From the UI to the NFL

BY AMIE KIEHN | JANUARY 21, 2010 7:30 AM

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It’s a late night in the Minnesota Vikings office.

At 11 minutes to 8 p.m., Steve LaCroix is finally poised to depart from the piles of neatly stacked documents atop his desk on this frigid Tuesday.

“He’s a big stacker,” wife Sue joked about her husband, the vice president of sales and marketing. “I make fun of him all the time because he doesn’t like to use the file drawers. Where lots of us would put them in the drawers — not him.”

The 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. shift LaCroix and his many colleagues have administered is the result of their team’s winning playoff performances. Equipped with the powerful arm of future Hall-of-Famer Brett Favre and the intense grip of wideout Sidney Rice, long nights in the office aren’t only expected in the Minnesota Vikings’ office but cherished.

The yearlong workload and progress culminates to the organization’s upcoming game when the Vikings will vie for the NFC Championship — and, ultimately, a trip to Miami for the Super Bowl — against the New Orleans Saints.

For LaCroix, being actively involved in sports is nearly encoded into his DNA. The son of legendary cross-country and track coach Bob LaCroix of Peoria, Ill., Steve LaCroix kept himself extremely busy with four sports in high school.

It wasn’t until the tall, dark-haired teen with glasses arrived at the UI in 1986 that a clearer direction emerged for a path into the sports profession.

After a brief stint as an engineering major his freshman year (“I realized it wasn’t the right career path for me,” LaCroix joked), he switched into the business school and found his niche almost immediately. He began studying marketing with a focus on athletics.

“It was an opportunity to continue my passion for sports but apply it more in the business side,” the 41-year-old said.

“I fell in love with the classes and the subject matter, and really, I kind of just took off from there. I applied all the knowledge I learned in Iowa City and took it to grad school [at Western Illinois] and then Indiana Pacers.”

Once his sports management degree at Western Illinois was completed, LaCroix nabbed a position on the Indiana Pacers’ sales team, where he stayed for 10 years. In 2001, he was recruited to work for the Vikings.

Since LaCroix’s time with the NFL’s Purple-and-White franchise, LaCroix and his staff of 40 have been responsible for implementing the successful “You made the team,” the fan-appreciation campaign. He also aided in the redesign of the Vikings uniforms.

“We worked hand-in-hand with Reebok and the NFL league office and its design team. It has been a big hit,” he said, clearly cheerful. “Right now, this past season, Brett Favre is the No. 1 jersey sold in the NFL among all players. Adrian Peterson is No. 5.”

With the Vikings big game four days away and the front office working 14 hour days, Sue LaCroix knows her husband remains extremely grateful to be where he’s at.

“He loves what he does,” said Sue, also an Iowa graduate. “He works so hard, even when things are crazy, he actually works better. The higher the stress, the higher the workload, the better he performs.”

With the mounting workload, Steve La Croix can’t wait for his game day ritual, a “Carmel High Rise” from Caribou Coffee en route to the Metrodome.

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