COLLEGEVILLE - After graduating from high school, New Ulm High School graduate Ryan Klinkner wanted to pursue a career in either physical therapy or perhaps even something sports related.
Klinkner, a 2000 graduate of NUHS and the son of Gary and Gloria?Klinkner, went on to St. John's University and decided to give both options a test run. Fast forward almost 14 years since setting foot on campus at St. John's and he's living the dream as a member of the Johnnies athletic department.
These days, Klinkner is the St. John's University athletic media relations director and he oversees a crew who keeps track of statistics, promotes SJU athletics and produces videos and stories throughout the season for each of the 12 varsity sports the university has to offer.
He's come a long way from his first job at St. John's, where he worked in the school's cafeteria as a freshman.
On Wednesday, Klinkner earned 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 will be presented to Klinkner during the annual CoSIDA Conference in June in Orlando, Fla.
"I was very surprised because with this award, you don't even know you're nominated," Klinkner said. "It's very humbling and right away I felt very guilty because I could instantly think of 10-15 people that deserve this award years before I would even be considered for it. But it's a great league, the MIAC has a great group of SIDs [Sports Information Directors] and I look up to all of them."
In the fall of 2001, Klinkner began working for 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.
During his time as a student, the Johnnies' won the 2003 national Division III championship in football. It was an exciting time for Klinkner to say the least as it came just weeks after former head coach John Gagliardi won his record-breaking 409th career game as a head coach.
All of that excitement from the 2003 season, plus the success of former sports-related employees at St. John's, helped him decide that he wanted to work in sports.
"Definitely, my first day on the job in 2001, I was mailing out media guides to pro football teams," he said. "In 2001 they were good and we had a young team - it all culminated and in 2003 we had a good team and there was media everywhere because of John and the national championship run. That pretty much sealed it up for me."
Klinkner graduated from St. John's in 2004 with a degree in psychology. He later decided to attend graduate school in the field of sports management at St. Cloud State University. There, he worked for Tom Nelson, a former athletic media relations director at St. John's who is the assistant director of athletic media relations at St. Cloud State. Nelson nominated Klinkner for the Rising Star Award.
Klinkner returned to St. John's in Dec. 2005 and was promoted to full-time status on July 1, 2006. During his seven-plus years of working full time, he's helped the school's website (www.gojohnnies.com) grow through the advent of social media.
"When I was a student worker, my boss wouldn't let us write, you would update the stats and the schedule," Klinkner said. "Now, you an event preview, you write the re-cap, you're dealing with photos and uploading files to the NCAA site and you have social media. Basically we really are our own ESPN. It's just amazing in 10 years time, it's transformed like that."
While the job of media relations director is definitely difficult and one that entails long hours, he's able to balance his work life and his family (wife Jaclyn and two sons), which is most rewarding for him.
"It is a lot of fun, there's so much more on this plate than there was 10 years ago," he said. "Now the new challenge is balancing the job and family, it's a lot of fun and I've been blessed with a great family, greats friends and a great group of coaches [at St. John's]."