The Invisible Man: Ray O'Connell and media relations
Ray O'Connell took the long way to Marquette.
As a high school baseball player in Chicago, the opportunity to play at Division III Spring Hill enticed him. However, after just six days in Alabama, O'Connell knew the school was not for him. He called his mother, and explained to her that his dislike was deeper than homesickness.
"The South was a complete culture shock for me," O'Connell said.
He packed up his stuff and transferred to Loyola-Chicago, where his parents both worked, his mother in athletics and his father as the retired longtime soccer coach. But even then, he needed something more.
"The media relations person at Loyola knows [Marquette associate athletic director] Scott [Kuykendall], and he placed a call to Scott," O'Connell said. "I met with him after my second semester freshman year, and Scott said, 'yeah we'll have an opening come sophomore year.' It's funny how it works out, but starting fall of my sophomore year I started working in the athletic department."
O'Connell's love of college athletics just deepened from there. As a kid, he would travel on the Loyola soccer bus with his dad's team to nearby road games. As such, he has been around 18-22 year olds his entire life and has a passion for sharing their stories with the community.
"It's familiar to me," he said. "Seeing how hard [the athletes] work and the effort they put in not just on the field but in the classroom and being able to make them available to the public and showing them how talented these young people are, that's very appealing to me.
Now in his third year in the media relations department, O'Connell is the unquestioned leader of the student workers. He not only takes on the most work while in the office and at games, but he also manages the schedule for the student workers. His experience and wide range of skills are a major "stress-reliever" to associate sports information director Mike Wittliff and the rest of the staff.
“Ray plays a vital role on our staff as the senior-most student worker," Wittliff said. "His hard work and understanding of intercollegiate athletics is pivotal to our department in today’s digital age."
Sports information director Luke LeNoble agrees with Wittliff, and views O'Connell as a necessary piece of the athletics puzzle for Marquette.
"Ray’s leadership, professionalism and skill set makes him a valuable member of the MU athletics media relations staff," LeNoble said. "Not only does he provide direction for the rest of our student workers, he sets the example with his work ethic and reliability and through the overall quality of his work."
But even with his wealth of experience, another strength of O'Connell's is his ability to adapt to new situations and technologies and help his fellow students along.
"Ray is also willing to learn, and he embraces new challenges, which has made him a very versatile and respected player on our team," LeNoble said.
However, possibly his greatest asset to the media relations team is his passion for college sports that drives him to do great work day in and day out.
"I think having always been around it I knew that I wanted to do something with college athletics," O'Connell said. "It combines that mixture of education and athletics, which I really like. If I get the chance to go to graduate school, I want to do something in education."
Whether O'Connell goes to graduate school or jumps right into the sports media field still remains to be seen. But from talking to his peers and superiors, one thing is clear. If O'Connell keeps working at it, even his loftiest expectations may come true some day down the road.
"The end goal is to be an athletic director," O'Connell said. "These past three years working in media relations has just shown me another facet to the intercollegiate athletic experience that not everybody knows about. Having gone through it, it makes me appreciative to what these people do."