Alumni Spotlight: Jon Ekstrom '06
Football fans relish hearing from players on game day. Sideline chats are a way of life. But before a coach or player on the Minnesota Vikings football team steps in front of the mic on game day, he meets with Jon Ekstrom (’06). Behind the scenes, most of us don’t know what takes place. But Ekstrom, director of communications for the NFL franchise, is instrumental in making these interviews happen.
A typical game day for Jon and his team of six starts at least four hours prior to kickoff setting up seating charts, organizing the press box, meeting with the head coach, confirming inactive players, talking with NFL officials, the head referee and staff and meeting with the visiting team.
“Once the game starts, I’m on the sideline helping reporters, giving injury updates, and sharing other important info,” says Ekstrom. “At halftime, I get the head coach with the sideline reporter for a quick interview and provide stats to the coach.”
After the game, Ekstrom coordinates getting the star player out for a few field interviews. Then, before the media is allowed in, he meets with the team in the locker room.
“I tell the players the key things they might be asked about,” he says. “They’ve been on the field, so they often don’t know what the media or the public is saying about the game, so I give them a heads up. I don’t tell them what to say, but I help put these guys in the right position to be comfortable and keep them from being caught off guard.”
Jon rarely does interviews himself, preferring to stay behind the scenes. You might see him on camera walking about, but his goal is to connect the media with players and coaches.
“Essentially, my job is to serve as the spokesman for the organization and showcase the team and the organization in a positive light,” Ekstrom says.
One step forward, one step back
Long before stepping into a director role, Jon began as a communications major at MNU.
“I loved my classes with Dr. Mark Hamilton, Mike O’Brien, and Michael Scrivani,” he says.
Ekstrom was a sports reporter for MNU’s student newspaper and worked for the campus radio station. He also played baseball at the university for two years.
“I built my resume while in college, something attending a smaller school afforded me,” Jon says. “Sports and sports broadcasting are so competitive, you have to find a way to separate yourself. Getting as many experiences as possible while still in school helped.”
As a senior at MNU, Jon took an internship at 610 sports radio, a Kansas City station, starting a string of internships that built his resume. After graduation, he interned at Entercom covering the Boston Red Sox for a summer. Then he returned to Kansas City, taking on an internship with the Kansas City Brigade, a short-lived arena football team. When his boss was let go, Jon landed a full-time job—until the league shut down.
“At that point, I moved home, worked at Goodcents, and started applying for more internships,” he says. This led to an internship with the Vikings in 2009—and the rest is history. He worked his way up from intern to PR assistant, to manager, and now director.
“Had the KC Brigade arena league not shut down, I wouldn’t have taken the step backward that eventually led me here,” says Jon. “God turned a surprising situation that I had zero control over into a positive next step.”
Small school, big experiences
Attending and getting involved at a small university paved the way for Jon’s success.
“Had I gone to a larger school, I wouldn’t have had the same experiences,” he says. “I got legitimate experience while still in school. Add an internship or two, and you already have a lot of good things on your resume. These experiences got my foot in the door and gave me a chance to earn companies’ respect. My unique experiences at MNU aided my slow climb.”
This leads to Jon’s best advice to students, no matter their field of study: Get involved, seek experiences that will help you in the future, and start building your resume now.
“Try to get as many different experiences as you can, as early as you can,” he says. “Volunteer at events, make connections in your industry and build relationships with those around you. You never know how those people or groups will help you down the road or how you will be able to help them.”
Today, students at MNU can major in digital communications, an area of study that applies to every industry. Learn more about this area of study at mnu.edu/undergraduate-as/digital-communication.
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