It was the summer of 2010, and St. Pius X graduate Taylor Stern was searching, searching, searching.
She was soon to enroll at the University of New Mexico, but the Stern family ethic would not allow her to simply go to school. There needed to be, if not a part-time job, a major extracurricular activity.
With no prior experience, Stern tried out for the UNM cheer team. Despite exhaustive preparation – private lessons, etc. – she was not chosen.
What, then? Stern’s outgoing personality would have made her a natural in sales. Ice to Eskimos, sand to sheiks? Easy. But, no.
Flipping burgers? No again, not that there’s anything wrong with that.
So, Stern went to her grandfather, New Mexico Sports Hall of Famer Bobby Gibbs, and asked him if there was work to be had at the New Mexico High School Coaches’ Association – a group Gibbs had guided for decades.
No, he said. But, he asked, had Stern thought about contacting Greg Remington at the University of New Mexico sports information department?
Some six years later, Stern, 23, is the Dallas Cowboys’ social media coordinator and a growing presence on the team’s website. In addition to handling social media for the Cowboys, the Cowboy Cheerleaders and AT&T Stadium, she hosts “Writers’ Roundtable,” a 5- to 6-minute discussion with the team’s dot-com reporters. She has been a panelist on “Talkin’ Cowboys,” and “Cowboys Break,” hourlong schmoozes about all things Cowboy. She travels with the team during the season.
And there’s more.
“It’s ever-expanding,” Stern said of her job and responsibilities in a recent phone interview. “There’s always something that I’m like, ‘Hey, can I do this?’ And they’re like, ‘Sure.’
“So they’re always letting me do more than I probably should, but I really enjoy it all.”
Gibbs said he’s not at all surprised by his granddaughter’s rapid rise from unpaid sports-information intern to her current position with the Cowboys.
“She just dove into things,” he said. “… Every time she got a chance to meet people, she has a great personality. … She opened a lot of doors just by her meeting people and establishing a relationship with them. And really, (a willingness) to go above and beyond.”
Bobby and Taylor
That journey, Stern said, truly began not with a call to Remington at UNM but with a love of sports instilled by her grandfather a decade before.
“The only reason I started in sports,” she said, “was because of him.”
Stern was born in Colorado Springs while her father, Jon, served there in the Air Force. The family moved to San Antonio, Texas, then to Albuquerque to be close to the family of her mother, Lesly.
Gibbs, 79, grew up in Madrid – New Mexico, not Spain – and later moved to Albuquerque with his family. A multi-sport star at St. Mary’s High School, he played baseball and basketball at the College of St. Joseph, then went into coaching.
At Highland High School, he assisted Mickey Miller and Tom Hogg in basketball and Bill Gentry in football. In the offseason, he directed the Wells Park Summer Basketball League.
After leaving coaching, Gibbs for decades lived a double life as executive director of the Albuquerque Boys Club (later the Boys and Girls Club) and executive secretary of the coaches’ association. For all that and more, he was inducted into the New Mexico Sports Hall of Fame in 2005.
He shares with his granddaughter a gift of gab and a natural well of enthusiasm. Soon enough in Taylor’s young life, they would share a passion for sports.
Gibbs had played tennis for St. Mary’s and never lost his love for the game. He and his granddaughter exchanged many a volley.
“My sister (Alex, now a professional country-and-western singer) was always busy with music,” Stern said. “With me being vocally challenged, my grandfather would take me out to the tennis courts and we would play for hours.”
If Gibbs loved tennis, he harbored a borderline obsession with Notre Dame football. He and Taylor talked football, Notre Dame and otherwise, on almost a daily basis.
“(Football) became this passion of mine,” she said, “because I loved my grandfather so much.”
Stern’s first job at UNM sports information was as the tennis SID, but Remington allowed her to help in the press box on football Saturdays and in the press room on basketball game nights. She met and made friends with professionals from other schools, and from the Mountain West Conference.
Having moved from print to video – her “Taylor’s Timeout” feature series became a staple on Lobo TV – Stern began to get opportunities outside of Albuquerque. She worked the Mountain West basketball tournaments in Las Vegas, Nev., the College World Series in Omaha, Neb.
Along the way, she was elected UNM’s homecoming queen in 2013.
The opportunities kept coming, and they did not come by accident.
Stern’s father, post-Air Force, is a pilot for United Airlines. Air travel for his daughter was discounted, or free as a standby passenger.
“I just randomly would email people (in college athletics),” she said, “and say, ‘Hey, my dad’s an airline pilot. I can get myself there. Can I help make coffee, or do whatever?’
“Surprisingly enough, people said yes and gave me those chances.”
A light goes on
Her big break, she said, was working the BCS championship game between Notre Dame and Alabama in January 2013.
The outcome – Crimson Tide 42, Irish 14 – must have generated within her sympathy pains for her grandfather. But her overwhelming emotion that night was having found her calling at the age of 20.
“My grandfather has a Notre Dame-themed room in his home, and I’m standing on the sidelines watching an undefeated Notre Dame team play in the national championship,” she said.
“I just thought, ‘I love this.'”
More such opportunities followed. Then, in the spring of 2014, she was offered and accepted a job with the Cotton Bowl in Dallas as director of marketing and communications.
“I moved from New Mexico, literally two weeks after I graduated,” she said.
The Cotton Bowl game no longer is played in the Cotton Bowl, but in the Cowboys’ AT&T Stadium. That’s where Stern reported to work each day, and she quickly came to the attention of the Cowboys.
In March 2015, the job offer came. The decision, she said, was not as automatic as one might think.
College football, after all, had been her great sports love. And, when the Cowboys’ offered her a position, she was interviewing for a job at – of all places – Notre Dame.
In the end, she chose the Cowboys. Gibbs, despite his lifelong love affair with the Irish, is fine with that. He’s a Cowboys fan as well.
“As much as I love Notre Dame, I love her more,” he said, “and I wanted her to be close to home. It was best for her and her mom and dad and all of us.”
All those talks about football he had with his granddaughter, Gibbs said, are paying off.
“She knows a hell of a lot about football,” he said. “She understands it – formations, techniques. I’m an old coach, and she has a good grasp of that.”
Gibbs said he could see Stern, someday, as a sideline reporter for ESPN or one of the broadcast networks.
Stern said she doesn’t know what the future holds.
In a recent conversation at the Cowboys’ Valley Ranch training complex – they’ll be moving to their new state-of-the-art headquarters in Frisco before the start of the season – Cowboys defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli told her it’s always important to have a plan.
“He goes, ‘Well, Taylor, what do you want to do next?'” she recalled. “I said, ‘Coach, I really don’t know.’ He’s like, ‘Well, you need to have a plan and you need to execute it.’
“I said, ‘Coach, I’m just living day to day.'”
So far in Stern’s life, living day to day has worked out awfully well.
The time of her life