More than 100 million Americans tune in every February to watch the Super Bowl — America’s most viewed annual sporting event. Fans fill the stadium to capacity while thousands of employees organize and run an event that generates more than $300 million yearly.
The game features world-class athletes, but some of the best talent is found at field level. The path to the Super Bowl can be just as hard for PR professionals as it is for any linebacker or running back. In the case of Jenna Cason, working for the NFL was a dream that required determination, risk taking and a desire to learn.
Taking risks with determination
Football is Cason’s biggest passion, and she was determined to make it big in the NFL. Nine months before graduating from college, she compiled a list of all 32 NFL teams and applied to work for every one.
“Apparently I didn’t know how to use Excel spreadsheets,” Cason said, “Because I kept everything handwritten in a spiral notebook. I would write down the name of the team and the date that I sent them my portfolio and resume. Two weeks later, I would follow up with a phone call and I did this multiple times with all 32 NFL teams.”
Cason received hundreds of rejection letters and still had no job offers despite her persistent effort and experience with multiple sports teams. With only a few weeks remaining before her graduation from Brigham Young University, Cason decided to throw her own Hail Mary. She flew to Florida to apply to work for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
“You have to be prepared. You can’t just wake up when its time to graduate and expect to find a job,” Cason said. “But with that drive you need some of the magic of being young and dumb and taking risks. Sometimes I just have to ask myself, ‘What would young, dumb Jenna do?’”
Taking the risk paid off in the end. The Buccaneers hired her as a member of the team’s PR staff just a week and a half before graduation. Following one complete season and part of a second as a public relations specialist for the Buccaneers, Cason moved on to the biggest event in all of sports — the Super Bowl. As a contracted NFL employee for Super Bowls XVII and XVIII, Cason found herself on the sidelines just like she had dreamed as a young girl.
“On game day we worked about 18 hours the whole day,” Cason said. “Beginning with the pre-game preparation in the press box, standing on the sidelines during the fourth quarter and then running through all the chaos to do the post-game media interviews. It was a lot of work. But it was really rewarding, and I loved my job.”
Practicing like a professional
While many students go to school expecting to learn only from classwork and textbooks, Cason knew she wanted hands on experience to prepare her for a career. Cason’s drive to learn motivated her to seek as much out-of-classroom experience as possible.
“I didn’t like being in the classroom honestly,” Cason said. “I didn’t like doing imaginary assignments and I wanted to do something that was real where I could actually contribute. I told myself if I’m going to do a case study why don’t I go find somebody who has a real case study, and I’d do it for free.”
Believing in the future
Today Cason can be found watching in the stands on game day. In place of rejection letters, she now has a list of job experiences spanning many different industries. Now as Needle’s Director of Corporate Relations, Cason continues to find success within PR and feels confident about her future.
“It comes down to taking risks and never believing that anything is out of your reach,” Cason said. “I had to pave my own path coming from a small town, but I never doubted for one second that I could get a job in professional sports.”
Andrew is a BYU PR student from Hilliard, OH who enjoys running, PRSSA, chocolate chip cookies and watching documentary films.