Lenti, Illini Productions Receive Emmy Award

Frank Lenti is in his fifth year on the Illini Productions staff.
Frank Lenti is in his fifth year on the Illini Productions staff.

Sept. 25, 2012

Champaign, Ill. -

Mid-America Emmy Page | Complete Camp Rantoul 2011 Episodes

Frank Lenti, Jr., grew up watching a lot of NFL Films which not only inspired the son of a legendary high school coach to pursue football, but also a career telling those stories through video. Now in addition to being mentioned as a starter on a Rose Bowl team, he'll have the title "Emmy Award Winner" before his name.

Lenti, a member of the Illini Productions staff, was honored over the weekend with an Emmy award in the category of "Sports: One-Time Special" for his combined show highlighting Camp Rantoul from 2011. The award was presented at the 36th Annual Mid-America Emmy Awards Saturday night at the Midland Theatre in downtown Kansas City. The ceremony, sponsored by the Mid-America Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (NATAS), was hosted by the Weather Channel's Mike Bettes.

Patterned after the Big Ten Network's The Journey , the 22-minute documentary taken from five webisodes chronicled the on and off the field exploits of the Illini football team in preparation for the 2011 season. It was the second straight year that Lenti and the Illini Productions staff produced the series. Lenti says he got a lot of insight from Bill Friedman, who produces The Journey , on how to capture the stories viewers find most interesting.

"We were looking for a creative way to show training camp to our fans, potential prospects and anyone interested in Illinois football," Lenti said. "After the first year, I had a better understanding about what I needed to do both in prep work and what people liked and didn't like."

Lenti used his experiences of going through the same training clip as a player into coming up with ideas for the show. "I knew what questions to ask and the ends and outs of the camp," he said. "The key to producing that kind of project is having access and the coaches were great with granting me that access. The goal is really to show off all the different personalities of our players, which having that access was critical to that effort."

The honor also comes just days after the death of one of Lenti's childhood idols, Steve Sabol, who produced all those NFL Films he grew up watching. Lenti, who lettered for Illinois from 2005-07, wasn't able to attend the ceremony because of his commitments with Illini football on Saturdays and said he found out about the honor through a co-worker. He says he is honored and humbled with the recognition.

"It didn't sink in until that night when I watched the celebrities walk down the red carpet," he said. "While more people watched those awards, obviously, an Emmy is an Emmy. It means a great deal."

"It's a great honor for a member of our video department to be recognized with such a high achievement," director of video services Andrew Young said. "The Emmy award is the highest honor in our business, so it's a big deal to have Frank recognized. Because our overall coverage of Camp Rantoul was a team effort, it's a great satisfaction for our department as well."