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Wilhelm makes career out of passions

By JAKE FURR Reflector Sports Editor jakefurr@norwalkreflector.com • Dec 14, 2016 at 5:30 PM

AMES, Iowa — When you get turn a passion into a career, it is hard to call it work.

For 2010 South Central graduate Taylor Wilhelm, he hasn’t had to call his career work since he stepped foot on the campus of Iowa State University as the Director of New Media for ISU’s football team. Wilhelm spends his days crafting graphics for recruits and current players of the Cyclones.

It all started with two passions in Wilhelm’s life — sports and art.

“Growing up in Greenwich, there really wasn't much else to do except play sports with your friends,” Wilhelm said. “I played football, basketball and baseball all the way through high school at South Central and then played football at Malone University as well. Art class was also my favorite subject in school, but it was hard to think of being able to do something in art as a living, unless it is being an art teacher.”

Admitting he didn’t really want to be an art teacher, Wilhelm, just like many college students, had a tough time deciding a career path. So he decided to major in Business Administration and Accounting at Malone University knowing there were many avenues to go with the degrees; though, he didn’t really see a career path that stuck out in his mind.

It wasn’t until his sophomore year at Malone where he figured out exactly what he wanted to do with his career. Scrolling through Twitter like most young college students, Wilhelm came across Ohio State football’s Twitter account which tweeted out digital graphics of its players. He found them very interesting and wanted to give it a shot mixing his two passions — sports and art. Thanks to possibly the greatest Christmas gift he could have ever received, Adobe Photoshop, Wilhelm spent most of the break watching YouTube tutorial videos on how to use the program and learned the basics by the time he went back to Malone.

“Towards the end of the break, Ohio State was playing Clemson in a bowl game and there was a game preview in the Reflector with a picture of the Buckeyes' Freshman Defensive End, Joey Bosa,” Wilhelm said. “I took a Snapchat and sent it to him and he immediately responded and wanted me to send it to him again. Just recently learning Photoshop, I made him a quick graphic and tweeted it to him. The next day I was shocked to see that he had tweeted it out, and there were some of his other teammates saying they thought it looked cool and actually began asking me to make personal ones for them.”

The players included Buckeye greats Tyvis Powell, Ezekiel Elliott, Braxton Miller and Michael Thomas — all of whom are playing in the NFL. 

“It is pretty cool to have gotten my start with a bunch of guys who are successful at the next level,” Wilhelm added. “The one I made for Braxton Miller had LeBron James in it too, and LeBron actually retweeted it, so it was awesome seeing my twitter handle (@Taylor_Wilhelm) on LeBron's twitter account.”

With a bit of new found glory and a clear view on a career path, Wilhelm returned to Malone and started making graphics for his teammates on the football team. It was just the practice he needed on his craft and continued it until a semester before graduation. It was time for Wilhelm to make a decision on his career path and with his accounting degree, he was poised to accept an entry level accounting job at a local produce distribution center.

But one day, Wilhelm decided to do one more graphic of Cleveland Browns wide receiver Andrew Hawkins with a half and half uniform combination with his Browns jersey and his University of Toledo jersey. When he made the graphic and spread it across social media, he began being followed by Toledo coaches and football staff member. Those coaches began asking Wilhelm of his future plans and he was offered a graduate assistant position with the Toledo football team as a member of the recruiting team. He would make graphics for high school recruits to convince them to choose Toledo. 

“The year at Toledo was great,” Wilhelm said. “I met a lot of great people and was lucky to be with the team on one of the best season's in team history. We upset the No. 16 Arkansas Razorbacks in Little Rock, and then went on to win 10 games and go to the Boca Raton Bowl Game.”

Toledo head coach Matt Campbell received an offer at Iowa State University. The Cyclones are a member of the Big 12 Conference so of course Campbell would take the job. He spent the next couple of days talking with coaches and staff he would be taking with him — Wilhelm wasn’t one of them.

“I did not figure I would go with him because I had been there for only five months and was just a recruiting Graduate Assistant,” Wilhelm said. “I planned on spending the next two years at Toledo and then figuring out what my next step would be. But then on Dec. 17 last year, I received a call from Coach Campbell and he said that he had created a position for me with the Cyclones — Director of New Media. The only thing was that he wanted me out there on Jan. 3. So I only had two weeks to decide if I wanted to take the position and move halfway across the country. I decided that it was too good of an opportunity to miss, so I packed up and headed west.”

Wilhelm arrived in Ames, Iowa on Jan. 2 and spent the next three months under complete chaos putting in 13 hour days, seven days a week putting together graphics for the 2016 recruiting class. He received requests from every coach on the staff to create graphics for every player they wanted. Thanks to the tireless effort, Wilhelm helped Iowa State sign one of the best recruiting classes in school history.

“After a few more months, everything began to slow down more and I became more comfortable with what I was doing,” Wilhelm said. “The nature of the business is always going to be somewhat liquid because you never know what's going to happen in recruiting. You may have some recruits verbally committed for months and then a bigger school will swoop in at the last minute and steal them from you, so you always have to have a plan for everything.”

Wilhelm continues his position during the season with a bit of a different twist. Still making recruiting graphics, Wilhelm also makes graphics for the team in general. He regularly finds himself on the sidelines during games taking pictures in order to do his work. He gets to travel with the team and this season he flew to TCU, Texas and Oklahoma State.

“It is awesome to experience all of these great college football atmospheres, coming from a small town like Greenwich,” Wilhelm said. “The amount of food we get as a team is really impressive too, but I always have to remind myself that I'm not one of the players anymore so I have to be careful with how much I eat. The future looks bright for Iowa State, and I am really excited to be along for the ride.”

Wilhelm continues his role as the Director of New Media at Iowa State University mixing his passion of art and sports with a career he had longed for hardly being able to call it work.

Twitter: @JakeFurr11

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