According to Bob Wallace ’78, one of the best things about the football industry is that you don’t have to wear ties too often. But the executive vice president of the St. Louis Rams said being invited to speak at a Wednesday Master’s Dessert in his former residential college, Saybrook, was a tie-worthy occasion.
Wallace spoke to more than 40 students about topics including how to pursue a sports career and the importance of communication between the business and football sides of a team.
Wallace admitted that he did not make it to any Master’s Teas in his four years at Yale, where he lettered as a running back but was not a starter.
“At the point when you don’t get to see much playing time in the Ivy League, you realize you are probably not going to play in the NFL,” he said. “But it didn’t discourage me from wanting to get involved in pro football altogether.”
Saybrook Master Mary Miller said she scheduled the talk at night so athletes would not be excluded from attending the event because of conflicts with practice.
“Athletes often tell me how sorry they are that they are not able to make 4 p.m. events, and I thought Wallace was a man they would not want to miss,” Miller said.
While he was a student at Yale and later at Georgetown Law School, Wallace spent his summers interning for the NFL. Later, he landed a full-time job as a lawyer for the St. Louis Cardinals. When the Los Angeles Rams moved to St. Louis, the team hired Wallace to be the executive vice president of the general council, overseeing the day-to-day business operations of the Rams. This year marks his 23rd season in the NFL and his ninth season with the Rams.
“I don’t call the plays, that’s for the coaches and managers,” Wallace said. “My main job is to help raise revenues for the team, and my primary goal is to give everyone else the tools to do their job so that they can be successful without any distractions.”
Wallace said the hardest thing about his job is the natural division between the business and football aspects of the team. Having been on both sides, he said he thinks keeping up communication and respecting the contributions of both sides is of utmost importance.
“The marketing people think that what they do is most important and the team just happens to play football, while the football people don’t understand why there are all these other guys around,” he said. “What I tell them is that those people bring in the money so that you are allowed to make mistakes in the draft every once in while.”
In sports as well as other business situations, Wallace said there is a much better chance of being successful if everyone is involved in the decision-making process rather than just showing up to work and being told what to do.
“It gets lonely at the top and it can be tough making decisions, and that’s why you shouldn’t do it alone,” Wallace said.
Wallace advised students interested in pursuing a sports career to get as much experience as possible. He warned that professional sports are hard to break into because there are only about 100 organizations — all with very small staffs — in America, and they have a low rate of turnovers.
“Don’t just say, ‘I’m a football fan, can you hire me?'” Wallace said. “What everyone wants is to get people with experience, and what you want is to get lucky like I did.”
Eric Feinstein ’07, a sports announcer for WYBC, was one of 12 Saybrook students who joined Wallace for dinner at Mory’s before the dessert. He said he enjoyed the entire night, especially when Wallace passed around his 1999 Super Bowl ring.
“Wallace’s insight on how to get involved in the business was really helpful,” Feinstein said. “And the ring was huge.”
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