When Penn Staters think of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, they have a connection with Super Bowl champions such as Chris Godwin, A.Q. Shipley, and Donovan Smith, among other Nittany Lions.
Jill Beckman should be included on that list, too.
Graduating in 2018, Beckman covered the Penn State football team for The Daily Collegian as a student, and then for the Philadelphia Media Network (Philly.com, Philadelphia Inquirer, Philly Daily News). She also spent a summer interning for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, covering the city’s three major sports teams.
She’s continued to build an impressive career, now serving as social media coordinator for the Buccaneers. She joined the organization in July 2018 as a digital and social media intern and was promoted seven months later to her current role.
Beckman has fond memories of her time at Penn State, both as a student and covering the football team. One example: her Twitter cover photo features the Nittany Lions singing the alma mater at Beaver Stadium.
We figured since we’re in town for the Outback Bowl, now’s a good time to catch up with Beckman. Check out her Q&A to learn how she captures those special Penn Staters-in-the-NFL moments, hear her perspective on taking care of your mental health, and more.
The Football Letter: Jersey swaps between players from the same school have become popular over the years, and you’ve captured plenty of those pictures. Do you coordinate that before the game, or ask afterward? Also, what’s the on-field vibe like when Nittany Lions can meet in the NFL and share a few minutes together? Any favorite memories from those occasions?
Jill Beckman: The Nittany Lions always seem to find each other after the game, and I’m just there to capture the moment along with other members of our media team! There is usually no coordination on my end — except for when we played the Dolphins this year and I had to chase down Donovan Smith to get in the photo with Chris Godwin and Mike Gesicki. Each game, I go down to the field from the press box with a few minutes left on the clock when it looks like we’re going to win, which has thankfully been a lot lately, and I capture celebration content, which includes jersey swaps from many different players. If I know there are a good number of Penn Staters on the opposing team, or if it’s someone who played with one of our guys, I’ll keep that in mind and make sure to keep an eye out for that moment. It always seems to be the same few schools that have a ton of players in the NFL, Penn State being one of them.
TFL: From a mental health perspective: Whether it’s on a bye week or during a hectic Sunday in the NFL, how do you find a few moments for yourself to take a breather, relax, and refocus? Any lessons you’ve learned over the years that’s helped?
JB: This is something that’s very important to me because no one can perform at their best if they’re burnt out. Social media is 24/7, so we need someone on call every day, including holidays and weekends, and that can’t be all one person. It’s important to have a team you can trust so you can take time off, because social media will continue whether you’re working or not. When I have a day off, I turn off all my notifications so I’m not tempted to check anything. Also, whenever my Apple Watch tells me to breath, I’ve been trying to actually do that for one minute instead of getting rid of the notification! Things like that and meditation are key.
TFL: How did your time covering Penn State football in school help prepare you for your career path?
JB: I had never worked for a team before the Buccaneers, but I had all the experience and qualifications I needed from covering Penn State football and other Penn State sports for news outlets during my time in college. When I attended Penn State as a print and digital journalism major, I didn’t even know doing social media for a team was an option. But many of my skills from journalism transferred to this role. I’m still covering the team, taking videos on the field, live tweeting and writing copy all day, just for shorter posts instead of articles. My time at Penn State could not have prepared me more for my career in sports.
TFL: When you’re on the field (at a practice or during a game), what’s your approach to getting the best and most genuine moments you can? How do you cultivate relationships and trust with the players?
JB: I look for fun moments or anything I think fans would be interested in seeing. When working on the club media side, you still have to work to cultivate relationships, but you get the advantage of being in the building. Knowing the players’ No. 1 priority is not media (hint: it’s football) and being understanding of that goes a long way. It also helps that this is my fourth season with the team, so I’ve cultivated relationships over the years just like you do with any other co-workers. During the pandemic, our access to the team has been restricted, so it has definitely helped having that solid foundation.
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