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Landing a Dream Job in the National Football League

Kelly Schutz '10
Kelly Schutz ’10

By Shannon Young ‘16

Through a combination of determination and luck, Kelly Schutz ’10 landed her dream job as Public Relations Coordinator for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. And after five years of seasons with the team, the Wisconsin native set aside her native loyalty to the Packers in exchange for life as a Buc.

At Furman, Schutz was dead set on becoming a high school math teacher. However, that changed during her junior year when a lifelong passion for sports inspired her to consider athletic-focused internship opportunities. Recalling all the places she applied, Schutz admits, “It was a personal challenge when I wasn’t selected for a summer internship immediately.” But instead of cutting her losses, she acquired an internship with Furman Athletics to increase her experience. Under Hunter Reid and Jordan Caskey of the University’s sports information department, she assisted in the press box during football games and learned more about the communications process as she continued to send out applications.

Thanks to her determination and initiative, Schutz was faced with a life-changing decision during the fall of her senior year; she was offered a public relations internship with the Buccaneers from January to May of 2010.  If she accepted the internship, she would leave campus during her last semester at Furman, also losing the opportunity to complete her teaching certification requirements. But the opportunity was too good to pass up—while her classmates returned to campus after winter break, Schutz headed south. ”The decision was definitely a scary move. I wondered if I completely messed up,” she says.

The internship took place during the team’s offseason when the NFL draft loomed and the Buccaneers had their sights set on adding defensive tackle Gerald McCoy to the roster. Personnel and leadership changes created unusual opportunity and a larger workload than standard for an undergraduate intern.

Fortuitously, when her internship ended that spring, she was offered a permanent position. “With this industry, so much is timing,” Schutz says, explaining the odds of landing a job many would qualify as a dream opportunity. “You can be promising, but there just may not be job openings when your internship ends. It was the luck of the draw for me.” Now entering into her sixth season with the team, it seems she has a little more than luck in her favor.

Common sense and people skills are essential to her public relations position. She spends most of her time working with the media and things can become tricky when balancing the divergent needs and interests of key audiences.

Perhaps most on the minds of such audiences was the signing of Jameis Winston in May of 2015, the quarterback whose athletic prowess came packaged with a significant degree of controversy. When asked if she was worried about the negative attention he received in the media leading up to his selection by the Buccaneers, Schutz says, “With any player who has a backstory, we provide a clean slate and give the benefit of the doubt until they give a reason for us to think differently.”

Her favorite perk of the job is the opportunity to interact with the players.  “I wanted to be a teacher, and now I have a class of sixty-plus giant men who are like rowdy high school boys,” she explains, laughing. “Everyone has a personality, a family, a backstory, and it’s important to me professionally and personally to get to know them as people, rather than simply numbers on the roster.”

Schutz says that the most challenging part of her job is dealing with a 24-hour news cycle. “How people get their news has drastically changed over the past decade. Twitter and social media spread information instantaneously. A big part of the job is knowing what’s happening at all times, whether with our team or the league as a whole, and that means constantly monitoring news sources. There’s never an off moment, but you learn to weave that into your daily habits,” she adds.

For Furman students wondering how we can possibly follow in her impressive footsteps, Schutz advises to use connections, take advantage of the opportunities Furman offers, and to research and keep applying. “It can be so hard to fight for your dream opportunity when you receive rejection, especially for Furman students who are already overachievers. But there are so many jobs out there. Prior to my own search, I had never considered that football teams need interns in many different areas. You can find amazing opportunities in any industry that interests you. The most important thing is to keep fighting.”

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