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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Thursday, February 29, 2024

Tufts alum Zach Groen blazes trail in NFL

For Tufts alum Zach Groen, serving as the public relations manager for the Philadelphia Eagles is more than a job — it’s a dream come true. Groen is in his fifth year with the franchise serving as a liaison between the media and the team. He graduated from Tufts in 2010 with a bachelor's degree in English and media studies and was a member of the 2010 lacrosse team that won the program’s first NCAA championship. Groen’s Tufts education helped lay the groundwork for his success in an industry that is notoriously competitive, inspiring him to pursue his passion with dogged persistence.

Groen predominantly works with media groups to provide them access to players and coaches. During the NFL season, Groen follows a set schedule laid out by the NFL. Groen opens the locker room each day for 45 minutes and schedules press conferences with coaches and key players. He also coordinates broadcasts every Friday and Saturday prior to games and helps arrange the formation of the press to expedite the interview process on game day. He fields incoming requests for interviews with individual players and helps to determine the best press opportunities for the team.

On top of coordinating with the press, Groen works to distribute information on the team, compiling statistics, notes and records. Groen puts out an updated 300–400 page book of information every week, which broadcasters then use to cover the team for that week.

While the responsibilities of the position are relentless, Groen insists that his job is a labor of love.

“In season, there’s not a lot of free time, maybe a Saturday off if we’re playing at home,” Groen said.  “It’s a lot of hours but it’s really fun.”

Groen also serves as a resource for the players, allowing him to develop professional and personal relationships with many members of the team. Groen helps prepare players for interviews, which often involves keeping them updated on key story lines in the media.

“It takes time to develop those relationships,” Groen said. “Once you get to know the guys on a personal level, they recognize that you’re a permanent fixture of the organization. The more exposure you have to the team, the closer you’re going to get to the players.”

Groen joined the Eagles in 2014 as a public relations coordinator, and was promoted to public relations manager in June 2017 — just in time to experience the team’s historic Super Bowl run.

“The city was electric in January,” said Groen. “Everyone you met was excited about the year — everyone was wearing their Eagles gear.”

In the weeks preceding the 2018 Super Bowl, Groen dealt with a huge increase in press coverage and interview requests.

“You have to do your best to accommodate everyone, even when there’s no possible way to accommodate everyone,” Groen explained.

Groen attended the 2013 Super Bowl when the NFL needed public relations volunteers. His experience there got him great connections and lasting friendships. Although this experience was special, his experience at the 2018 Super Bowl was unparalleled in its excitement and importance.

While Groen got to enjoy the spectacle of the event, he had to maintain his focus.

“This time around it was a different experience. We tried to tune all that out, treating it like another game,” Groen said.

Watching the Eagles win their first Super Bowl in franchise history was the highlight of Groen’s career so far.

“It was incredible. The type of thing that you’ll remember forever,” Groen said.

In June, Groen was presented with a Super Bowl ring in a special ceremony for Eagles employees.

“I’m very fortunate to have a ring," he said. "The organization was really really great to all the employees.”

While Groen currently possesses a highly coveted position in the NFL, the path to becoming a full-time employee was paved with challenges. Groen has worked almost exclusively in professional sports, starting with his first internship in the summer before his junior year at Tufts. He got that position through reaching out to the Major League Lacrosse headquarters in Brighton, Mass. Groen ended up with an academic internship working three to four days a week writing for the league’s website and compiling statistics. The internship was Groen’s first exposure to the world of professional sports, and helped Groen get a feel for public relations.

The following summer, Groen moved to New York City for an internship with Major League Soccer. The summer before his senior year, Groen was hoping to develop a clearer sense for what work he’d be interested in pursuing after graduation. His knack for writing and passion for sports sparked an interest in sports writing, yet his internship with Major League Soccer helped affirm his interest in public relations.

Shortly after graduation, a Tufts alum helped Groen set up an informational interview with Stacey James, the vice president of media relations for the New England Patriots. Although there was no job opening with the Patriots at the time, the interview helped Groen get his foot in the door for future opportunities with the team. Groen then moved to New York City to pursue an internship with a small sports marketing agency. After interning for the agency, Groen found a full-time job at a New York agency specializing in outdoor sports. While Groen pitched products to the media and occasionally met athletes, such as snowboard gold-medalist Shaun White, he longed to pursue his true passion — working in football.

Two years after his initial interview, Groen contacted James expressing his interest in any openings with the Patriots, and learned of an internship position. Groen left his full time job to take the internship with the Patriots, a decision that epitomized his commitment to working in the NFL.

Groen stayed with the Patriots for a year, interning for the team when they lost in the 2012 AFC championship to the Baltimore Ravens. Through his position with the team, Groen gained valuable exposure to public relations in the NFL. In May 2013, Groen began his second internship in the NFL, this time working for the Green Bay Packers.

Although it was difficult for Groen, an East Coast native, to move to an unfamiliar area, his experience in Wisconsin proved to be pivotal for the development of his career. Groen had a hands-on internship experience with the Packers, and got to interact with players. Though he gained valuable experience working for the Packers, it was difficult to remain an intern when he yearned for the stability of a full-time job.

Groen accepted another internship with the Packers, but kept an eye on other employment opportunities that could offer him a full-time position. The opportunity Groen had been waiting for finally arrived when he received a call from his former boss in New England. An Eagles employee working in public relations had quit his job, and the team, which was training in New England, reached out to the Patriots to see if they knew of anyone who could fill the position. Groen’s former boss recommended him, and the Eagles offered Groen a job.

“It was an incredible moment — it felt like a long time coming. I’m thankful that my former boss gave me that opportunity,” Groen said. “It was really, really special.”

Groen visited campus last spring to be inducted into the Tufts Athletics Hall of Fame alongside his teammates from the 2010 lacrosse season. The induction was a great honor and brought back memories of good times spent on the field. Perhaps more important than the sport itself were the lessons that came along with being a student-athlete at Tufts.

Groen cites his former lacrosse coach Mike Daly as a mentor.

“I had the pleasure of playing for Mike Daly. The program he built at Tufts was really special. The values that he instilled in the program were tremendous not only at helping us as athletes but helping us as men,” Groen said, adding that his former coach taught him lessons that he carries with him to this day.

In the classroom, Groen found a mentor in English lecturer Neil Miller. Groen took a series of creative writing classes with Miller throughout his time at Tufts, beginning with a nonfiction class. Groen remembers Miller as being an incredible teacher who gave his students the freedom to write about their interests. His open-ended assignments sparked Groen’s interest in writing, and Miller’s guidance and support helped broaden Groen’s perspective on potential career paths.

“He showed me that I could pursue a career in a personal area,” Groen said. “He encouraged me to pursue my interest in an untraditional field”.

At this point in his career, Groen attributes his success to his willingness to take risks. In a job pool as limited as the NFL, Groen emphasizes the importance of taking initiative.

“You shouldn’t rule out any opportunity, especially when it comes to location,” he said.

For Groen, taking an internship in Green Bay, Wisc. was a blessing in disguise, since it exposed him to a new part of the country and introduced him to his fiancé, who now works for the Eagles.

His advice for Tufts students interested in working in professional sports is simple: “Don’t be afraid to move around, to try something you’ve never done before. You never know where that next stop is going to take you.”