2002 grad credits WSU for his job with Houston Texans
Wichita State University graduate Gavin Gehrt realized early on that if he wanted a good job in the sports industry he would need to stand out.
He did just that by getting plenty of real-world work experience while a student at Wichita State, including his first internship as a video and camera operator for the Wichita Wranglers.
He continued from there, taking any opportunity he could before graduating in 2002 and heading to the Big Leagues. For the past seven years, Gehrt has been working full-time as a senior producer for the Houston Texans.
It’s a job he said he would never have gotten without the experiences he received while at WSU.
“To think if I wouldn’t have signed up to work for the Wichita Wranglers, none of this would have ever happened,” Gehrt said.
WSU was ‘a great decision’
Gehrt, the second oldest of five kids, grew up on a dairy farm near Alma, Kan., about 15 minutes from Manhattan.
His dad was constantly busy milking cows and farming. He sold the dairy when Gehrt started high school and farmed during the day while working nights at a manufacturing plant.
“He is the hardest worker I know,” Gehrt said. “I had a great childhood growing up on a farm and learning at an early age the value of hard work.”
Gehrt’s mother stayed home during most of his childhood. Once Gehrt began high school, she took a job in special education at Wabaunsee High School. She now works on campus at Kansas State University in the state 4-H office.
Sports were a part of Gehrt’s life growing up. He thought he wanted to teach and coach, and attended K-State for three years to pursue his degree in secondary education.
Instead, he discovered that he wanted to coach and not teach. He heard about Wichita State’s Sport Administration program and decided to transfer.
“I chose Wichita State because I was at a crossroads of needing to be more committed to school and needing a clearer path,” Gehrt said. “Sports was the one constant in my life that I was fully invested in and held my interest. I visited Wichita State’s campus and it seemed like a good fit for me. It ended up being a great decision.”
Gehrt said the makeup of his classes had a great diversity, but what he liked the best was the faculty.
“The department heads were great and heavily involved in the classrooms,” he said. “A lot of the staff weren’t full-time teachers, but sports professionals who taught on the side. It offered great insight on what to expect in the job market as they worked in the industry every day. It also served as a great pipeline for getting student workers valuable experience. The teachers did an outstanding job facilitating these opportunities through our classwork. They also did well at making you understand the opportunities and challenges in the sports industry.”
Networking is crucial
One of Gehrt’s teachers was Steve Shaad, then general manager for the Wichita Wranglers. It was through Shaad that Gehrt got that first job working in the sports industry.
He also worked closely with WSU’s Cooperative Education and Work-Based Learning program. His first co-op position was as a youth sports official at the West YMCA. Shortly after he started, he became coordinator of the sports department at the Ponca City YMCA.
Gehrt also worked in the golf pro shop at Crestview Country Club, but his biggest co-op job was as a volunteer at the Utah Olympic Park for the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.
He worked in the accreditation department, a vital role during the Olympics, which were the first major sporting event in the world after Sept. 11, 2001.
“My experience was something I will never forget,” Gehrt said. “To see an event on this grand of scale made me realize that large-scale event management is what I wanted to be a part of. Of all the sporting events I have ever been a part of, this is still my favorite.”
Gehrt said the work experience he gained in those jobs helped his resume stand out as he searched for a full-time position. His time with the Wichita Wranglers sparked the interest of the Houston Astros. But what really got him the job was a recommendation from a former WSU classmate.
“Crazy that a classmate’s recommendation helped land a job in professional sports,” said Gehrt, who with his wife, Lesley, has a 5-month-old son, Zachary. “Networking and work experience are the biggest things students should know about professional sports. Do more than just take classes. Gain as much related work experience as possible and make solid networking connections. It’s a lot of who you know.”
Once his internship at the Astros ended, Gehrt stayed on as a seasonal contract employee for three years, while also working part-time for the Houston Rockets.
In 2003 he interned at the Houston Texans in its game entertainment department. He stayed on as a contract employee in 2004 and was finally hired on to a full-time position in 2005 and has been there since.
“It’s long hours and a lot of planning, but I love it,” Gehrt said. “There are only 32 of these (NFL) jobs in the United States, so I'm going to do everything I can to hold onto it for as long as possible.”