February 26, 2014
Ryan Klinkner watched exactly zero football games his first year in fall 2000 at Saint John's University.
"Every home game, I worked at the Ref," Klinkner recalled of his first student job at SJU working at the cafeteria.
These days, you can't go to a Johnnie athletic event without seeing Klinkner in the press box. The New Ulm, Minn., native is the Johnnies' athletic media relations director, and oversees a crew of both students and other professionals who keep track of statistics, promote SJU athletics, and produce videos and stories throughout the season for each of SJU's 12 varsity sports.
His dedication to his job and SJU athletics has earned him the 2014 College Division (small college) Rising Star Award from the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA). The Rising Star Award is presented annually to a university division and college division member with 10 years of full-time service or less in the profession for service, dedication, energy and enthusiasm that makes the individual a "rising star" in sports information.
The award, which was announced Wednesday, Feb. 26, will be presented to Klinkner during the annual CoSIDA Conference in June in Orlando, Fla.
"This is a well-deserved honor for Ryan," said Michael Hemmesch, interim co-director of the Communication and Marketing Services Department at CSB and SJU who previously served as the Johnnies' athletic media relations director. "He is regarded by media, alumni and friends of SJU and peers from other institutions as one of the very best in his profession."
It didn't start that way. In fact, Klinkner spent more time in an apron at the Ref that first year at SJU. But that all changed his sophomore year.
Klinkner applied to work under Hemmesch in the spring of 2001, and was hired that fall. He spent his first day on the job mailing SJU's football media guide to NFL teams.
"I learned pretty quickly that I could be part of something bigger," Klinkner said. "This was a Division III football team, and we had scouts visiting (the campus). I was hooked from the start."
During his time as a student, the Johnnies' captured the 2003 national Division III championship in football, just weeks after John Gagliardi won his record-breaking 409th career game as a coach.
Klinkner graduated from SJU in 2004 with a major in psychology. He had several interviews in both the sports and psychology areas, but decided instead to attend graduate school in the field of sports management at St. Cloud State University.
It was at SCSU that Klinkner worked for Tom Nelson, a former athletic media relations director at SJU who is the assistant director of athletic media relations at St. Cloud State. Nelson nominated Klinkner for the Rising Star Award.
"I had the good fortune of working with Ryan while he was a graduate assistant in our office a few years ago," Nelson said. "Since that time, I have been able to watch Ryan grow as a college sports information professional with his work at Saint John's.
"At Saint John's, Ryan has really established himself as one of the younger leaders in our profession, thanks to the integrity of his work and loyalty to his institution. I have also been impressed with his work within the CoSIDA organization and, in particular, his work with the community service projects at the annual CoSIDA workshops," Nelson said.
"It's interesting my path has come full circle. Tom (Nelson) mentored Michael (Hemmesch), Michael mentored me and then I ended up working for Tom," Klinkner said.
Klinkner returned to SJU in December 2005, and was promoted to full-time status on July 1, 2006. His job has changed radically since, with the advent of social media, more use of videos and a greater website presence.
"Social media continues to grow," Klinkner said. "That demand continues to pull and pull. But, I'd probably say the website (gojohnnies.com) - content, archives, history, photos, statistics - is the most important part of my job. It's a great way for alumni to stay connected, and it's also a great portal for both current and potential student-athletes.
"It's a very, very complex field. It's one that few understand or comprehend completely what all goes into it," Klinkner added.
"I personally know the endless hours, especially during evenings and weekends, that Ryan spends to be successful in his position," Hemmesch said. "He is a true professional in every sense of the word."