Stepping stone for students
Aaron Degerness used to take care of the Kansas City Chiefs' dirty laundry at the team's summer training camp in River Falls.
Today, he's helping Brett Favre make a smooth transition into his new role as the starting quarterback of the New York Jets.
Degerness, a former UW-RF student and Falcon hockey player from 2002-05, worked two summers as an equipment intern at Chiefs' training camp in 2005 and 2006. That led to a job as a seasonal equipment intern with the Jets at the start of the 2006 regular season. This past February, he was promoted to Manager of Operations for the team.
Degerness' primary role with the Jets is to arrange all aspects of travel for the team. But he said his title also means he must be a jack-of-all-trades.
"I really enjoy my new job because you never know what you are going to be doing that day when you walk through the door," he said. "It could be anything from getting a player some tickets to a Yankee game or giving Brett Favre a ride to the dorms."
Degerness is one of a number of former UW-RF students who have used their experience working at the Chiefs' summer training camp as a stepping stone to a career. Recent UW-RF graduate Kenny Yoo is hoping the same thing will happen to him.
"I feel that my experience working this camp has helped me," said Yoo, the photo editor at the UW-RF Student Voice the last four semesters. "I have met a variety of journalists and professional photographers from the Kansas City area, AP photographers, and a photographer from the TOPPS sports card company."
Yoo graduated in May with a degree in journalism and a minor in art with an emphasis in photography. He said he's thoroughly enjoying his experience at camp.
"The variety of fans that have come up from the Kansas City area to support the Chiefs are great," he said. "The fans that I've met are interesting and fun to chat with."
Yoo attends every practice, taking photos of players, fans and coaches to be posted on the UW-RF Chiefs' summer training camp Web site and used for other promotional purposes. He said his previous freelance and interning experience at the Milwaukee Journal prepared him well for the challenge.
"I felt that I did prepare myself mentally from all the job shadow, freelancing and experience I gained from working with the Student Voice," he said. "I soaked in everything I heard and learned from all my mistakes. So I feel like I did come into camp expecting everything that came towards me."
Degerness took the first steps towards his new career by setting up the locker room, doing laundry, hauling equipment and helping the position coaches as an equipment intern under Chiefs' equipment manager Mike Davidson during the team's summer training camp in 2005. At the end of the 2006 camp, the Jets called Davidson looking for someone to work as an equipment intern for the 2006 regular season. Davidson recommended Degerness and the former Falcon was off to New Jersey.
Degerness soon found out that three of the Jets' four equipment managers had previously worked for Davidson at Chiefs' camp in River Falls, including another UW-RF graduate, Cortez Robinson, who is now the assistant equipment manager for the team.
After two seasons as an equipment manager, Degerness was promoted to Manager of Operations in February.
"I take care of all aspects of travel for the team," he said. "Buses, hotels, airplanes and meals for all games. I travel ahead of the team for away games. If we play on Sunday the team flies out Saturday but I will fly out Thursday and go to the hotel and make sure everything is set up for the team's arrival. I meet the team charter at the airport with the buses and coordinate the staging of the buses and the unloading of the plane."
Yoo said his experience as photo editor with the UW-RF Student Voice came in handy when he applied for the job as a photo intern at this year's summer camp.
"I heard through a friend of mine that the public affairs office didn't have a photographer intern yet, so I went down to see Jens Gunelson (UW-RF Photo Services) and he told me I have it. Right on the spot he gave it to me without seeing a portfolio. I'm sure it was mainly because he had seen my stuff in the Student Voice the past four semesters."
Yoo isn't the first Public Affairs intern to try and use the experience to move on to bigger and better things. Former interns Joel Badzinski, Jason Egerstrom and Troy Mallat all used their time as summer camp interns as a springboard to their careers. Badzinski and Egerstrom both moved on to year-long internships with the Chiefs' Public Relations Department following their time at UW-RF while Mallat went on to become the Sports Information Director at Hamline University.
Badzinski is currently a sportswriter at the La Crosse Tribune while Egerstrom works for the city of Woodbury, Minn., in its communications division and Mallat is a Web communications specialist for Dakota County (Minn.)
Yoo said he believes working alongside professional photographers and journalists at Chiefs' summer camp is a great way to prepare him for a career.
"I've been told it's all about connections in the industry," he said. "And as well as making connections, it will look good on a resume and in my portfolio that I worked the camp."
Just ask Degerness.