Over the last ten years, numerous Hillsdale College stu­dents have gone on to con­tinue their football careers in the NFL. One standout student recently joined the NFL … but not to play football.  

Junior Mary Kate Drews, a sports pho­tog­rapher at Hillsdale College, offi­cially pho­tographed her first NFL game in November of 2018 and has con­tinued shooting various games and events for them ever since.

Although Drews has had a camera in her hands since freshman year of high school, she never imagined it would take her this far.

“My dad bought a camera one day because my sib­lings and I all played sports,” Drews said. “He bought it to follow us around through our JV and varsity sports. He was always encour­aging me to try it too.”

Once she grad­uated from high school, Drews attended Belmont Uni­versity and worked with their men’s bas­ketball team. She later trans­ferred to Hillsdale and pho­tographed nearly every sport, specif­i­cally putting her skills to work for every team’s media day except, iron­i­cally, for football. 

“I wanted to do a summer internship outside of Hillsdale,” Drews said. “I was born and raised here and it can be a little boring, as you can imagine. I wanted to get out, so I ended up cold calling every sports team in the Midwest.”

Rather than searching for a job, Drews was on the hunt for an interview that would create con­nec­tions for work expe­ri­ences after the summer.

“I got in touch with the Chicago Bears pho­tog­rapher that had just been hired,” Drews said. “He was a young guy and really willing to help me. He walked me through his steps of getting a pho­to­jour­nalism degree and working with the Kansas City Chiefs for his internship before moving to Chicago.”

Less than two months after Drews’s phone call with the Bears’ pho­tog­rapher, she was con­tacted and asked to help shoot the Lions v. Bears Thanks­giving football game.

“November rolls around and I get a phone call from him. He said, ‘Hey, you live near Detroit, right?’ and I was like ‘Yeah of course!’ even though I was actually two hours out,” Drews said. He asked if I was available and without checking my cal­endar I was like, ‘Oh absolutely, I’ll be there.’”

Drews was a sec­ondary shooter for the Thanks­giving game as well as a photo runner, which con­sisted of running cards back and forth to the media room, selecting photos to download, and sending them off to Chicago. After Drews’s first real expe­rience on the pro­fes­sional side­lines, she got invited to mul­tiple galas, con­ven­tions, and training seasons throughout the rest of the school year and into summer.

“It was a great expe­rience,”  Drews said. “I didn’t really think any­thing would come of it, but I told him I was really inter­ested in working in this field, and went about it in my head as pro­fes­sionally as I pos­sibly could without being too excited.”

While advancing her career outside of the college, Drews also works on and off the field with Hillsdale, revealing the genuine rela­tionship that the ath­letic faculty works to cul­tivate between coach and player.

“The coaches here def­i­nitely invest in their ath­letes in a way that not a whole lot of people are willing to,” Drews said.

Assistant football coach Nick Galvan offered some insight into Drews’s work with the team.

“Mary Kate has made a huge impact on the football program and ath­letic department,” Galvan said, “not only with her ability to capture great moments with her pho­tog­raphy, but also her ability to create cutting edge material for social media. From early on we told Mary Kate that we were going to let her be cre­ative and come up with content and ideas.”

Galvan stressed the department’s grat­itude for Drews’s work as well as their hopes that she stays with them throughout her college career.

“Throughout the season we were able to put a lot of trust in her with every­thing that she did,” Galvan said. “We are going to have some big shoes to fill when she is gone.”

Amidst Drews’s busy life between the NFL and col­le­giate sports, she has been able to find a joy in pho­tog­raphy that she didn’t expect when she first started out.

“I gen­uinely enjoy sports pho­tog­raphy for the reason that it’s cap­turing moments that are kind of dif­ficult to capture,” Drews said. “I think there’s some pride that comes with being able to capture the photos, but also seeing the reac­tions of people when they see the photos.”

Although Drews works non-stop to take photos and provide content for dif­ferent plat­forms and depart­ments, she said the hard work is all worth it in the end.  

“When I send my photos to NFL players, they get so excited and really cherish those moments because they are putting their whole lives into it, and they get to relive all of that passion in a picture.”