’ Donuts or Jack In The Box and set up shop at the payphone to read my messy handwriting and then mumble “For KTUC Sports, I’m Ed Odeven.”

One of the Sahuaro Cougars offensive stars was running back Todd Harris. He was a U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class who was killed in Afghanistan, on Nov. 5, 2010. He was 37.

Harris’ touchdowns were the subject of my reports, it seemed, on multiple occasions in all of those games. Those games were electrifying, and so, too, was Harris’ big-play abilities.