The National Football League plays games in the fall and early winter, but the organization annually plans events throughout the year. This summer, a pair of Cheshire High School graduates left their hometown to contribute to league programs.
Shannon Lindsey, a 2019 graduate, is interning in the Production Management Department of NFL Media Headquarters in Los Angeles, California. The facility is located next to SoFi Stadium.
“It has been my goal to be part of the summer internship program for a long time,” stated Lindsey, who is entering her senior year at the University of Tampa this year. “It is awesome to get to be around the biggest names in sports. It gives me the opportunity to learn.”
In June of this year, 2020 CHS grad Toni Wetmore also participated in a program called GALvanize in which women get together to promote confidence in themselves and others. Sports broadcasters, reporters, directors, agents, writers and more have taken part in the camps led by Laura Okmin.
For the NFL, GALvanize holds a summer development program for incoming rookies.
“We show what it is like for athletes to work with women in the locker room,” Wetmore said.
With this program, Wetmore was interested in getting more sports media experience. As an underclassman at Oklahoma State University, she worked closely with former sideline reporter and producer Jessica Morrey in the in-house production group called Orange Power Studios.
“I’ve gained more knowledge of college athletics and how it is run on the inside,” reflected Wetmore. “This summer, it was good to get a chance at a professional level.”
On the suggestion of Morrey, Wetmore reached out to Okmin about getting involved with GALvanize. To apply, she had to write about her life experiences and explain how she can tell people’s stories.
In early May, Wetmore was excited to hear that she could attend NFL rookie camps for the Atlanta Falcons and the Dallas Cowboys.
“Usually, you only go to one camp a year, but she allowed me to do two,” recalled Wetmore. “It was incredible (to be invited) because I wasn’t sure how good my chances were. It was good to see a little bit of my hard work pay off.”
She first headed to Atlanta for a four-day camp in early June. To start off, Okmin had the participants talk about how to build connections with interview subjects.
“We worked as story tellers to show a side of us and then we could tell other people’s stories,” explained Wetmore.
Next, the interviewers applied what they had learned by speaking with a NFL rookie.
“We wanted to learn, what is your ‘Who’? It was about finding out who you are off the field and what should the fans and coaches know about you,” explained Wetmore.
In the Atlanta conference room, rookies were brought in for the program. The conversations lasted about 30 minutes.
“The player’s reactions were funny,” recalled Wetmore. “They thought it was just a (team) meeting for them.”
Wetmore was paired up with rookie Tyshaun James, who also grew up in Connecticut. He played football at Middletown High School and then competed at Central Connecticut State University.
“His travel team played Cheshire and my travel (basketball) team competed against Middletown, so we had something in common,” explained Wetmore.
She talked to James about where they grew up and how they adjusted to new surroundings.
“Both of our families have been affected by cancer. We talked about that,” recalled Wetmore. “He is going to be a father soon, so he talked about fatherhood.”
Afterwards, Wetmore discussed her experience on camera.
“In the past, the interviews were filmed on camera, but they found that the rookies were hesitant to talk that way,” stated Wetmore.
For her second trip to Texas in late June, she visited The Star in Frisco, the Dallas Cowboys World Headquarters and practice facility.
This time, Wetmore was partnered with former OSU player Devin Harper. While they attended the same college, Harper was hesitant to talk about his personal life at the start of the interview.
“He said that he knew me, but added that, ‘I’m not going to tell you my ‘Who,’” reflected Wetmore.
She stayed composed and was able to get Harper to open up by the end of the conversation.
“I had to work harder to get something out of him. It was super-rewarding,” said Wetmore.
Since she prefers to plan out her interviews, Wetmore felt that the program was a good way to get outside her comfort zone.
“To go in blind was exhilarating for me because I hadn’t done that much before,” explained Wetmore.
While Wetmore traveled to a pair of team facilities, Lindsey has volunteered at just one NFL location this summer in California. In working at the NFL Media Headquarters, she has enjoyed getting to see how the league operates off the field.
“It has been such a rewarding experience,” said Lindsey. “I’ve been able to participate in different projects.”
Her application process consisted of three rounds of interviews. Lindsey was among 48 interns selected, with about 14 working in LA.
“I got lucky,” recalled Lindsey. “I applied for so many internships during the fall of last year.”
After learning of her acceptance in March, she left Cheshire in June and started working on the West Coast for the first time.
“It is very different,” reflected Lindsey. “I’ve lived on the East Coast, but this has been a cool experience living on the opposite side of the country.”
She has attended meetings and helped out with various activities.
“I’ve gotten to see what they do on (the show) ‘Total Access’ and how they produce NFL events,” stated Lindsey. “Everyone is willing to work and speak with you. It is good to see what people do on a daily basis.”
Lindsey has also had the chance to volunteer at events in the community.
“At the NFL, we have a big platform,” said Lindsey. “We have an opportunity to make an impact outside of the field.”
Lindsey is honored that her internship program has the highest number of women leaders.
“I want to be a pioneer for other women in the sports industry,” said Lindsey. “It is great that I have this opportunity with the NFL.”
This summer isn’t her first time working with the league. Back in 2020, she was accepted into the Fan Service Administration and the NFL Experience programs leading up to Super Bowl LV at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida.
As a way finder at the Super Bowl, she also helped direct people to their seats and watched the Tampa Bay Buccaneers win 31-9 over the Kansas City Chiefs.
Lindsey felt that she learned a lot from those activities.
“As a rising (college) senior, it has been great to network and connect with people and see what they are doing,” stated Lindsey.
After ending her internship on Aug. 12, Lindsey will have some time to relax before starting class at the University of Tampa.
“It will be weird graduating next year, but going to Tampa has been a great experience,” said Lindsey, who is majoring in Public Relations and Advertising. “I absolutely love Florida.”
Along with her class load this fall, Lindsey hopes to continue her NFL experience with the Buccaneers. As a production runner in the past, she has been able to help out NBC, CBS, FOX, and ESPN networks in studio and on site.
“I love the passion of being an intern,” explained Lindsey. “I like being a sponge for information.”
At OSU, Wetmore is looking forward to starting her junior year.
“I’m coming back with more confidence and belief in my abilities,” explained Wetmore.
She has enjoyed working with Morrey, but with her friend leaving to become the director of football recruiting at Rice University in Texas, Wetmore is waiting to find out what her athletics role will be this fall.
“I’m definitely going to miss her. Working with Jessica was a dream come true,” stated Wetmore. “She is still a friend and a great mentor.”
Wetmore believes that being on camera is her passion, but she also likes the reporting aspect.
“Eventually, I want to be an analyst behind a desk and get to be on a show like ‘Get Up’ (on ESPN),” said Wetmore. “It is not easy to get picked as an analyst, but I hope that my experience will help me get there.”