Behind-the-scenes of the NFL: OHIO alumnus leads award-winning Detroit Lions PR team
As a student, Eamonn Reynolds, BSJ ’12, MSA ’18, gained firsthand experience at Ohio University working as a student communications assistant for OHIO Athletics. Now, he leads the award-winning Detroit Lions public relations department.
The Detroit Lions public relations staff was selected as the 2023 Pete Rozelle Award winner by the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA) this summer. This is the first time the Detroit Lions franchise has been awarded the honor.
Reynolds, director of football communications, leads a team of four along with two seasonal interns. They serve as the primary point of contact for media information, player and coach interviews, and access to the professional football team.
“It means a lot to us to be recognized by the Pro Football Writers of America,” Reynolds said. “My department is very young, and we’ve had to try and find our way a little bit on our own. We’ve had some great support from our executive leadership team on being empowered to do our jobs and tell stories and develop relationships with the media.”
According to the PFWA, the Pete Rozelle Award is given to the “NFL club public relations staff that consistently strives for excellence in its dealings and relationships with the media.” The award is named for Rozelle, who served as NFL commissioner from 1960-1989.
The award is voted on by media at the conclusion of each season. During the 2022 season, Reynolds noted that a huge task his team took on was the Detroit Lions being featured on the NFL Films and HBO show “Hard Knocks” during training camp.
“That was a very big lift for my department. NFL Films brings about 40 people, and they’re here at the facility every day,” Reynolds said. “Our department was responsible for getting them everything they needed, whether it was logistics, interviews, content support. It was a huge lift, and I made it a priority.”
“My number one goal last year was to make that a positive and problem-free experience for our head coach and leadership, and I think we did that. It resulted in a really positive experience for our players and coaches,” he continued. “It also gave our fans and our city a really invigorating look at the Detroit Lions under Dan Campbell, Brad Holmes and our owner Sheila Ford Hamp.”
Reynolds has worked with the Detroit Lions for 11 years, with this year being his sixth as director of football communications. In his role, he works closely with head coach Dan Campbell and general manager Brad Holmes. He also works with his team to manage media obligations for the coaching staff and key players.
“The four of us that are full time are entering our third full year together as a department. I’ve been really proud of how we’ve been able to carve out role definitions as the team develops,” he said. “I feel like our department is in more of a position to support everything from on-field success to growing initiatives in the community.”
The Detroit Lions will kick off the 2023-24 NFL season in primetime against the defending Super Bowl Champion Kansas City Chiefs on Thursday, Sept. 7. Reynolds is looking forward to the opportunity for the national audience to further learn about the team and its young players.
In addition, Reynolds has an annual season favorite: the Thanksgiving game.
“I always look forward to Thanksgiving. We play the Green Bay Packers this year,” he said. “Thanksgiving is a major holiday in Detroit – the Lions have played on it for decades. It’s very special. It is a privilege to work in these kinds of jobs, and I don’t take for granted some of the special opportunities it’s granted me.”
From Toledo to Athens
In his Bobcat green and Lions blue story, Reynolds credits his successful career to the many teachers, professors and bosses he had while growing up in Toledo and learning in Athens.
“I’m very big on looking back at those who helped me get to certain places and who exposed me to new ways of thinking or ideas,” he said.
Growing up in Toledo, Reynolds lived in the suburb of Sylvania and attended Sylvania Northview High School. Two of his teachers, Tami Blue in interactive media and Sarah Huey in journalism, pushed him to consider attending OHIO.
“I remember going to Athens and there was just no question after that visit and seeing the campus,” Reynolds recalled. “The campus itself had this appeal and I will never forget seeing it for the first time.”
After enrolling in the Scripps College of Communication and the journalism program through the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism, Reynolds was curious about the field of public relations and sport management. He thanks his former professors in those fields, Dan Farkas and Michael Pfahl respectively, for helping him find his career pathway.
Late into his sophomore year, Reynolds found his way to OHIO Athletics and what was then the Sports Information Department as a student assistant. It was the beginning of the lightbulb moment for his future career.
I know it was 100 percent the catalyst that got me in a position to pursue my career that’s now transpired in the NFL.” — Eamonn Reynolds
He started working volleyball, field hockey, football, basketball and baseball games, doing statistics work, designing media guides, writing player bios, filming interviews and so on.
“I had no idea these were jobs, let alone at the college level or even professionally,” Reynolds said. “It was this perfect hands-on experience that to this day I am very grateful for. I know it was 100 percent the catalyst that got me in a position to pursue my career that’s now transpired in the NFL.”
He gives thanks to the former sports information directors Jason Corriher, Drew Wiseman and Tom Symonds for giving him the opportunity to learn and gain firsthand communication experience in the sports field.
Due to department changes during his junior year, Reynolds was asked to serve as the women’s swimming and diving primary media contact.
Before this, he did not even know how scoring points worked for the sport. On top of that, the women’s swimming and diving team hosted the Mid-American Conference (MAC) Swimming and Diving Championships for the 2010-11 season.
“I’m there for three straight days doing the best I can, and OHIO ends up winning it all – they won the Swimming and Diving MAC Championship. That was so neat to be around,” Reynolds recalled. “As I was writing the recaps, I got a call from Jason (Corriher) who was on the road with another team and he told me I did a really good job. That was a light bulb moment for me – that this work was a pretty fulfilling job.”
After graduating in 2012 with immense experiential learning opportunities, Reynolds secured an internship with the Detroit Lions. He’s been a part of the organization ever since.
His educational journey with OHIO wasn’t finished, however. Reynolds returned back, virtually, to obtain his professional master’s in sport administration (now online master’s in sport administration) through the College of Business, completing it in 2018.
‘Find your own path’
While Reynolds credits his success to former teachers, professors and bosses, he acknowledges that sometimes starting out in college can be stressful.
“I remember the Involvement Fair on College Green and having no idea where to start,” Reynolds recalled. He did not find the athletics department his first year – instead, he tried his hand at writing sports articles for several OHIO publications before he found the right spot for him.
“I got caught up in this competitive nature because everyone seemed to be ahead of me,” he said when asked to give advice for current students. “But you have to find your own path. Try things out, and if they don’t work, try something different and don’t be too hard on yourself. If you get involved in things and it doesn’t work out, what’s the worst thing that is going to happen, right? College is for the experimentation – just go in with an open mind.”
Reynolds says the first step can sometimes be simply taking a walk around Athens.
“The way Athens is set up, the relationship between the city and the student body, is unparalleled. I had so many friends who worked on projects for groups in the community. I was always inspired by it, and it makes you want to get invested in something bigger than yourself,” he said. “Athens is just an atmosphere that harbors and really cultivates unique interests and people.”