Jeremy Sampson is making a difference in his community and he knows it. “Having professional soccer in Lansing sets it apart and makes it a great way to live, work and play,” Sampson said during his keynote address on July 28 at the 2019 MIPA summer journalism workshop. Sampson, the vice president and general manager of the professional soccer team Lansing Ignite, discussed his experiences in navigating both the journalism and business worlds.
From a young age, Sampson said he knew he wanted to be a sportscaster. He said there was no place for him as a professional athlete but he wanted to be as involved as he could be in athletics without actually playing. He studied broadcast journalism at Michigan State University and soon got involved with Impact 89FM, Michigan State’s radio station, where he was able to hone his skills as a journalist. Sampson said the only way he achieved so much was by making key relationships.
Sampson worked with WLNS as a part-time reporter and photographer until the Michigan State athletic director, Mark Hollis, called Sampson and asked if he would be the host and producer of their coaches’ show. Sampson said he was excited to work for his alma mater where he traveled with the football, basketball and hockey teams while producing the coaches’ TV show for two years.
Even when events didn’t go as planned, Sampson said he knew how to stay on top of the game.
“I left Michigan State for some family reasons, moved to Columbus, Ohio, for a couple of years and tried to stay in the business but couldn’t,” he said. “I went to a new city, applied for a couple of jobs at some news stations, but just couldn’t find a spot to stay in the industry, so I decided I would find some other things to do, which I did; but luckily I was able to come back to town about two years later and I went to the competition…and became the weekend sports affiliate of WILX and I was there for eight years.”
During his time at WILX, Sampson covered many events but one in particular stood out to him since it was a game played on the deck of an aircraft carrier. He was able to not only meet President Barack Obama but shake hands with him as well.
The game was played on Nov. 11, 2011, Veterans Day, and featured Michigan State and North Carolina.
“It was so much fun, but it was also a lot of work. We had to jump through a lot of hoops… because president Obama was on board,” Sampson said.
Sampson said he eventually decided that journalism wasn’t the best track for him, since he was never able to spend time with his family. He transitioned from the journalism world to the business world where he founded Lansing United, where professional athletes would come and play soccer with him for three months in the off-season. He started alone and with a non-existent budget.
All of a sudden, Sampson said he went from being the one who covers sporting events to someone who is being covered. In its first year, Lansing United won the conference championship and went on to compete in the Midwest Regionals.
“It was definitely something I didn’t expect to happen in year number one,” Sampson said.
Sampson became the vice president and general manager of Lansing Ignite when he needed a bigger stadium for his soccer events and he needed someone with a huge net worth or enough money to fund them, so Lansing United became Lansing Ignite.