By Ann Gill (M.A., ’76)
Very few individuals land their dream job when they are 23 years old. Former CSU sports information director Gary Ozzello did, staying in that role 35 years and becoming a Ram legend.
He grew up in Southeastern Colorado, graduating from La Junta High School, where his father was the principal, a former teacher, and coach. His senior year, Ozzello came to Fort Collins along with his best friend, the late Tom Driscoll, brother of former star Ram quarterback Mark Driscoll (B.S., ’76; M.S., ’88) and “fell in love with CSU and Fort Collins.” As a result of that visit, he only applied to one school, not knowing it would become such an important part of his life.
Ozzello knew he wanted to work in sports journalism, so he wrote a letter to the Athletic Department and Tim Simmons, then sports information director, about possible careers. After they had a conversation, Simmons hired him as a sports information intern. Ozzello says, “Simmons would tell you I was the worst intern ever in that first year; he called me ‘The Shadow.’” After the two had a heart-to-heart discussion, Ozzello called his parents, saying he wasn’t sure this was for him. His dad told him to come home and he would get him a job with the Santa Fe Railroad. That convinced Ozzello to stay in school.
He grew to love the internship and his two favorite courses, Sociology of Sport and Public Speaking. He soon knew he wanted to stay on at CSU past graduation, and that goal was realized when he was offered a position as assistant sports information director. Then, when Ozzello was only 24 years old, the sports information director resigned. Athletic director and Ram legend Fum McGraw offered him the job, saying “I am going to take a chance on you.” Ozzello recalls “feeling like I died and went to heaven” and that the $10,000 salary “was like winning the lottery.”
For the next three-and-one-half decades, Ozzello wrote and spoke about every sport played by the Rams and every major event that impacted CSU Athletics. He worked with local, regional, and national media. Looking back on that time, he is grateful for the “circle of influence I had to guide me.” That started with his time working under McGraw, then when he retired, Sonny Lubick “came back and did the improbable and impossible.” Ozzello took to heart Lubick’s admonition that “you don’t win with the playbook; you win with people.” He also learned a great deal watching the late Boyd “Tiny” Grant rebuild the men’s basketball program.
In 2014 he left Athletics to become CSU’s director of University Relations. That year was the first time he had ever watched any CSU sports event from the stands. After seven years in that role, he retired from CSU, but “that lasted exactly 12 hours.” He now is director of university relations for Canvas Credit Union.
Ozzello is married to a CSU alumna, Joni (B.A.,’82). His two children attended CSU—Angie and D.J. (B.S., ’80). Ozzello claims he told his children they could attend any school they wanted except two, and every Ram fan knows which two ̶ CU and Wyoming! These days he loves getting videos and photos of his two little grandsons. He also stays in touch with hundreds of interns from his sports information days.
This Alumni Association member enjoys hiking, working in the yard, and volunteering in the community. As he looks back on his time at CSU, although he loved all the wins and the exciting games, his favorite thing was the people. He says he met “the best people” on campus, adding, “people make CSU!” Gary Ozzello truly is one of those “best people!”