Looking back on his four years at St. Ambrose, Jared Sutton '21 recognized his growth and the influence so many Ambrosians had on his goals, professional preparation, and most of all, his ability to face the future with confidence.
A lot of confidence.
"Overall, the challenges I experienced at SAU taught me I can always overcome, which was pretty influential and is why I am like, yes, I can make it to the NFL," he said. "I want to be in football operations in the NFL, and eventually be a general manager. I want to run an NFL team."
Jared graduated on May 15 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sport Management but couldn't attend the ceremony. Instead, he was running game-day operations for the Bismarck Bucks, a member of the Indoor Football League (IFL) based in North Dakota. He is interning as the team's full-time operations manager.
He moved to North Dakota in January, which meant missing his final season of play with the Fighting Bees Varsity Football team. However, he is thankful for the opportunity to work side-by-side with the Bucks assistant general manager, and his mentor, Destiny Brown. "It was difficult to leave SAU, but I think it worked out for the best. Being able to work full-time before graduation is really big," he said.
And the experience he is gaining is big, too. Jared is hands-on in planning and staffing events, half-time programming, and making sure everything runs smoothly. He also helped coordinate and run a week-long, off-site training camp, the first one ever held by the team. And on June 5, he will be supervising a nationally televised event.
This is his third internship; one he'll complete when the season ends in August. His first was a 50-hour internship with the Quad City Steamwheelers, another indoor football franchise he assisted with game-day operations. He also completed a summer internship in 2019 with the Special Olympics of Illinois, serving in an operations and logistics role coordinating equipment and volunteers.
"The sports management program does prepare us for that next step by placing that emphasis on experiential learning. I feel I have the hands-on experience to succeed in whatever I do. And the course load here is not easy. Learning to handle a challenging course load along with being a varsity athlete and completing internships really teaches you how to balance plates. Had I gone anywhere else I wouldn't have gotten the experience I got here. It is immeasurable how important that is," he said.
"It taught me that I can always rise to a challenge, that no mountain is too high for me. I can always get the job done, whether it is a 15-page paper or having to create an entire game script the day before. I can do it because I have done similar things in class. It also taught me that if I have to fall back on my support systems there is no shame in that. My professors, classmates, the entire SAU community is here to help," he said.
"Overall, the challenges I experienced at SAU taught me I can always overcome, which was pretty influential and is why I am like, yes, I can make it to the NFL."
When Jared enrolled at St. Ambrose, he planned to become a football coach. Then, at the end of his first year, a former Sport Management professor told Jared he had the potential to do so much more in the industry than coach.
It was a frank conversation that sparked Jared to re-evaluate his goals. He shifted his focus from coaching to sport management and administration and invested himself, fully.
In every aspect of his education and experience, he was challenged, encouraged and supported. Assistant Chair and Associate Professor of Kinesiology Sarah Eikleberry, PhD, was more than his academic adviser. "It was great to have someone on campus I could talk to, work things out with. All of the professors understand that life happens sometimes, and I really fell in love with all of the faculty, staff, even the people working in the Beehive, Rogalski Center, Sodexo and the Wellness and Recreation Center," he said.
Jared loved every second of playing football and his teammates became so much more. "We always worked hard together, grinding together, and we were a family, a brotherhood," he said. "All of my coaches were also mentors. Having role models like coach Brody Pogue and coach Mike Magistrelli, it is hard to put into words the impact they had on my life. As leaders, they were people I could look at and see how to stand in the world, and the impact of that was immeasurable," he said.
"St. Ambrose is an amazing community to live and learn and grow as a person," Jared said.
While learning about Title IX, a federal law that prohibits sex-based discrimination in any school, Jared said he realized how far the sports industry has come and yet, how far it has to go. "There are so many mountains to climb and conquer in terms of gender equity across the board. My goal as a professional is to not turn anyone away. I want to be a safe space, someone to come to, someone to forge a path and create a more welcoming and reachable environment in the sports industry for men, women, everyone in between.
"It is a huge goal of mine and one question will always be in my mind: how can I improve? Whether it is pay gaps or the hiring process, I will always be putting in a concentrated effort at making the sports industry more equitable for women and people of all genders," he said.
Jared will finish out the regular season with the Bucks, and then, "my goal is to get into graduate school, but I am also thinking that this summer I will do a full-court press to get into the NFL, to really explore those avenues to get in early and do whatever I can to scale mountains," he said. "I am not ruling out any possibility."
Jared said he came to St. Ambrose as an 18-year-old-kid. "You think you know the world, but you don't know anything. I was able to grow into this, hopefully soon, successful young man with the help of coaches, professors, and mentors, all of whom have been so influential. The real-world experiences and room you find for growth at St. Ambrose are hard to quantify, and having that room was awesome. I am most proud of being the person I am today, and it is because of my experience at St. Ambrose," he said.
Now it is time for Jared to look forward, and he does, with so much confidence.
"Sports is the biggest part of my life. I've been an athlete since I could walk. I wanted to try my best to make a career out of it, and I found the platform to do that at St. Ambrose. I am very excited to see what doors open for me because of my experience at Ambrose," he said.
"It taught me that I can always rise to a challenge, that no mountain is too high for me."
Jared Sutton '21