Moments before the start of the Oct. 3 radio show “The Drive with Heather Burnside and Sean Roberts,” Keith Murphy heads for the door of the third-floor studio in the iHeart building. Murphy, who co-hosted the show that aired before this one, talks back to Roberts and Burnside before leaving for the day.

“Good show,” Murphy said.

Roberts turned on his computer and leaned into the front of his chair to speak clearly into the temporarily muted microphone when he heard Murphy’s last words before the show started.

“Thank you,” he said quickly.

Heather Burnside and Sean Roberts have a conversation on their KXnO radio show on October 4.

Shortly after, a light comes on in the studio, signaling that Roberts and Burnside are now on the air. It’s time to go. It’s a moment Roberts, 33, looks forward to every day. And it’s a job, hosting a daily talk show on the popular Iowa radio station, that he’s dreamed of having for years.

“It’s still not installed,” Roberts said.

It’s because the trip was long. Roberts, the new co-host of the popular subway radio show, has spent nearly a decade waiting for his picture. Now that he’s arrived, he’s settled in Iowa and made a name for himself in Des Moines.

“He earned it,” Burnside said.

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The Hanover Park, Illinois native came to Des Moines to play baseball for Grand View and study broadcasting. Roberts thought the stay here would be short and that he would return to Illinois after graduating in 2012. He would live in an apartment with his buddies and enjoy life after college.

Sean Roberts speaks on his KXnO show "The Drive with Heather Burnside and Sean Roberts" October 4.

It never happened.

Instead, Roberts decided to start pursuing her dream of hosting her own radio show in Des Moines. It all started in 2012 when Roberts landed an internship at KISS-FM to complete a graduation requirement at Grand View.

He cycled back and forth to the station, 30 minutes each way, to work as a producer. He was ready to do anything to make his dream come true. This meant taking on small roles at the station and eventually a part-time job.

Roberts provided updates on high school football games every Friday for KXnO in 2012. The following year, he got a part-time job as a chart operator for Elvis’ morning show. Duran. Roberts did this until October 2014 when he landed another part-time gig producing KXnO’s morning show featuring Travis Justice and Ross Peterson.

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From 2019 to 2022, Roberts co-hosted a Saturday morning show on the station. It was only one day a week and could only whet the appetite of Roberts, who wanted to host a daily show.

Working at iHeart helped him pursue his dreams. But he wasn’t paying all the bills as a part-time employee. So Roberts got other jobs at Great Western Bank, Town Financial and Finish Line. This led to long days, with Roberts working 5 a.m. to 5 p.m., sometimes later.

But it was worth it.

“I had an end goal,” Roberts said. “I knew what I wanted to do.”

Opportunities were hard to come by with morning, lunchtime, afternoon and driving hours slots filled. As Roberts patiently waited for his chance, he became a popular producer on the morning show, which eventually moved on to Justice and Burnside.

“I knew he had star potential,” Burnside said.

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So did the station, which promoted Roberts when a spot opened up on the timeslot. Roberts not only landed the job as the show’s co-host with Burnside, but he also became a full-time employee.

Their new show started on August 29. She has already become popular with listeners.

And it’s still hard for him to understand.

“I had times where I sat there and was like, ‘Holy shit, I can do this every day,’ and that’s all I ever wanted,” Roberts said.

What makes it even more surprising is that Roberts is doing it in Des Moines. The once temporary stop has become his home.

He is involved in the community and is the in-game host of Drake’s men’s basketball games. He plans to be the backup emcee for the Iowa Wild and Des Moines Buccaneers games. Roberts even appeared in a local commercial. And he recently got engaged.

“If you had asked me in 2010, 2011 if I would be in Des Moines, I would have said, ‘Hell no,'” Roberts said. “But Des Moines is my home and I’m happy to really start my life now, here.”

Tommy Birch

Tommy Birch, the Register’s sports entrepreneur and featured reporter, has worked at the newspaper since 2008. He is Iowa’s 2018 and 2020 Sports Writer of the Year. Birch and her son Bodie regularly listen to KXnO on their way to and from school. Contact him at [email protected] or 515-284-8468. Follow him on Twitter @TommyBirch.

Our Des Moines

Our Des Moines is a weekly feature about an interesting person, place, or event in metro Des Moines, the kind of gems that make central Iowa special. Any idea for this series? Contact [email protected]