How working in the NFL prepared Stewart to be an AD
Stewart's time in the NFL has played a major impact in his success as an athletic director at WKU.
BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (WBKO) - Todd Stewart never planned on becoming an athletic director. However, Stewart eventually became the leader of WKU Athletics in 2012, and sports on the hill has experienced much success during his time as AD.
“I never had a goal of being an athletic director,” Stewart said. “I came here basically just to oversee the communications and media relations operations.”
Prior to arriving on the hill, Stewart spent 15 years in the NFL working in public relations for the Indianapolis Colts and Cleveland Browns. The NFL League Office also had Stewart work public/media relations for four AFC Championship games, two Super Bowls, and a Pro Bowl.
“In the NFL, you don’t recruit publicity, you manage it,” Stewart said. “Regardless of what franchise you’re with you get it all the time and you just learn to operate knowing that everything you do is going to get noticed.”
While working in the NFL, Stewart had the chance with some of the best to ever play the game such as Peyton Manning, Marshall, Faulk, and Eric Dickerson. Those players held themselves to a high standard which meant they held others around them, like Stewart, to that same high standard.
“You’re dealing with the elite in every area,” Stewart said. “You learn how to work very different people with very different personalities and very different egos.”
Stewart said one of the biggest areas he learned in the NFL that he’s put to use as an athletic director is taking in the needs and consideration of a wide variety when making decisions.
“Players is certainly one group you have to deal with then you have coaches and an owner, and then you have your media,” Stewart said.” “That’s what you really have to do as a college athletic director. Taking everyone’s needs into consideration when we make decisions is a vital part of this job which I learned from doing that every day in the NFL.”
Stewart came to the hill in 2008 as WKU’s Associate Athletic Director for Communications and Media Relations and served in that role until 2010 when he was promoted to Senior Associate Athletic Director.
“That was literally the first time I thought about being an athletic director,” Stewart said. As the number two person, I knew Ross (Bjork) was ambitious and I thought if there’s a day when he leaves here then I might be the guy.”
Ross Bjork left to take the athletic director job at Ole Miss on March 22, 2012, Stewart stepped in as interim AD and later WKU’s Director of Athletics on May 9.
Since joining Conference USA in 2014, WKU leads the league in conference championships with those titles spanning across seven programs.
“We have outstanding head coaches and they have really good staffs and they recruit very dedicated athletes,” Stewart said. “The success that people have had has created a very good and positive culture.”
Stewart credits his time in the NFL to his success as a college athletic director.
“I really don’t think there’s any way I would be able to do this job if I didn’t have those 15 years,” Stewart said. “I mean those prepared me so well for this. I’ve been blessed to work in athletics administration for 32 years. In the eight-plus years now I’ve been the athletic director here, this is the best job I’ve ever had.”
It might not have been a job he panned for but it has worked out well for Stewart and WKU Athletics.
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