Tony Wyllie, senior vice president of media relations for the Washington, D.C. NFL team, will be inducted into the National Black College Alumni Hall of Fame in Atlanta on Sept. 29 for his contribution to athletics and more than three decades of service to four NFL franchises.
Wyllie learned to skillfully craft images and deftly handle public relations crises while at Texas Southern University (TSU) in Houston. In a town where beautiful weather can turn into a hurricane in the blink of an eye, Wylie mastered the art of navigating through storms and developed elite skills.
“I wouldn’t be where I am today had it not been for the nurturing I got from TSU,” Wyllie told the AFRO. “I was treated as a professional while in college which gave me the confidence to conquer the world.”
Wyllie and his communications staff members have been honored by the Pro Football Writers Association with the Pete Rozelle Award five times, an honor given annually to the NFL’s best public relations team. He is the only executive to have won the award with three different teams.
After working to promote 12 Pro Football Hall of Famers throughout his career, Wyllie will take his place amongst great HBCU alumni such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Oprah Winfrey, who have excelled at their craft and impacted the nation.
“I’m proud to be Black,” Wyllie said. “To be among this group of people is humbling.”
His road to the National Black College Alumni Hall of Fame and his rise in the media relations field has not been as challenging as those of other NFL minority trailblazers. However, Wyllie has nonetheless faced his share of obstacles. He has charted the course for teams that have relocated to new cities and laid the foundation for expansion franchises with an intensity similar to that which players and coaches bring to the field.
His career began with internships with three NFL teams. Following his time in sports information at Texas Southern, Wyllie worked as a game day intern in 1991 for the Houston Oilers, an experience led to a summer internship with the San Diego Chargers. In 1993, he interned with the Dallas Cowboys, who were on their way to winning the Super Bowl. He was in the eye of the storm with a championship team that had to navigate through its share off field distractions.
“When you’re in PR you’re constantly looking for the silver lining in every cloudy situation,” said Wyllie. “Don’t make excuses and get the job done.”
Wyllie began to rise in NFL media circles in 1994 when the Rams relocated from Los Angeles to St. Louis and he took a job as an assistant media relations director. His first chance to run an entire public relations department came when the Oilers relocated from Houston to Memphis before settling in Nashville and becoming the Tennessee Titans. Wyllie returned to Houston in 2000 and began crafting the image of the newly-christened Texans, who ushered the NFL’s new era in south Texas starting in 2002. For the last seven years he has been guardian of the image of pro football in D.C.
He has promoted just five winning seasons and four playoff teams in 26 years. However, since 1991, Wyllie’s success has led to a spike in Black media PR executives around the NFL. When he started there were only two such individuals; now, Wyllie is one of two media relations vice presidents and there are eight public relations directors—most having benefitted from his tutelage at some point along the way.