Former Forum photographer, Ada-Borup graduate set to photograph Super Bowl
Nick Wagner graduated from Ada-Borup (Minn.) High School in 2013 and is photographing the Super Bowl for the Kansas City Star.
FARGO — Nick Wagner was a freshman at Ada-Borup (Minn.) High School when he was asked to shoot photos for the girls basketball team more than a decade ago.
“That’s kind of what started it," said Wagner of covering the team during that 2009-2010 season. “The rest is history.”
Wagner's photography now has him covering one of the world's largest sporting events. A staff photographer for the Kansas City Star, he is photographing the Super Bowl between the Kansas City Chiefs and Philadelphia Eagles that is set to kick off at 5:30 p.m. Sunday in Glendale, Ariz.
“Some could argue the biggest game of all sports," said Wagner, who interned at The Forum in 2014-15. "I’m excited. I never envisioned that I would ever cover it. When I was growing up in Ada in high school, I would dream of covering the (Minnesota) Timberwolves and Vikings.”
The 28-year-old Wagner has worked at the Kansas City Star since November and said he feels fortunate he was picked to cover the Super Bowl and also get the chance to shoot the game from the field. He was on the sidelines for Kansas City's 23-20 victory against the Cincinnati Bengals for the AFC Championship at Arrowhead Stadium.
“It’s a rush of emotions from beginning to end," Wagner said. “It was loud.”
Wagner captured a Marquez Valdes-Scantling 19-yard touchdown catch from Patrick Mahomes that gave Kansas City a 20-13 lead with 4 minutes, 21 seconds to play in the third quarter. It was one of his favorite frames from the game. Valdes-Scantling was shown cradling the ball with both hands in the end zone behind a leaping Cincinnati defender on a fourth-down play.
“I don’t know what I was doing or how I found the receiver before the ball made it to him, but I was able to shoot MVS catching the pass right as the defender was mid-air," said Wagner, who graduated from Ada-Borup in 2013. “It kept them in a good position for the rest of the game.”
Some favorite frames from the Chiefs' 23-20 win over the Bengals in last night's AFC Championship game at Arrowhead. #CINvsKC #ChiefsKingdom pic.twitter.com/PGj4t9jhmY— Nick Wagner (@WagsPhoto) January 30, 2023
Wagner said he normally doesn't get nerves during the games and studies game film to help position himself in an attempt to get the best photos. Soon after he accepted the job at the Kansas City Star, Wagner said he started to watch as many Kansas City games and pay particular attention to Mahomes and his tendencies.
“Pat is a hard quarterback to photograph just because of how elusive he is," Wagner said. “Now, I’ve got to go watch some of the Eagles stuff and see how they play defense.”
Wagner said he feels fortunate to cover a team that features players like Mahomes, tight end Travis Kelce and defensive tackle Chris Jones. All three are considered among the best players in the NFL at their positions.
“That’s something I don’t want to take for granted," Wagner said. “When you’re covering the games, everything seems to fly by.”
After that first season of covering the Ada-Borup girls basketball team, Wagner decided to end his athletic career and photograph and cover all sports teams for the Cougars during his final three years of high school.
“I picked up my own gear," said Wagner, who graduated from Western Kentucky in 2017.
Wagner also covered the Sugar Bowl in 2019 between the University of Texas and Georgia while working for the Austin American-Statesman. While that was a big-time environment, Wagner said covering the Super Bowl is going to have a different feel since he will be in Glendale all week also covering the lead-up to Super Bowl Sunday.
“I’m super excited to be able to do what I love and am passionate about," Wagner said. "It’s just the cherry on top that it’s these big prime-time games. ... The Super Bowl is a whole nother beast.”
Wagner said photographing a World Series would also be on his professional bucket list. He also likes capturing images from events that drive change.
Wagner said he would be nervous entering the Super Bowl if he was covering the Vikings, his home-state team.
“I know it’s my job to do," Wagner said. “If the Vikings were playing I think it would be a little bit harder. ... Seeing greatness unfolding in front of you, you just hope for a great game.”