If 80 percent of success in life is just showing up, as iconic filmmaker Woody Allen famously once said, then Ryan Salerno has it made — in spades.
Only 10 months ago, Salerno was just another college freshman who was excited about going to a football game. In his case, it happened to be a Thursday night NFL game between the Seattle Seahawks and Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium. But the Sierra Lutheran High School Class of 2017 graduate didn’t just show up.
“We got there early and walked around the stadium,” Salerno recalled recently during a phone interview from his dorm room before beginning his sophomore year at Grand Canyon University in Phoenix. “Nobody was there, but we were eventually approached by a guest services representative, and after talking to him for awhile, I asked him how can I get into this, and he gave me his card.”
A subsequent e-mail exchange led to an application, which led to a group interview, which then landed the Sports Management major at the Cardinals NFL Draft Party in April as a new member of the team’s Guest Services department.
“It’s a dream come true,” Salerno said, “and I want to advance.”
As a member of the Game Day Guest Services, Salerno arrives five hours before home games and attends a staff briefing before the representatives break off into teams for their game day responsibilities.
“I’m in the party suites,” he explained. “I mosey around talking to people and make sure they’re having a good time.”
Somebody has to do this important work, and Salerno, who has a goal of becoming an NFL general manager, knows he’s likely the envy of many of his peers.
“It’s not really a normal job,” he continued. “I work for a professional football team. It’s pretty cool to say that.”
As an employee of the organization, Salerno also has the opportunity to work special team events, like the Cardinals’ charity bowling tournament, and stadium events, including events like the Beyonce concert, Master Jam, and motocross.
And while Salerno has been right next to the action, he’s still waiting on getting some face time with some of the organization’s most recognizable names.
“I did see Mr. Bidwell (Cardinals owner) last week,” he recalled. “He’s so busy all over the place. A co-worker said he will meet (you) someday. I’m looking forward to it.”
Busy is something Salerno himself knows something about. The interview with him took place after a 20-hour day he had preparing to welcome 72 freshmen under his charge as a resident assistant at GCU.
When he’s not shepherding his new flock of freshman, or flocks of Arizona Cardinal fans, he can be found taking part in intramural sports, attending Antelope athletic events, and maintaining a full course schedule. And he’s loving every minute of it.
“It’s a community like no other,” Salerno said with great conviction. “There something different about the people. Everyone is so sociable and nice.”
As he manages a full plate of responsibilities, the aspiring NFL executive knows the importance of understanding the financial side of professional football and wants to one day intern in the finance department, but for now he’s living the dream.
“It’s a surreal feeling being able to work here,” he said after Week 2 of the NFL preseason. “It was cool to see Josh Rosen (10th overall pick in April’s draft) in his first game. I can say I saw his first game.”
His advice for those who might be looking to follow his lead?
“Take every opportunity you get,” the sage 19-year-old offered. “You never know when you’ll get that opportunity again. Set yourself apart from the crowd. Make yourself known.”
And show up. Early.