West Michigan native and U of M student calling Orange Bowl

NCAA Football

MIAMI (WOOD) — When Amer Betkas’s parents arrived in America they didn’t speak a word of English and came with only the shirts on their backs. They were refugees, fleeing war-torn Bosnia. Now, they call Caledonia, home.

Bektas was born in America and is the first in his family to attend college here. In April he will be the first to graduate, earning a bachelors from the University of Michigan. But this week, his family is focused on another first: the Wolverines’ first ever College Football Playoff appearance. And the son of Bosnian refugees will be calling the schools biggest football game yet.

“My goal for me is to always make my parents proud,” Bektas said. “To go to a university like Michigan and get involved with U of M, whether it’s athletics, anything on campus like that. My dad, when we talk will ask me, ‘Are you going to school?’ Because really it seems like the last month I was just traveling with the team. But the grades turned out good. Dad was proud of it.”

Bektas learned from his parents early on about dedication and sacrifice, that good things don’t always come easy. It’s the path he’s taken to bring him to this point.

After graduating high school in West Michigan and attending Grand Rapids Community College for two years, Bektas transferred to Michigan. He got involved with radio broadcast because of his passion for sports.

“I’ve been around sports my whole entire life. I graduated from Caledonia, I played varsity soccer there,” Bektas said. “Sports, it was my first love, it still is. I want to be around sports forever.”

But last year, when he could’ve graduated, didn’t go as planned. The pandemic had canceled games, which meant less opportunity to sharpen his craft and experience the atmosphere of Big Ten football. So, he came back and studied another year at U of M. That decision has paid off immensely.

“COVID altered a lot of stuff for me,” Bektas said. “I didn’t go to Michigan to be a student radio, I kind of just stumbled upon this opportunity. It’s like destiny. You just stumble upon it and it’s really changed my life, you could say. And coming back because of COVID and doing the extra year and for opportunities like this, it’s huge.”

Bektas spent the Ohio State game in the crowd as a fan and student but has been behind the microphone for the rest of the major moments this season. On Friday, he’ll have the chance to cover the Wolverines on the student radio broadcast on WCBN Sports.

“Growing up, watching whatever game was on, I would always say what the commentators said before they said it. So my parents, my brothers they said, ‘If you don’t get in to this,'” Bektas said with a shrug and a laugh. “That’s why I got involved.”

He says the radio broadcast is a student group with a small budget, and with all the success the team has had this year, they’ve blown through it. He paid his own way to call the game in Miami and says it was worth every penny. And he would be thrilled to pay his own way to Indianapolis for a chance to call a national championship.

“Mom will always say it’s turning out good regardless of how it sounds,” Bektas laughed.

On Friday, his parents will turn on the national television broadcast of the Orange Bowl and mute some of the most respected announcers in college football. They’ll sync a live YouTube call to the game and listen to their son reach for the future they fought to give him.

“It feels surreal. It honestly does. It does not feel real at all,” Bektas said. “You have to step back and look at how fortunate these opportunities really are. To not only be calling a football game but to be calling it in Miami, the Orange Bowl, it’s the College Football Playoff, it doesn’t get any bigger than that.”

Listen to Bektas’s call Friday night here.

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