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Double life: MSU Billings sports information director rocks when not at work

Evan O'Kelly MSUB.png
Posted at 2:43 PM, Dec 14, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-14 17:18:13-05

BILLINGS - Like a lot of colleges and universities around the country, you’ll find one of the most rewarding — yet sometimes thankless — jobs in sports at MSU Billings.

"I've thought about sleeping under the desk some nights," Evan O'Kelly told MTN Sports, only half jokingly.

You wouldn't blame him. Evan O'Kelly is sports information director for the Yellowjackets.

"Whatever needs to get done, we find a way to get it done," he says.

By we, O'Kelly means himself and assistant Kyle Cajero.

"We're the last ones out of here on game day and many times the first ones in. But we love it, we're junkies," he admits in sitting in his office filled with memorable Yellowjacket moments taped up and down brick walls.

You'd have to be a sports junkie to burn both ends of the candle for athletes in 16 sports, nearly 10 months a year.

"Our job is to take what they do and put it into the spotlight," he further explains. "Whether it's a feature for you guys on the news or through our website (or) social media. We want them to feel like when they achieve something, it's out there for people to see."

This means writing a barrage of feature stories, game previews and game summaries. And that just scratches the surface, per the evidence numerous laptops spread across their office.

"Sometimes people walk by and say, jeez, do you have enough computers," O'Kelly says, "and, oddly enough, the answer is no."

That's because, "(we're) having to record and run statistics through the NCAA for every home event we've got. We use these machines to produce our live streams."

Throw in 10 tripods, eight cameras and a lot of unseen equipment, for the task of delivering everything you do see on MSUB's website and elsewhere.

"We're a production studio, a live broadcasting station and a social media team all in one."

O'Kelly is kind of like a referee; if he’s doing his job well, most people don’t notice. Except when he suits up to handle Yellowjacket play-by-play.

"Part of what I love to do is bring the game to people," he says, now standing in front of his broadcast equipment on the upper concourse of Alterowitz Gym.

The job description goes on and on, much of it unnoticed and often taken for granted by fans, parents, alumni, etc. But not by coaches.

Kevin Woodin is approaching 20 years as women's head basketball coach and has seen his share of SIDs.

"I've never seen anyone better and I've been here a long time," Woodin tells MTN Sports during a recent practice. "Everyplace we go we get complimented on our website, whether it be web stream or articles."

Truth is, O'Kelly is a diamond in the rough. One of the best at any college level. Power 5 schools would be lucky to have him.

So how does he make time to play guitar player and sing for his band, Me and the Boys, at local breweries?

On this night, they're at Craft Local, a three-man band named over breakfast on a random morning.

"The guy I live with said, 'what are you doing today?' O'Kelly recalled. "I said, me and the boys are going to go play some music later and he said, 'hey, that's a pretty good band name."

O'Kelly says songs pop into his head at all hours, whether at work, play or sleep.

"If you sit down and say I'm going to write a song today, it's probably not going to happen. Or it's not going to be very good," he says. "It's the ones that just come to you (that are best)."

He picked up guitar at age 11, and now could literally be the guy setting up halftime activities at MSUB, then actually walking onto the court with a guitar as entertainment.

Nowadays, O'Kelly doesn’t sleep much but says every waking moment is worth it.

"When you're able to play a song that you've written and it resonates with someone, it's a pretty cool feeling."

On this particular day, he does an afternoon sound check, switches hats to write a media release on the outcome of the Yellowjacket basketball women, then hustles back to the brewery as a headline act.

"You get up there and play in front of 100 people and it's fun, but in that moment you feel like you're playing for 10,000," he said before taking the stage. "It's pretty cool."

And in the blink of an eye, the set is over and he's propped up in his MSUB office chair early the next morning.

"I'll work until 11:00 tonight and I'll be back here at 8:00 to 9:00 tomorrow morning. But it's where I want to be and I love it."