You may not possess the athletic skill required to sink a game-winning basket, score a go-ahead touchdown, or land a knockout punch at the highest level of sport. Which of course means you’ll never know what it’s like to sign a multimillion-dollar, life-changing contract. But that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a fruitful career in the professional sports industry.
Now that Las Vegas has officially become a bona fide (searches for the “shift” key) Professional Sports Town, today’s UNLV graduates have something their predecessors lacked: access to numerous sports-related jobs within minutes of campus.
Those jobs exist in a variety of disciplines, too, from the executive offices to the field of play and all points in between. Here are four UNLV grads who have made it to the big leagues in their respective professions.
UNLV connection: ’06 Bachelor of Music
Professional sports gig: Resident national anthem singer, Vegas Golden Knights
A key moment in the Vegas Golden Knights’ celebrated pregame festivities at T-Mobile Arena is the sweetly powerful voice of Carnell Johnson and his reliably majestic rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
The 17,500-seat venue is a far cry from the more intimate setting of one of Johnson’s past singing gigs: For more than a decade — among other jobs — the Southern Nevada native was a gondolier in the Grand Canal Shoppes at The Venetian Las Vegas.
When the Golden Knights sent out a call for national anthem singers prior to their inaugural season, Johnson was among the more than 1,000 applicants. He then fended off 600 fellow performers at the in-person auditions to make the cut.
Johnson was informed that he’d get to sing “The Star-Spangled Banner” at one of 41 home games. His turn came on Feb. 13, 2018, and Johnson’s performance went over so well that the team summoned him to sing both the U.S. and Canadian anthems a week later.
Johnson then was superstitiously called back to deliver the anthem at T-Mobile throughout the Golden Knights’ gloriously unexpected run to the 2017-18 Stanley Cup Final. Since then, Johnson has been as much of a regular on the ice at T-Mobile as William Karlsson, an original Golden Knight.
Like Karlsson and his teammates, Johnson hits the ice minutes before puck drop clad in a VGK sweater. Unlike the players, Johnson’s sweater was purchased by a season-ticket holder, and the back contains the No. 1 with “Golden Pipes” — his nickname — stitched on the nameplate.
With his trademark VGK scarf draped over his left shoulder, the 41-year-old Johnson performs the anthem at all but a few home games each season. He credits his parents for instilling his love for music and UNLV for helping him “understand performance, and what it can and can’t be.”
That training came in handy before his first anthem performance at T-Mobile. A tradition had been growing organically, with Golden Knights fans shouting “Knights!” in unison as anthem singers hit the line “Gave proof through the night.”
Friends warned Johnson prior to his debut not to be distracted by the arena-rattling sonic boom of “Knights!” That’s when Johnson decided to mute himself, let the crowd chime in, then resume the rest of the song.
Just like that, the legendary Golden Pipes became part of something greater.
“That nervous energy just kind of grew to an excitement,” he says. “You get to come into this place where everybody knows you, and they all enjoy the way you perform this particular song. Then they get to be part of it, which is especially neat because it’s such a prideful song.”
Johnson’s advice to Rebels interested in sports entertainment: “You never know when that one big thing is going to hit. For me, it happened when I was 36. So if it doesn’t happen in your early or mid-20s and you remain passionate about it, don’t stop. Because there’s no guarantee that just because you have talent and drive that it’s going to happen right away. You’ve got to be willing to put in as much work as it takes to get you where you want to be.”
– Paul Szydelko
UNLV connection: ’05 Master of Public Administration
Professional sports gig: Senior vice president, Government and Community Relations, Las Vegas Raiders
The Las Vegas Raiders are one of only 32 NFL franchises, of course, but they are also a business, employer, landowner, and stadium operator. Where the Raiders’ many off-field interests intersect with city, state, and federal policies is the purview of Piper Overstreet-White.
Overstreet-White began building a network of government contacts when she was a district representative for then-U.S. Congresswoman Shelley Berkley while also taking evening and weekend classes for her master’s at UNLV.
Before joining the Raiders prior to the 2022 season, Overstreet-White, 47, was regional public policy leader for another of the world’s most recognized brands: Uber Technologies.
Just this year, her wide-ranging portfolio has included lobbying on state legislation regarding street food vendors; working with Clark County Commissioners on Allegiant Stadium-related matters; and collaborating with the NFL on various initiatives.
As part of her duties with the Raiders, Overstreet-White manages the organization’s Community Relations and Football Development divisions. This includes overseeing youth-oriented efforts to develop future tackle and flag football players, and promoting active, healthy lifestyles for kids.
While perhaps not as personally excited to see an NFL team land in Las Vegas as her husband — a lifelong Raiders fan — Overstreet-White says the team’s strong history related to civil rights and equality, and its commitment to diversity, drew her to the job.
“During his years as the team’s owner, Al Davis was instrumental in breaking down barriers in sports and taking a stand for equal treatment, and I respect that so much,” she says. “[Al’s son] Mark Davis has carried on that legacy. He hired the first Black woman president in NFL history [Sandra Douglass Morgan, an alum of the William S. Boyd School of Law at UNLV]. To know that history just makes me so proud to be a Raider.”
– Paul Szydelko
UNLV connection: ’20 BA Communication Studies and master's student in the Intercollegiate and Professional Sports Management program
Professional sports gig: Producer, Las Vegas Aces
Having grown up in Las Vegas, Tayvion Carter has had a front-row seat to his city’s maturation as a pro sports town. Yet despite being a lifelong sports fan, Carter never envisioned working in the industry.
In fact, just a few years ago, Carter was struggling to find his way after completing his communications degree at UNLV.
“Even though I’ve always been a half-decent scholar, my years as an undergraduate student were difficult,” says Carter, a first-generation college student. “When I did finally graduate, it was during the pandemic, which didn’t help my self discovery at all. I was extremely lost.”
That began to change when Carter learned about the fledgling Intercollegiate and Professional Sports Management (IPSM) graduate program at UNLV. After researching the program and all that it entailed, Carter woke up one December morning in 2021 and submitted his application.
“The decision to go back to UNLV for my master’s degree not only put me on the right path, but it was the best decision I’ve ever made next to marrying my wife,” Carter says. “I quit a job that I’d had for years, so it was a major risk — but one I can happily say has paid off tenfold.”
For starters, enrolling in the IPSM program led to an internship as a production assistant with the WNBA’s Las Vegas Aces during the team’s 2022 championship season.
How impressed were the Aces with Carter’s work as a cinematographer and video editor — two skills he didn’t even possess when he accepted the internship? They offered him a full-time job as a producer. (It remains a non-salary position until Carter completes his master’s in December.)
In addition to filming game action and community events, conducting interviews, and editing highlights, Carter tapped into the storytelling skills he developed during his undergraduate studies. This includes working alongside Aces creative director Katie Morgan to produce the weekly television show In the Paint with the Las Vegas Aces.
As for his future goals, Carter says anything and everything is on the table, including coaching, creating a youth training center, and being a professional storyteller.
“But for now,” he says, “I’ll continue to work hard to help uplift and promote the WNBA and its athletes through amazing storytelling. Everything else is just icing on the cake.”
– Matt Jacob
UNLV connection: ’20 Doctorate Physical Therapy
Professional sports gig: Physical therapy manager, UFC
Ryan Yim’s job just might be the toughest in all of sports: restore the health of athletes who put their bodies at risk every time they go to work — and whose opponents’ primary goal is to take them down.
A physical therapy manager for UFC, Yim rehabilitates injured UFC fighters through individualized programs. He does this both at the Las Vegas-based UFC Performance Institute and at fight events around the globe.
“My primary goal is to provide cutting-edge treatment approaches that help maintain our athletes’ health,” says Yim, who also manages physical therapy student interns at the Performance Institute. “At the same time, I also assist in progressing our sports medicine department through research and innovation.”
Yim’s infatuation with sports began at a young age. “Even when I was little, I could rattle off the most random sports stats,” he says. But it wasn’t until he volunteered with the Special Olympics in his home state of Colorado that Yim thought about a career that would marry two of his passions: sports and a desire to help others.
“That experience helped me realize that I could help athletes become the best people that they could be,” Yim says. “Going into physical therapy allowed me to achieve two goals simultaneously: working in sports and helping people perform at a high level.”
Just two years into his professional career, the 31-year-old Yim hopes to one day be the director of rehabilitation for a professional sports organization. For the moment, though, he’s thrilled to be working for the world’s premier mixed-martial arts company in a burgeoning professional sports market.
“To see how the professional sports scene here has grown so rapidly in such a short period of time has been amazing,” Yim says.
While Yim now gets to tend to athletes competing in UFC events around the globe, he says he wouldn’t be in this position had he not diligently worked his way up the ladder. That’s why he encourages current UNLV athletic training students to take advantage of every opportunity that comes their way.
“It’s all about getting your foot in the door,” Yim says. “You might not be compensated early on, but the experience and the professional network you’ll develop will pay dividends down the line.”
– Matt Jacob