Joe Simler was never named all-conference in football or baseball at Monroe High School. He didn’t play college sports.
“To my knowledge, the only individual award received was the Team Player Award” for varsity baseball in 2003, Simler said. “Thank you, Coach (Romy) Cherney!”
And yet, the 2004 MHS graduate has a Super Bowl ring.
“Early in high school, it was my initial passion for sports that triggered my curiosity to learn more about the business side of the industry. It also became pretty clear that if I was ever going to succeed in sports, it would be on the business side and not on the field,” Simler said. “Getting bumped down to junior varsity during my junior year was humbling and a wakeup call, to say the least.”
In his junior year of high school, Simler took a brand-new course at MHS, Sports Marketing with Mary Madsen.
“That taught me that there was a business side to the sports industry,” he said. “Not only that, but I could pursue it as a career and that singular focus really helped guide and drive my major career and life decisions moving forward.”
After graduation, Simler attend the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he immediately joined the athletic department in the guest services department. He worked for the Badgers all four years, including every home football game “and countless men’s and women’s basketball games, men’s and women’s hockey games, concerts and working the front desk at Camp Randall Stadium and the Kohl Center.”
As a senior in college, Simler joined Badger Sports Properties, where he developed an interest in the corporate sponsorships side of the sports business. He went on to earn a bachelors degree in business administration, and completed his professional master’s in sports administration in 2013 from Ohio University.
Before graduating from college, Simler secured a sales internship with the Dallas Cowboys, his favorite childhood NFL team, selling seat licenses and season tickets for the then-soon-to-be opened Cowboys Stadium, now known as AT&T Stadium.
When his internship with the Cowboys ended, he took a full-time job with the Phoenix Coyotes of the NHL.
“Despite the team entering into bankruptcy on my eighth day — due to ownership uncertainty and an unsuccessful business model — we were able to have a successful year on the ice that translated to successful sales off the ice,” Simler said.
It is hard to believe that I’m already entering my 12th season of working in the NFL and nine seasons, collectively, with the Cowboys.Joe Simler, 2004 Monroe High School graduate
A year later, Simler was back in Wisconsin as a member of the Green Bay Packers franchise where he helped with luxury suite sales.
“The chance to return home to Wisconsin and back into the NFL with the historic franchise was a dream,” Simler said.
That season, the franchise won its fourth Super Bowl, defeating the Pittsburgh Steelers. The organization gave out Super Bowl rings to its employees, including Simler.
“It was an amazing experience and it created memories to last a lifetime,” Simler said.
The NFL went into a lockout in the offseason due to a lack of a new collective bargaining agreement between the players and owners. Simler had a door open to take a position in corporate partnership sales with the team. “Think American Family Insurance, Mills Fleet Farm, Kohl’s, Festival Foods, Cenex, etcetera,” Simler said.
After two more years in Green Bay, Simler moved south to Dallas, where he rejoined the Cowboys.
“It was too great of an opportunity to turn down,” he said. “They were now four seasons into the incredible new stadium. Shortly after rejoining the organization, our corporate partnerships team was successful in renaming the stadium to AT&T Stadium as part of a 20-year partnership, and we also helped the organization move forward with a brand-new state-of-the-art world headquarters in Frisco, Texas, called The Star.”
The Star is a 91-acre mixed-use development that houses a 12,000 seat indoor football stadium, which is also used by the nine high schools of Frisco for their high school football games; a 300-room Omni Hotel; a 450,000 square foot sports research center; over 30 restaurants and stores; a fitness center and a coworking space in addition to the team headquarters.
“We are constantly doing new things to evolve the sports marketing world with the best ownership group in sports,” said Simler, who is now the senior manager of corporate partnerships with the Cowboys. “It is hard to believe that I’m already entering my 12th season of working in the NFL and nine seasons, collectively, with the Cowboys.”
In addition to his NFL responsibilities, he also helps consult in the music and entertainment industry through the Cowboys’ sister company, Legends, and a major concert promoter and venue, Live Nation.
Simler also met his wife, Courtney, in Texas. They were married in August 2019 in Maui.
When he thinks back on how he got to where he is today, he has few regrets.
I’ve been fortunate that I have owned each decision that I have made around career opportunities and look forward each day with no regrets in the rearview mirror.Joe Simler, 2004 Monroe High School graduate
“I’ve been fortunate that I have owned each decision that I have made around career opportunities and look forward each day with no regrets in the rearview mirror,” Simler said. “It is easy to come up with hypothetical situations and scenarios in your head, but it is important to make a decision and move forward with everything you have instead of living with regrets.”
He said the charm of Monroe and the surrounding communities is more apparent to him as he’s aged and left for bigger waters.
“Monroe continues to hold a special place in my heart. There were times when growing up in Monroe that I considered ourselves to be disadvantaged by not having all of the options readily available to us that some would have in a larger city,” Simler said. “However, the further you get from it, the more it makes you think how fortunate you are — or were — to grow up in a place full of friendly people who support you. It truly is a special place.”
When he thinks back to his high school playing days, Simler remembers the early morning workouts and the friendships forged, because that’s what matters most, he said.
“The countless mornings lifting weights at 6 a.m., led by Coach (Chad) Cassidy, the camaraderie created on the bus rides to baseball games, and getting together every Thursday night at Rob Schilt and Darrin Hawkins’ houses prior to our undefeated JV football season in our sophomore year is something that never seems to fade away,” Simler said. “Although relationships can grow more distant as time moves along, it was still very meaningful to have former teammate and great friend, Alex Bennett, standing by me as my best man in my wedding in Hawaii last August, all these years later.”
Joe, the son of Marcia and Don Simler of Monroe, and younger brother of Jackson, said young athletes need to understand they can’t play forever, and that’s OK.
“Participating in athletics at Monroe High School helped developed several of the success principles that have translated to a successful career in sports. There are a lot of former athletes in the industry, especially in the sales positions in the front offices, because past participation in athletics typically translates to a competitive mindset and that is crucial for success,” Simler said. “In business, not just the sports business, it is also crucial to be able to work well as a team to ultimately reach company goals and objectives. Personally, it also helped me with battling adversity in knowing that nothing comes easy and that it takes hard work and a lot of practice to be good at something.”
He said that it always helped him to keep things in perspective and that “each of us goes through various seasons in life,” but the opportunity of getting to complete in athletics builds memories that aren’t easily forgotten.
“Eventually, all athletes have to hang up the cleats and call it a career — some sooner than others — and it is all about how you take what you learn from it and use to grow from it as you continue to move on in your life and into your next big endeavor.”
Sometimes that next big endeavor turns into a Super Bowl ring.