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Commencement Stories: Tyler

The Seasoned Pro

For Tyler Burnett, the “O” in ONU might as well stand for “opportunity.” In four short years here, he has accrued more experience in media and broadcasting than some professionals. And now, before he even receives his diploma, he is one, having been hired by the Motor Racing Network in April to produce a one-hour prerace show before NASCAR Sprint Cup races every Sunday.

Burnett’s story is one of a student driven to succeed and an institution uniquely positioned to help him do it. He came to Ohio Northern University as a sport management major with a passion for auto racing. His dream was to have a career somewhere in sports, and he didn’t care where. Once he got his foot in the door, he knew he could work his way up to the highest levels. He approached college with that same attitude.

“I told myself freshman year that nothing mattered except taking advantage of every single opportunity I had here, and elsewhere, and getting as much experience as I could,” he says.

Unbeknownst to him, Burnett began gaining experience while still in high school. He discovered online racing simulators and started announcing virtual races much the same way Fox broadcasts NASCAR races. In this niche of the international gaming community, his reputation grew to the point that he was contact by a group of online racers from Australia to announce one of their races.

Tyler on the job with NASCAR racer Ryan Truex.

It dawned on him that he might like to announce races for a living, so he picked up a second major, electronic broadcasting, and quickly made a second home at WONB, ONU’s on-campus radio station. Between working at WONB and interning at local radio stations, Burnett kept working his way up the ladder.

“I pride myself most on having tons of experience for my age,” he says. “I’ve been in radio for four years. I’ve worked at four different radio stations, four television stations. I’ve been a broadcaster. I’ve been a producer. I’ve been the sports director at WONB. I’ve done public address announcing. I’ve shot and edited video. I’ve handled social media responsibilities. I’ve truly done it all.”

A radio producer has many responsibilities, and the Motor Racing Network needed someone well versed in the many facets of broadcasting to run their prerace show. Burnett’s extensive experience in radio, along with his experience working at four area racetracks, made him a very desirable candidate.

“I walked right into a management position right out of college, which was surprising to me, but at the same time, I know how to do every single thing that is expected of me because of my experiences over the past four years,” he says. “Being the sports director at WONB definitely helped. It’s a hands-off position as far as the faculty is concerned. There’s no one holding your hand. You are managing sports for that station by yourself. You are responsible for an entire staff. That experience gave me the tools to step into the job.”

Before he could step into the job, however, he had to decide if he wanted it. Desirable candidates like Burnett are sought after, and it turns out the Motor Racing Network was not the only high-profile sports organization interested in him. Burnett had successfully applied to the NCAA, which offered him a position within an hour of his offer from MRN. Before he’d even started his career, Burnett had a career-defining decision to make.

“This is a dream job. I never thought I’d get to NASCAR this quickly,” he says. “I planned to work my way up to it, but when this job came along, I had to grab it.”


Read more Class of 2014 Commencement Stories