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Hoda Kotb recalls career rejection story that devastated her: 'Like a knife in my heart'

The TODAY co-anchor opens up about how one college professor almost dashed her career dreams.
Today - Season 68
TODAY co-anchor Hoda Kotb recalls the college professor who almost shot down her career dreams, an act she says felt like “a knife in my heart.”Nathan Congleton / TODAY
/ Source: TODAY

It’s hard to imagine TODAY without the dedication and zeal Hoda Kotb brings to the table every morning. But if she’d listened to one influential person who had her attention before she launched her career, we wouldn’t have to imagine.

That would be reality.

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The TODAY gang, featuring Carson Daly, Craig Melvin, Savannah Guthrie, Hoda Kotb and Al Roker. Nathan Congleton / TODAY

In an interview with E! News, the TODAY co-anchor opened up about the person who nearly dashed her dreams in her younger years.

"I actually had a college professor who basically said, 'Look, it's a very competitive field and I'm just gonna try to save you some heartache. There's a lot of people there and I just don't know that you'd be one of the people who would make it in that industry,'" she recalled during the chat.

It's a moment that never left her.

“I remember it so vividly because it was like a knife in my heart,” she explained.

But she also remembers why she didn’t let those daunting words stop her on her path to broadcasting excellence.

Hoda Kotb attends the 66th Annual Peabody Awards in June 2007.Brad Barket / Getty Images

"I used to play high school basketball, so I believed until the buzzer hit that you could win,” she said. And back then, she knew the game was just getting started. “I believed that with everything in me.”

So the long odds she was warned about didn’t change anything for her.

"I didn't really think of the odds,” Hoda said. “I just went into that same weird mode that a lot of people go into because either you're stubborn or you're stupid. I just thought to myself, 'I really like this, and I want to try it, and there are a lot of people who are going to say no. So it's like you either trust your inside voice or all the outside voices.'"

And she chose to trust the one person she could rely on most — herself.

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Eventually, others saw a spark and promise in her that was beyond what she even saw.

Earlier this year, Hoda opened up to her fourth hour co-host, Jenna Bush Hager, about running into the person who gave her a big break on “Dateline” back in 1998.

"It was Neal Shapiro, the guy who had hired me at 'Dateline' when, I will tell you right now, I was not good enough," the 56-year-old said. "I really did not have the qualifications. I wasn't as good as any of the correspondents. And for some reason, that guy, Neal Shapiro, took a risk."

Hoda Kotb interviews Carrie Underwood for Dateline NBC.David Becker / NBC

She added, "I thought, you never know who's going to change your life or give you a shot when you don't know if you're ready. But he did.”

Since then, the Edward R. Murrow, Gracie, Peabody and Daytime Emmy award-winning broadcaster has more than proven herself.