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Legs of Steel, Heart of Gold

August 8, 2011

Sometimes in the broadcasting industry, a story comes along that's gripping, inspiring, poignant, and award-winning all at once. Last year, Jesse Kurtz ('00), sports director for KKTV (CBS) in Colorado Springs, covered just such a story, called Legs of Steel, Heart of Gold.

Rare and rewarding story

Although Jesse Kurtz is proud to have won a 2011 National Edward R. Murrow Award for Television Sports Reporting, he’s just as satisfied to have aired the award-winning story about a determined young athlete from Cripple Creek.

Last year, Kurtz, who graduated from CSU in 2000 with a double major in Technical Journalism and Speech Communication, heard about a football player at Cripple Creek-Victor High School who was doing good work on the field in spite of being a double amputee. Nikolai Louritt, who was born in Russia and had both legs amputated before he was three years old, ran onto the field on custom-build legs for a game last October and played hard and aggressively, impressing his coach and other players.

Watch the story on Nikolai Louritt

Top contenders

“I’ve met a lot of football players, and he ranks right up there at the top,” Kurtz says. The winning story that aired on KKTV Channel 11 was filmed and edited by Kurtz and showed the sophomore running, blocking, and tackling. Louritt’s carefully padded prosthetics (his Legs of Steel) were the only obvious difference from other players.             

Louritt spent his early years in a Russian orphanage before he was adopted by his American family. In a local newspaper story, Nikolai’s mother, Katie, said he had an above-knee congenital amputation. “On the other, he had a foot, but we did a Syme’s amputation so he could walk better because he walked better with the prosthetic than trying to do a brace.”

Louritt is continuing his football career with the Cripple Creek Pioneers this season. He hopes to become a commercial airline pilot.  

The award winner

After graduating from CSU, Kurtz worked for ABC in Sioux City, Iowa, in 2000-02 and for CBS in Colorado Springs from 2002 to the present. In addition to being the lead sports anchor for KKTV, he’s worked as a sideline reporter for nationally televised NFL games.

The Edward R. Murrow Award, which Kurtz will accept in New York City in October, is his first such national award. He’s in good company – winners in other categories include NBC News, CBS Radio News, National Public Radio, and The Associated Press.

Kurtz credits his experience with CSU-TV for helping to jump-start his professional career and solidify his passion for broadcasting.

“I’d put CSU’s journalism school and CSU-TV right up there with the best journalism programs in the country, no question” Kurtz says. “The hands-on experience alone at CSU-TV allowed me to hit the ground running in my profession.”