A love of sports has been the constant for Alpena’s Barrett Jones. Figuring out how
to apply that emotion and commitment to his learning kicked off a journey with the
Ferris State University senior who will graduate from the College of Arts, Sciences
and Education during commencement on Saturday, Dec. 18. That day, he will officially earn his Bachelor of Science in
Sports Communication with a minor in Multimedia Journalism.
Along the road, Jones played football at Alma College, then completed an Associate of Applied Science degree in Liberal Arts at Alpena Community College.
“I knew I wanted to work in sports, but I didn’t know exactly what it would look like,” Jones said. “My friend from Alpena, Trevor Roznowski, threw the shot and discus on Ferris’ track and field team. He and another friend had a space available in an apartment at Ferris, so I decided to join them and continue my education in Big Rapids. It turned out to be a great choice with lots of opportunities to explore sports-related careers.”
With Ferris as his focus, Jones attended a ‘Dawg Days’ presentation and campus tour where he met Sports Communication Program Coordinator Sandy Alspach.
“She was full of encouragement and information about how I could build my experiences, both in and out of the classroom,” Jones said. “That meeting painted a great picture for my mom and me about the program, including how I could structure my specific interests through my minor. I began this part of my journey by joining Bulldog Radio, where I produced interviews with Ferris athletes, which grew into working for Ferris State Athletics. That was the start of a great experience, seeing some of the first athletes I spoke with improve as competitors while their teams became more prominent. It was a mix of good and bad as I got to see some spectacular moments, but ultimately seeing athletic careers end was sad.”
Jones soon discovered the student worker roles that support the presentation of Ferris athletic events, both in terms of actual competition and promotion of the programs and brand.
“Rob Bentley, the associate athletic director for communications, gave me a chance which has presented so many opportunities over the last three years,” Jones said. “I would run through a brick wall for him because he allowed me to serve and learn in so many capacities. I am especially thankful for the learning that came from studying the skills of my co-workers in Athletics over the years. Connor Pyrc’s contributions as a student worker in the department were a great example. Just before the pandemic, I decided to follow his lead in gathering and producing video. (Pyrc is now an associate director of creative video for the West Virginia University football program creating social media and televised content.) We weren’t that close, but his content showed me what was possible by following that course for my career.”
Jones said the emphasis on promoting all areas of the Ferris Athletics department is a joy and benefit to his personal and professional development.
“With so many different sports and opportunities, I am always finding myself around our teams and their competitions,” Jones said. “I can’t beat being able to produce content at a basketball game, then pack up and keep shooting video at a hockey game that same day.”
To meet the Sports Communication program internship requirements, Jones had to take up a significant search and make his first bold passage. That search took him to the high plains in 2021, serving the Bismarck Larks, a North Dakota-based member of the Northwoods League, where collegiate baseball players compete in the summer.
“I learned, through Ferris’ Sports Careers RSO, about a virtual job fair organized by Central Michigan University,” Jones said. “It was a Zoom room with all kinds of employers. Many of them were offering operations positions promoting ticket sales. I sought to find a good fit for me. When I met virtually with Nate Maddox of the Larks, I made a Michigan connection, as he had graduated from Central Michigan University. I let him know I had worked some softball games at Ferris, but I wanted to expand my experience in the sports industry. That brought me to a second interview with the Larks and the internship offer.”
With the assurance of housing during his internship and a modest stipend, Jones picked up and went west, learning as he arrived that the team’s needs would help him expand his skills and responsibilities. He discovered that the student who had accepted a graphics director role chose not to do her internship. Jones quickly stepped up to claim that role, along with his assigned responsibilities. He began creating player information graphics and other on-screen content, which is as a crucial part of the Larks’ streaming broadcast.
“When I was asked to take that additional role, I accepted, knowing there would be plenty of work,” Jones said. But once I joined that team, I was absolutely committed to producing a great product.”
Broadcasts of Larks baseball received nightly grades from the Northwoods League, the source of various awards for the franchise since the team’s inception in 2017. Jones said he and his internship peers are hopeful another honor will come soon from the NWL offices in Minnesota.
“Much of my content was valuable to team sponsors, which was an important perspective to gain from the experience,” Jones said. “It is important to create content for different stakeholders, as it allows you to grow your type of product. I definitely enjoyed my time out there; not every internship provides your housing. I networked with co-workers with whom I am still friendly, as we move forward in our professional careers.”
As Jones comes to the final days of competition and his opportunities on Ferris’ campus, he reflects on his success as a transfer student and contributor to Bulldog Athletics.
“I definitely felt like I found my true home, from the moment I arrived at Ferris,” Jones said. “I never felt like I was a number or university product because creating podcasts and working so closely with Athletics helped me to grow as a content producer. It was a perfect fit, in terms of being close to my family, but allowing me the freedom to grow as a person.”
It is a unique arrangement that Jones is a ‘one-man shop,’ creating highlight packages from competitions as a Sports Communication major with a Multimedia Journalism minor. Most students working in sports media have degrees in Television and Digital Media Production.
“I had worked at WBKB, a television station in Alpena that is small and local, but provided me with a great opportunity,” Jones said. “I know of the excellence in Ferris’ Television and Digital Media Production program, but I was glad to have that station background, and I really feel that my degree path allowed me to achieve my unique personal goals.”
His commitment to gather and produce content for Ferris’ online platforms has been Jones’ focus, so much so that as playoff contests continue and the fall semester reaches its end, Jones cannot speak in absolutes about his path into the professional realm.
“For now, I have been focusing on giving Rob and the Bulldogs programs everything I can because this is such an exciting and important time for our teams and their fans,” Jones said. “When our schedules finally clear out, I will hone in on securing my next role in the sports media industry.”
With his internship and university-based experiences, Jones said he hopes to find a collegiate media production role, preferably in an institution’s Athletic department.
“Having this position has allowed me to learn a great deal and create content that I believe will resonate with possible employers,” Jones said. “It is an asset to be learning my craft around programs at Ferris that are so committed to excellence as a team and as competitors. The college football atmosphere and experience are things I want to keep as aspects of my work, but I am ready to accept a challenging position so I can establish myself professionally. Wherever the future takes me, I have high hopes that the wide range of experiences I’ve gained through Ferris are attractive to the places I apply.”
The next stop on Jones’ Ferris journey will not be the stage in Wink Arena to accept his diploma Saturday, Dec. 18. Instead, a new opportunity awaits.
“With Ferris football making it to the NCAA Division II National Championship game, I am so excited to be part of the team’s traveling party and to cover the championship game in Texas,” Jones said. “I have such a blast covering sports for Ferris. Having an opportunity to cover a national championship game is a truly special experience for me.”