Hometown heroes ink book deal

From left to right: Alek Skarlatos, Spencer Stone and Anthony Sadler at the Sacramento Hometown Heroes Parade Sept. 11, 2015. (Sacramento State/Jessica Vernone)

Sacramento’s trio of hometown heroes will have their story immortalized in print this summer.

The 15:17 to Paris is set for release exactly one year after Spencer Stone, Alek Skarlatos, and Sacramento State student Anthony Sadler thwarted a would-be terrorist attack on a train bound for Paris. The book will chronicle, among other things, the events on that train that read like a Hollywood movie script:

On Aug. 21, 2015, suspected Islamist militant Ayoub el-Khazzani boarded a Paris-bound, high-speed train and started shooting. Stone, a U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class, tackled Khazzani as the gunman slashed him with a box cutter before Skarlatos and Sadler helped disarm and subdue him.

The men’s actions saved the lives of countless passengers and propelled the trio into the international spotlight.

The three received a hero’s welcome in Sadler’s hometown of Sacramento, including a grand parade down Capitol Mall in September, and in August 2015, Sacramento State founded the Anthony Sadler Community Scholarship.

The retelling of the three friends’ story in The 15:17 to Paris will put into perspective, in their own words and those of co-author Jeffery E. Stern, those gripping moments aboard the train and their impact on a battered international consciousness in a year that saw so many lives lost to acts of terrorism. This summer for the first time, readers will be able to experience that heroic story for themselves.


Former Hornet linebacker now Super Bowl champ

Todd Davis has gone by many names over his football career — Spirit, Hornet, Saint, Bronco — but the latest one really sticks: champion.

Hornet linebacker Todd Davis
Todd Davis, pictured during his senior year at Sacramento State, totaled the second-most tackles in Hornet history before playing on the game’s biggest stage in Super Bowl 50. (Sacramento State Athletics/Bob Solorio)

After racking up the second-most tackles in Hornet history, Davis, 23, found himself atop the football world on the game’s biggest stage Feb. 7 with the Super Bowl 50 champion Denver Broncos.

“I just feel truly blessed to be here,” Davis, freshly decked out in a “Super Bowl Champions” hat and T-shirt, said in a post-game interview. “Super Bowl 50, it doesn’t get any better than this.”

“We did it, Sac State. We’re here,” he said, raising an outstretched pinkie finger. “Stingers up.”

As a member of Denver’s vaunted linebacking corps, Davis helped the Broncos limit opponents to the fewest yards in the league this year en route to a Super Bowl berth.

On Feb. 7 in Santa Clara, Davis took the field for 25 snaps and was part of a defensive performance for the history books: Denver held the explosive Carolina Panthers’ offense to 10 points and posted a record seven sacks with four forced turnovers.

It has been a wild two years for Davis since he last took the field for the Hornets in 2013. Despite a prolific college career — Davis totaled 351 tackles, 9.5 sacks, six interceptions and was the Hornets’ two-time defensive MVP — he went undrafted in 2014.

He signed with the New Orleans Saints, was placed on waivers, and then claimed by Denver later that year. In 2015, he played in every game for the Broncos, registering 21 tackles as part of the NFL’s stingiest defense.

In two years, Davis has come a long way since his days at Hornet Stadium, and he has reached a level of competition that veterans twice his age often never experience.

Now, he has the ring to prove it.

‘Made’ anchor asks the tough questions in Democratic debate

With election season in full swing, “NBC Nightly News” anchor and former Sacramento State student Lester Holt took center stage during a critical Democratic primary debate this past January – a highlight from a year in which the anchor’s profile reached new heights

Holt, the host of NBC Nightly News since February 2015, co-moderated the fourth Democratic debate between former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley in Charleston, S.C. Holt and co-host Andrea Mitchell drew widespread praise for their tough questioning and ability to tease out differences among the candidates.

Lester Holt
NBC Nightly News anchor and former Sacramento State student Lester Holt at the 2015 California Hall of Fame induction ceremony in Sacramento. (Sacramento State/Rob Neep)

In a campaign cycle that at times can feel like more spectacle than substance, Holt, 56, plays a critical role cutting through the rhetoric as one of the most visible and trusted personalities in broadcast media. Over his 30-year career as a reporter and anchor, Holt has become a stalwart ambassador of the fourth estate and one of its marquee faces.

Holt is a graduate of Cordova High School in Rancho Cordova. The Sacramento native started at Sacramento State as a government major before leaving his junior year for a job at a San Francisco radio station, a decision that eventually would lead to him regularly broadcasting to millions. In February 2015, he stepped in as NBC’s Nightly News anchor.

Holt returned to his hometown in October 2015 to be inducted into the California Hall of Fame with the likes of Robert Downey Jr., Kristi Yamaguchi and Charles Schulz. Earlier that year, he spoke at Sacramento State’s College of Arts and Letters commencement, where President-emeritus Alexander Gonzalez awarded him the honorary Doctor of Humane Letters.

Holt credited Sacramento State for exposing him to the power of journalism and the impact it has on society.

He told a packed Sleep Train Arena: “Graduates, you are sitting tonight where I never sat, and in a short few minutes, you’ll be walking in a place I never walked. I took a different path that has brought its own rewards, yet we do have something in common: Many of you will leave this institution much as I did, full of optimism with a very clear path and an idea of what you’re going to do and what you plan to make of yourself.

“And, like me, you’ll discover that life has a way of not exactly sticking to the script.”