From UNI to the Super Bowl: Graphic design alum making his mark with NFL team

When Jake Manternach arrived at the University of Northern Iowa as a transfer student in 2015, he wasn’t aware that his current position as a graphic designer for the Super Bowl-bound Tampa Bay Buccaneers even existed.

But when that opportunity emerged during his senior year, Manternach was ready. His portfolio as a graphic designer for the UNI Panther football team was strong enough to land him an internship interview with the Bucs. The team hired him and liked his work so much they created a full-time position for him. As the Bucs prepare for Super Bowl LV this weekend, Manternach’s work is now viewed by millions of fans. 

“I’ve always been a football fan, but I didn’t even know this was a career path until I came to UNI,” said Manternach, who has worked for the Bucs since he graduated with a graphic design major in 2017. “UNI was a great stepping stone to something bigger.”

Manternach’s path to the NFL began during his sophomore year at UNI when an email about a Panthers football marketing internship opened his eyes to the possibility of combining his love of art and football into a career. 

The marketing internship quickly morphed into a graphic design internship when his skills became apparent, and eventually he started working solely with the football team as a graphic designer. He also continued to hone his skills working for the Panther Scholarship Club, which helps fund the education of UNI student-athletes.

“UNI helped prepare me for this job,” Manternach said. “My time with athletics and football and the Panther Scholarship Club was just remarkable. It was real-world experience, because what I did for them is exactly what I’m doing with the Buccaneers.”

As his graduation in 2017 neared, Manternach saw an internship opportunity with the Bucs during a late-night Twitter scroll-athon. “I figured, ‘why not try it?’ I got the internship, worked hard for six months, and they created a full-time position for me,” Manternach said.

As an intern, Manternach started small but soon was given larger tasks like incorporating new elements of the Bucs rebrand across social media accounts and websites. When he transitioned to a full-time position, he continued to design content for media ads, social media campaigns and posters.

And with the Super Bowl on the horizon, Manternach is happily busier than ever.

“We're very busy. There's so much to be done in so little time. Everything from social media to print ads to you name it,” Manternach said.

After graduating from Cascade HIgh School in Cascade, Iowa, Manternach attended Hawkeye Community College for one year. But he knew transferring to UNI was the best next step for his education.

“I knew I didn’t want to go to some massive university with 400-student lecture halls,” Manternach said. “That wasn’t for me. I liked the classroom intimacy at UNI. You could really talk to your professors and get their feedback. And they genuinely cared about what you created and about you. I’ll take that any day.”

After all, it was his attendance at UNI that led him to his current career.

“This would’ve never crossed my path if it weren’t for that email saying ‘hey, come work for athletics,’” Manternach said.

“Jake’s success story shows what happens when students work hard and take advantage of the opportunities UNI offers,” said John Fritch, dean of the College of Humanities, Arts and Sciences. “We are thrilled that Jake is making his mark in the field of graphic design.”

Manternach said it’s been exciting to watch the newly acquired Tom Brady lead a team bolstered by a bevy of new offensive options to the Super Bowl.

“Everybody's excited,” Manternach said. “The season has been remarkable.”