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University of Mississippi

Posts Tagged ‘NFL’

Oxford native with storytelling legacy creates his own path with NFL Films

Posted on: April 24th, 2022 by ldrucker
An Oxford native with a family journalism legacy is gaining recognition for his sports storytelling skills with NFL Films. Merrick McCool works in the camera department for the television production company and he was inducted into UM's Hall of Fame.

An Oxford native with a family journalism legacy is gaining recognition for his sports storytelling skills with NFL Films.

Merrick McCool, a University of Mississippi senior, works for the National Football League’s film and television production company that produces commercials, television programs, feature films and documentaries. He is just one of the school’s 2022 graduates who shared his Journey to Commencement.

“I think a lot of my childhood memories would center around Ole Miss athletics,” said McCool, a UM School of Journalism and New Media integrated marketing communications student who was also inducted into the Hall of Fame this year. “That, for one, kind of set me right in a field of athletics, right now, working for the NFL.”

Merrick McCool holding a camera on football field. Photo by Ally Bryan.Merrick McCool holding a camera on football field. Photo by Ally Bryan.

Merrick McCool holding a camera on football field. Photo by Ally Bryan.

McCool had many hobbies growing up, including theater, music, photography and film. He was involved in film festivals from an early age, and his mother, Leighton McCool, bought his first camera.

“He is our most passionate child,” she said. “He’s so creative. He’s got a great eye, which is what he’s doing with his film work now. He’s also extremely musical. At the age of 2, he would sit in the back seat when we would drive over from Atlanta. We would have music playing, and he would be beating on his car seat to the beat of the drum.”

Merrick McCool may have been inspired to become a journalist and storyteller by his grandfather, Curtis Wilkie, a notable author, reporter, and former UM professor.

“Journalism has kind of always been a part of my upbringing,” McCool said.

Storytelling is something he’s been focused on since age 8.

“For Christmas that year, he asked for a film camera,” Leighton McCool said. “You know, basically like a director’s camera, like one of those huge, put over your shoulder, kind of cameras. So we bought him a huge one, real expensive at the time, but a nice director’s camera.”

Merrick McCool worked with Oxford High School’s broadcast journalism team as soon as he could, serving as the sports production director and producer.

“There’s a really good journalism program at Oxford High School,” McCool said, “so I was kind of introduced to that at a pretty young age.”

McCool was co-director of “The Season: Oxford High School.” It won three Southeast Emmy Student Production Awards and received three National Emmy Student Production Awards nominations, according to The Charger online. Two episodes of “The Season” were accepted into the All-American High School Film Festival in New York, screened at the AMC theater on Times Square.

McCool knew he wanted to attend Ole Miss.

“You’re learning a lot from stories and experiences,” he said, “and you’re gaining experience in the school. There’s so many opportunities to do that, so many creative people around you, that it’s just hard not to.”

Scott Wyant, a producer and director for Ole Miss Sports, has worked with McCool.

He said Merrick is someone who never settles.

“No matter the task, he’s always going to push the limit to do the best work possible,” Wyant said. “He’s always in search of the next storyline, no matter when he sees it or where it takes him. As a sophomore, he dropped everything on a Friday night, hopped in a car and drove to Tupelo within minutes of hearing about a team meeting with the potential of a big payoff.

“That’s Merrick though. If he sees a story, he’s going to go after it full speed and, frankly, he lives life that way, and that’s why he’s going to be successful in whatever he decides to do. He’s relentless every single day.”

McCool said attending UM led him to his current job in the NFL Films camera department.

“Basically, the idea behind NFL films, when it was created, was to bring Hollywood to football,” he said. “A lot of people don’t know what NFL Films is. There’s an assumption that it’s kind of just football, and there is a lot of football involved with it – obviously, a lot of shooting football games on the weekends. But aside from that, we produce, I wanna say, probably 25-30 TV shows and feature length documentaries, a lot of which are scripted and not 100 percent football-related.”

Through his work, McCool has been given amazing opportunities and experiences, such as working on popular TV shows and meeting celebrities. He even attended the Super Bowl this year in Los Angeles.

His advice to journalism students: Get work experience while you are in school. And you have to love what you do.

“You’ve got to be able to get out and try new things and experience a lot while you’re at Ole Miss, or wherever you’re at doing journalism,” he said. “There’s so many opportunities set forth before you, wherever you are, and so a lot of people just kind of sit back, and they’re like, you don’t think about working until your done with college, but you’ve got to go out and learn things while you’re there that aren’t what you’re learning in the classroom.”

This story was written by Ally Bryan.

From Mississippi to Wisconsin: A School of Journalism and New Media graduate’s journey to the Green Bay Packers

Posted on: September 15th, 2018 by ldrucker

Becoming a book editor had always been a dream for recent School of Journalism and New Media graduate Hannah Fields. However, fate worked its way into her life to lead her down a different career path.

Originally from Jonesboro, Arkansas, Fields moved to Clinton, Mississippi, where she obtained her bachelor’s degree in English writing at Mississippi College (MC) with hopes of landing a job among book editors in Nashville.

Before attending The University of Mississippi, Hannah Fields received her bachelor’s degree in English writing at Mississippi College in Clinton, Mississippi. Photo courtesy of Hannah Fields.

She searched for jobs in the publishing industry, but came up empty handed. She said she learned that lack of networking gave her a setback chasing her editorial dream. With her background in English writing, Fields was able to land a job as a sports columnist for—a professional and college sports website—which allowed her to sustain a living in her new city.

“I was covering the Tennessee Titans and some SEC football,” she said.

Before landing the job as a sports columnist, she said she never really had a passion for football until she was introduced to the sport while attending MC. Realizing the popularity of the sport within her friend group, Fields had to jump on board if she wanted to spend quality time with her friends.

“I didn’t know a lot about [football],” she said, “But when I started writing that sports column it reinforced this idea that I wanted to work in sports.”

While reading Paul Finebaum and Gene Wojciechowski’s book, “My Conference Can Beat Your Conference,” Fields started to regret not attending an SEC school with her newfound love for football. She said she wasn’t going to make a career out of her sports column, and becoming a homebody while writing allowed depression to creep in. She realized she needed to make another career change.

Fields said she gained the confidence to follow her new passion after becoming more sports-confident.

“I said ‘I know enough to write this sports column, so why don’t I know enough to work for an [NFL] team?’” she said.

Steps In the Right Direction

Leaving the Music City behind, Fields was on a search for not only a graduate program to further her newfound career, but one with a football program she could grow to love and support.

After looking at several SEC schools with programs in the journalism field and competitive football teams, it was only natural she chose The University of Mississippi since her sister attended Rebel Nation for her undergraduate degree.

“I knew Oxford and the campus,” she said. “Then Ole Miss also had integrated marketing communications (IMC), which turned out to be the perfect fit for what I wanted to do…plus it got me back to Mississippi.”

Hannah and her mother Karon Fields at Lambeau Field Atrium, the home of the Green Bay Packers. Photo courtesy of Hannah Fields.

Fields visited the School of Journalism and New Media to sit in on a variety of IMC classes, including mobile and social media marketing, which cemented her decision to attend Ole Miss.

Fields thoroughly immersed herself in the program by writing class papers on women in sports, said Chris Sparks, associate professor of IMC.

“She is a great example of someone who sets a goal and goes after it,” Sparks said. “She decided she wanted to be in sports marketing at the beginning of her first year in the graduate program at the Meek School of Journalism and New Media and committed to making it happen.”

Sparks said Fields is an excellent example of someone who not only followed her dream but made it happen.

Fields graduated from the IMC program in May 2018 with the goal of being a social media coordinator for an NFL team in sight. Upon graduation, Fields applied for a position with the NFL Green Bay Packers through—a website designated to connect people to sports jobs with professional sports teams.

Having experience through an internship with the WNBA Atlanta Dream, along with her background in writing, Fields expertly landed the job. She now had her foot in the door working her dream job in the NFL.

The Vince Lombardi Trophy is awarded each year to the Super Bowl winner. The trophy is named in honor of NFL coach Vince Lombardi, who led the Green Bay Packers to victories in the first two Super Bowl games. Photo courtesy of Hannah Fields.

Now as the e-commerce marketing intern for the Packers, Fields assists with promotional marketing for the Packers Pro Shop—the official retail store of the National Football League’s Green Bay Packers since 1989. She said she has mostly been writing copy for products, emails and social media.

“Hopefully this will be a launching pad from which I can do what I want to do, which is social media,” she said.

Reminiscing Over Her Roots

Although she’s on track in her dream field, Fields said there are many things she does miss about the South and Mississippi, such as the southern hospitality.

She said Southerners like herself are known for being extroverts, which seems to be lacking in her new Midwestern home.

Wisconsin might be known for its cheese and dairy, but according to Fields, midwesterners do not relish in starches, carbs and savory delights like their southern neighbors. She said the difference in food variety was something she expected when she made the move to the cheese state, but she didn’t realize it was something that would be so drastically different.

“Little stuff like food… you don’t realize is unique to where you live until you move out of [your state],” she said.

Fields might miss the warm temperatures, sweet tea and foods indicative to Mississippi, but she said she’s excited to embark on a new journey to achieve her goals as a social media coordinator in the NFL.

By Talbert Toole, Hotty Toddy lifestyles editor.

School of Journalism and New Media grad talks about his sports industry career providing On Location Experiences

Posted on: April 27th, 2018 by ldrucker

Baltimore native Herb May, a former University of Mississippi student, returned to the Meek School this week to talk about his job with On Location Experiences. May said the company is the official hospitality partner of the NFL, and he works as a manager in premium sales, selling NFL and sports experiences to diehard fans and corporate entities who host high level clients.

May, who attended a boarding school in Connecticut before becoming an Ole Miss student, said he came to UM because he was a football fan and wanted to have an NFL-related job. He worked for the Ole Miss Football Team as a recruiting and coach assistant his first year before becoming involved with Sigma Nu fraternity.

“I had a really great relationship with Scott Fiene,” he said, “and he was really helpful in guiding me where to look and what classes to take to get me through school. It was the best four and a half years of my life.”

Fiene is the assistant dean for curriculum and assessment and assistant professor of integrated marketing communications.

May said he learned there were many job opportunities in the world and decided to stop limiting himself. But after learning about a position with On Location Experiences through a connection with another Sigma Nu fraternity brother, he returned to his original career path seeking an NFL-related job. He said he was “perfectly persistent” when requesting a job interview with the company.

May said On Location Experiences owns a number of subsidiary companies, including businesses in the travel and entertainment industry. “It’s a full service, one-stop shop company that curates a premium experience around the NFL.” The corporate office is located in New York, but they are also establishing a presence in Atlanta.

May’s career advice? He encourages students to familiarize themselves with LinkedIn and use it as a tool to network with professionals. He said the after-college job search can be overwhelming. That’s why it’s important to start job seeking long before you graduate.

He tells students to pick five industries, five job roles, and five cities, and narrow down their search. He said don’t overlook small companies because they enable you to network with the heads of companies and other leaders within the company who may think of you when they move on to another job.

It’s also important to be humble. “Guys who have a certain degree and have done certain internships, but who are not willing to do the grunt work – get the coffees, get the mail, and do all that stuff – that’s where people lose jobs.”

May said he has prospective clients in Oxford, and as the company grows, they could be hiring in the future. He described his ideal employee.

“I need to have someone that I cannot only have a relationship with and be a mentor to, but that I can also be firm with when there is a mistake,” he said. “It should be someone who I could show why there is a mistake, how to improve it, and what I would have done differently. And I need someone on the other side of the table to be receptive to that.”