John Stephenson Jr., president and CEO, College Football Hall of Fame
Since the announcement in 2009 that the College Football Hall of Fame would move to Atlanta, John Stephenson Jr., an Atlanta native, has played a vital role in making the move a reality. Stephenson has served as the interim chief since December 2011, and last month he was unanimously approved as the new president and CEO of Atlanta Hall Management and the College Football Hall of Fame. Construction continues on the $66.5 million hall, scheduled to open in fall 2014. Stephenson spoke with staff writer Brandon McClung.
■ New title: President and chief executive officer, College Football Hall of Fame (Atlanta Hall Management)
■ Previous title: Partner, Troutman Sanders LLP
■ First job: Landscaping and maintenance for apartment complex during the summer after eighth grade
■ Education: Bachelor of science, University of Georgia (1997); Juris Doctor, University of Georgia (2000)
■ Resides: Atlanta
■ Grew up: Atlanta
■ Executive most admired: Roberto Goizueta, former Coca-Cola chairman and chief executive officer
■ Brand most admired: Disney
■ What will be the biggest challenge in your new position?
To ensure that the new hall attraction exceeds expectations and is a worthy tribute to college football.
■ What career advice do you have for people wanting into the sports industry?
Focus on “industry,” not “sports.” First, be excellent at what you do (sales, accounting, law, finance, marketing, etc.), and then let the sports opportunities come to you.
■ What is the biggest risk you’ve taken in your career?
Taking on the Hall of Fame project.
■ What is your biggest professional accomplishment?
Making partner at Troutman Sanders at an early age.
■ What is your biggest professional disappointment?
Not playing first base for the Braves.
■ What is one story you are continuing to watch in the sports world today?
Approvals for the new Atlanta Falcons stadium.
■ What is the one element you would like to see changed about the sports industry?
Cost of attending some events live is prohibitive to some families.