Cassie Soto grew up with a father who's a Raiders fan and a taste for being on camera at a young age, so there was an air of inevitability to all this.
Soto, studio host of the Las Vegas Review-Journal's Vegas Nation online Raiders show, had an idea she wanted to go into sports journalism from the time she was a 12-year-old appearing on her middle school's broadcasts. Her path since then has culminated in staffing the press box at Allegiant Stadium on Sundays.
Now the 2017 Greenspun College of Urban Affairs journalism graduate, returns to her alma mater as one of the hosts of UNLV's virtual commencement Dec. 15, along with fellow alum and current UNLV admissions counselor Ryan Romero.
Soto landed at the Review-Journal after spending a year with the Mountain West Conference in Colorado Springs, Colorado, covering sports for the league. But she was involved with UNLV even before she attended UNLV.
As a senior in high school, she began working for the Thomas & Mack Center's video team, helping to run the big board during Rebel basketball games. As a journalism major, she began working the university's studios. All her experiences came together in her junior year with the start of the Rebel Report, a student-run broadcast and social media program.
"I was like, 'Oh my God — finally, something in sports for me to do,'" she said. "That completely changed my course."
After her year with the Mountain West Conference, Soto looked to return to Las Vegas. The Review-Journal didn't have anything open when she applied in August 2018, but that changed months later when the Raiders announced their move from Oakland to Allegiant Stadium. Though the coronavirus pandemic has drastically changed the NFL season, Soto is grateful her education and experience set her up to succeed.
"It's still pretty surreal," she said. "I just got off of a call where [Raiders quarterback] Derek Carr was answering some questions. These athletes are like normal people at the end of the day. I think I've been working from home since March 16 and now I have a full home studio set up. To be able to produce a show from my kitchen has been pretty wild. To run a show when there's this pandemic happening and to see it grow and to get some sort of a fan base, it's been pretty awesome."
Soto was the first in her family to graduate from college, but as of this week, she won't be the last. She'll be hosting virtual commencement at the same time her sister, Celine, graduates from the Harrah College of Hospitality.
And yes, Cassie got permission from her sister before she took on the hosting gig. There's no spotlight-stealing in the Soto family.
"Any time I can share my story or maybe be a mentor to somebody is what means the most to me. It's just really special.
"My sister's graduating this year and I know she's had to go through a lot to get to where she is. So have a lot of these graduates in 2020. So I can give up some hours of my time to say 'Hey, you guys congratulations! This is just the beginning for you.' It was a no-brainer."