Capturing the ‘Cats

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Ryan Carlson looks over as the Wildcats take a knee.

Maddie Loverich, Sports Editor

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It’s a Saturday afternoon and the Catdome is filled with sights, sounds and smells. A few thousand fans settle in and over a hundred helmeted Linfield athletes storm the field. A coach clipboard is mid-air after a dropped pass and referee whistles pierce the air every few moments. The smell of popcorn wafts from the concession stand. The scoreboard flashes and another Wildcat touchdown is scored. 

With so much going on, it masks a quieter presence on the sideline. Ryan Carlson and his camera are ever-present, capturing everything on the field. The talent, the teamwork and the raw excitement that makes Linfield football a special force is all captured in his camera equipment. 

“He has basically taught himself how to be one of the best football videographers in the country,” football and softball coach Jackson Vaughn said. “His love for the program and own personal commitment to excellence drove him to learn everything he could about producing great football videos and every season he works to add a new wrinkle or improve on his work from the previous season.” 

Carlson might not be the first thing noticed on game day, but his work is a pivotal component of what happens off the field. 

Linfield football’s 64-year winning streak is evidence of the program’s hard work. The stats will show you the results, but the passion that goes into creating those results isn’t visible on paper. That’s where Carlson comes in.

If you’re a small school, like Linfield, recruiting looks different than at bigger schools. There’s not multi-million dollar facilities. 50,000 fans aren’t watching your every move every Saturday. But the way Carlson captures and showcases the excitement of Linfield football makes it apparent that those aspects aren’t what makes a program successful.

His passion for making videos started when Carlson volunteered to help create an end of year highlight video for the Linfield football team banquet in 2006. Current head coach Joseph Smith had just stepped into his new role leading the team, and found he no longer had the time to put together the video himself.

Carlson put his all into the project, working for hours and hours. Editing was much different then and early editing programs weren’t nearly as intuitive as they are now. 

Laughing, Carlson recalls the less-than-enthusiastic reaction at the banquet when everyone saw his video for the first time. The video was fine, but “it wasn’t anything special,” he says. Regardless, Carlson was already hooked. From that moment, he decided that he was going to continue, but that would mean that he was going to improve to put out the best product possible.

Now, 14 years later, he has surpassed that goal and then some. His videos, posted under the screen name Catdome Alumni, reach a wide audience on Youtube and Twitter. His Youtube channel has 1.1k followers and his videos average over a thousand views. 

You also might have seen Carlson’s work on the scoreboard at Linfield Football games. Since 2011, he’s created the pre-game hype videos played for over 2,000 fans each home game.  

A few years ago, Carlson began producing videos for the softball team as well. Trying to capture the quick ball movement was a learning curve, but in true Carlson fashion, he quickly figured it out. “You have to be really bad at video editing to make a bad Linfield softball highlight,” Carlson said. “They do such a great job of not only winning but having fun and being great teammates. It’s simple.” 

Linfield softball couldn’t be more grateful that he’s there to capture their best moments. “Ryan’s videos are something that our players greatly look forward to each season and most players will watch them over and over to pump themselves up, remember the great moments, and simply bring smile to their face,” coach Vaughn says. 

 In an era of social media, Carlson’s work has proven hugely important in recruiting new Wildcats. His videos capture the passion and intensity that makes the two sports so successful, making it the perfect way to show new athletes what’s in store for them at Linfield. 

 “When a current or former athlete says that those videos helped them make the decision to come to Linfield, that’s always such a huge complement,” Carlson says. 

Junior defensive tackle Brady Wessel says Carlson’s videos gave him a feel for the Linfield football environment as he was being recruited. “As a recruit it definitely influenced my choice,” Wessell said. “Ryan’s work is so high quality because he is able to capture the feeling of a Linfield football game. The energy, the excitement, and the fun of Linfield football all comes through his videos.”

Carlson humbly concluded that he has barely anything to do with the quality of his videos. “99.9% is the kids on the field,” he says. “All I have to do is point the camera and put music over it. The teams are so good year in and year out that it really makes it look like I know what I’m doing.”

Carlson works purely on a volunteer basis. Full time, he works in business operations for a local software company. He says he feels extremely lucky to have a wife and family that understands his passion for “chasing the ‘Cats”, as he puts it. 

In 1998, Carlson graduated from Linfield with a business degree. He found success at the college, excelling as a defensive end for the Wildcats. In 2018, he was inducted into Linfield Athletic Hall of Fame. During his college career, he accumulated many accolades, including multiple all-conference honors and an NAIA All-American honorable mention his senior year. 

He also met his future wife, Kelly, when she transferred to Linfield to play basketball her sophomore year.

Carlson only films with the football team 10-12 times a season. Year after year, he continues to feel welcomed by the athletes and staff, even though he considers himself solely a satellite to the program. 

“They find the same type of quality person, year in and year out,” he said. 

Carlson’s work represents the best of Linfield athletics. He mentions that using fancy uniforms or flashy social media is great, but Linfield’s true appeal lies in the foundation of the program. He concludes that the extra stuff is just dressing to the core of it all, such as “the pillar foundations like attention to detail, hard work and dedication.”

Despite the unusually quiet fall, Carlson and his camera equipment are still hard at work. He’s masked up, socially distanced and filming practices as the ‘Cats prepare for their season this spring.