On February 4, sports fans all over the world will be watching the two best teams in the NFL compete in the Championship Game at U.S. Bank Stadium, with Minneapolis taking center stage as the host city. In the midst of the fanfare and nonstop excitement is an amazing story: A School of Kinesiology senior in Sport Management will be working on the sidelines as a cameraman for the game.
Ryan O’Neill, double major in Sport Management and Communications/Media Production, played four sports at Buffalo High School in Hanover, MN, but he never imagined being on the other side of the camera. “As a sport management student, I wanted to get a job in Gopher Athletics, so I applied as a production assistant,“ he says. He walked into a group interview, which was not what he expected, and he was the only applicant who had any video experience. “I’d had a class in video in high school, and that was it,” he says. “But it turned out that I knew what they were looking for—how to follow the action on the field. I knew how to tell where the action was going.”
He’s been capturing live events on camera for the Gophers ever since, and doing post-production editing as well. This year he traveled with the football team as a second videographer. He produces TV programs for the Big 10 Network on campus and has produced, directed and been a color commentator for Gopher Women’s Hockey. He’s also worked for the Timberwolves and the Lynx. He wasn’t sure if his experience would qualify for a job working the “Big Game”, but he made a call to some contacts to let them know he was interested. That was all it took. “It was luck meets opportunity,” he says.
Ryan is modest about his once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, but admits that “being on such a big stage is cool. It’s going to be pretty nice.”
His Sport Management major was not a slam-dunk when he was thinking about college. “I like history and was always interested in politics, so I thought I’d be a political science major,” he says. “Then I took a political science course sophomore year and I hated it. Sometimes trying something and not liking it is just as important as trying something and liking it.
Whatever you might be interested in, you should explore it as early as possible in college. You have to find out if you like what you think you do, and if you’re good at it.
He says that he has also tried to develop proficiencies outside his major. “It was important to me to have transferable skills, outside of sport.”
Reflecting on his undergraduate experience, he recalls the challenge of balancing time and personal life with the demands of coursework and a job. “I like to finish everything I start,” he says, “and that was overwhelming sometimes. You have to realize you can’t control everything.”
Ryan will graduate next spring, and intends to step back from his busy life for a bit. “I’d like to travel before I settle in to a full-time job. I want to ease myself into my professional life, not try to jump into it too fast.”
He believes this: “Work is passion brought to life.” You can watch Ryan’s passion in action on national television in just a few weeks.