During recent weeks, there's been a veritable exodus of favorite personalities from Denver television. Anchor/host Natalie Tysdal left KWGN's popular Daybreak show to essentially start her own digital network, forecaster Becky Ditchfield said farewell to 9News for personal reasons, and 9News reporter/anchor Ryan Haarer jumped into the Mile High City's booming real estate market.
Leading the way into that career path was Sam Boik, a former Denver Broncos cheerleader turned traffic expert and reporter for the Fox31 morning-news program. On the last day of December, she exited the station in order to work full-time with Pivot Lending Group, a Littleton-based "community-based credit union mortgage origination company," says CEO Bryant Ottaviano, who notes that having "worked in the credit union space for close to twenty years," it's now branched out to about 25 states.
Most Fox31 viewers didn't realize that Boik had been working with Pivot for around six months before she decided to leave the station and focus on her career with the company. "It was a crazy idea for me to change career paths in the middle of a pandemic," she admits. "But I think that sometimes you've just got to wake up and do something that scares you a little bit."
Boik took one of the most unusual paths imaginable to TV journalism. Growing up as "a small city kid" from Lincoln Park, Michigan, just outside Detroit, she recalls her "very, very dedicated and disciplined mindset to be a professional dancer. I spent hours and hours in the studio practicing and perfecting my craft. Dance really gave me a strong and solid background of knowing commitment and dealing with the challenges and struggles that come with using your own body as an instrument."
After a quasi-internship with the Milwaukee Ballet, Boik joined the company of the Carolina Ballet, based in Raleigh, North Carolina, but then, she says, "I decided that I really wanted to explore what else was out there for me — what else I could do that would be outside of the dance world."
What followed were "a ton of odd jobs — everything from working in restaurants and coffee shops to retail and the financial industry, at banks," Boik remembers. "I had some modeling and on-camera opportunities, as well."
She eventually wound up in Colorado, and when she heard about auditions for the Broncos cheerleading squad, she literally jumped at the chance. She signed up in 2010, "when Kyle Orton was the quarterback and Josh McDaniels was our head coach," she recalls. "Then it was the Tim Tebow era with John Fox, and after that, obviously, Peyton Manning came in and took the reins as the new sheriff in town."
Boik still marvels at "the incredible opportunities" she had during her seven seasons as a Broncos cheerleader. "I was fortunate enough, with my other team members, to perform at Super Bowls 48 and 50. We even got to travel internationally; we went to Hong Kong," she says.
Just as important, she maintains, were the lessons she absorbed along the way, including "how to carry yourself and engage with other people and be a positive role model. We were really community ambassadors, and that was really impactful for me. It helped me learn how to communicate even more effectively, how to have poise in situations where it's 'lights, camera, action.' Because so much of what we did was on live TV."
Her on-the-job media training included occasional hosting gigs for games involving the Denver Outlaws, the Denver Nuggets and the Colorado Mammoth. Then, in 2016, she auditioned to become the traffic reporter for KWGN, sister station of Fox31, to which she eventually shifted, earning the friendly nickname "Traffic Jam Sam."
This moniker took an ironic twist after the COVID-19 stay-at-home order was imposed last March. "People just weren't driving as much," she recalls. "As funny as it may seem, traffic just became a non-issue. I-25 became one of the best places to drive."
As a result, she says, "We tried to shift gears — traffic pun intended, I guess. I was able to do some more desk anchoring on Channel 2, and I helped write and produce some content, including a lot of feel-good stories. We titled them 'Tell Me Something Good,' and they were about people in the local community who were trying to give back and make a positive impact — just reaching out to others to let them know, 'We can get through this.'"
The lockdown had a deleterious effect on the bottom line for outlets across the media industry, including TV stations, but Boik credits Fox31 management for avoiding pay cuts and continually reassuring employees that their positions were safe. Still, the state of the world triggered a period of reflection. "Wherever you were and whatever you were doing, you didn't know what the next day would bring," she stresses. "My philosophy is, every day, you have an opportunity to decide if and how you can change your world and your life. And that's when I started researching and looking into financing and the mortgage business. I followed my gut and my instincts and got my license — and I found myself at Pivot" as a mortgage loan originator.
Pivot is a big operation, with 130 employees. But CEO Ottaviano says that Boik stood out from the beginning. "Her time on TV gave her a little more; people were aware of who she was," he says. "But when you meet her, she's just a wonderful person to communicate with and talk to. From the minute we met her, she was very personable, friendly, outgoing, and she's got a tremendous background with the Broncos and the news station. Those attributes are very good, and so is her social media presence and whatnot. But she's also the right person, and that's what will absolutely create a success for Sam Boik."
Looking back on her time at Fox31, Boik says she most enjoyed interacting with her co-workers and viewers — and she sees what she's doing now as drawing upon the same skill set. "I feel like I'm helping to guide my clientele in what will suit them best about their future goals, their family goals, whether it's buying a house, refinancing a house, any of those things that can really change their lives for the better," she says. "I want to help get them to their best place."
Her days as a role model aren't over, either. "I had a woman reach out to me and say, 'I had lost my job because of the pandemic and I didn't know what to do. I felt so lost and I didn't know where to turn.' But then she said she saw me making a career transition, and she was kind of shocked, but she also thought, 'Oh, my gosh. If Sam can do this, I can, too,'" Boik recalls.
"It can be scary to take a chance and take a risk and make a change," Boik concludes. "But I did it, and I want to continue to build on that — to challenge myself and see what's around the next corner."