This story was originally published July 2018
In his rapid rise career as Texans President, Jamey Rootes readily admits to the critical role of relationships rather than the sheer self-reliance of individual wizardry.
Relationships nurtured and cemented by an indomitable verve and energy that have characterized his professional ascent.
First and foremost, a lasting relationship with owner Bob McNair ignited by a dynamic first encounter that struck an immediate chord and led Rootes to Houston where he has emerged as a driving force within a franchise ranked No. 9 on the 2017 Forbes list of the most valuable among the NFL at $2.6 billion, a year-over-year increase of nearly 40%.
Relationships empowered Rootes to help raise not only the exposure of the franchise and city, but also plot the Texans highly-acclaimed customer service strategy, orchestrate the Texans Foundation which has raised more than $30 million since 2002 benefiting underserved children in Houston, and establish Houston as one of the leading soccer and collegiate championship markets in the United States.
Relationships positioned Rootes as Board Chair for the United Way of Greater Houston, Vice-Chair of the Host Committee for Super Bowl 51 hosted at NRG Stadium, 2016 Houston Business Journal Business Person of the Year, 2016 chairman of the Greater Houston Partnership, whose board consists of 130 of the city’s preeminent movers and shakers, and twice among the distinguished Forty Under 40 list of leading sports executives by SportsBusiness Journal.
Essential relationships which at the core are values aligned. And that very credo intrigued Rootes with St. Thomas when seeking and deciding on the college preparatory experience for his son Chris ‘20.
“My wife Melissa and I obviously wanted our son to be thoroughly prepared for the academic demands of whatever college he would choose and I knew right away St. Thomas provided that at the highest level,” Rootes says. “We also agreed that St. Thomas offered an enriching experience that was just as important as the gains in the classroom. We certainly recognized the strong element of brotherhood and Chris has developed a great base of friends who project to be part of his inner circle for many years to come. Most importantly is the diversity of that group. It crosses ethnic, economic and geographical.”
Rootes firmly believes that “you have to live in the world where it is, relate and respect people from all corners, discover where others come from and hopefully lead to their understanding of where you come from. Ivory tower institutions do not properly prepare young men for the culture they’ll face in the future. I wanted to make sure Chris participated in a highly contrasting experience. St. Thomas has definitely delivered.”
In much the same way the move to Houston has paved the way for Rootes to thrive in a variety of far-reaching roles within the multi-tiered hierarchy of the Texans.
Once the NFL awarded McNair an expansion team in 1999 for a record $700 million price, Rootes joined forces as vice president for marketing and sales for the inaugural 2002 season. He had launched Major League Soccer’s Columbus Crew as president and general manager where he was MLS Executive of the Year in 1996 and Marketing Executive of the Year in 1999 after corporate stays with IBM and Procter & Gamble and earning his MBA from Indiana University.
“When I met Bob the first day, we saw the world the same way,” Rootes says. “His method is high character, high integrity, high expectations. His absolute intent from day one was to build with the right type of players and the right type of staff supporting that group, all reflecting the values of Houston. I recognized immediately we would walk like champions, work like we’re in last place, always perform with optimism that tomorrow will be better than today. And to this day all of us in the organization adopt the attitude we are caretakers of a community asset. The Texans experience belongs to the fans. It’s our responsibility to deliver to their expectations.”
And the franchise under the McNair-Rootes tag-team has emphatically made the mark. That passionate fan base has sold out all 154 home games since the Texans’ inception. The streak is a Houston NFL record and a testament to the quality of game day service and entertainment provided. With every Texan home game available on broadcast television, the waitlist for season tickets stands at 30,000.
“One of the compelling factors in joining the Texans at the beginning was the blank canvas knowing there was a bigger game to be played, an opportunity to create something that Houston had never seen,” Rootes says.
“The first day in this city I was blown away with the identity of being a Texan. It’s so powerful. No one place on the planet identifies with a way of life like Texans. Our name and over-arching experience resonated immediately. So whether it’s Sundays at NRG, or the NFL Draft party or our Texans Care Volunteer Day, the goal is always to impact throughout the community to make a difference.”
Rootes inherited a McNair mission statement that encompasses more than winning football results and creating memorable experiences for fans. The third pillar of imperatives is always to provide great happenings for Houston beyond the NFL.
Rootes is president of Lone Star Sports & Entertainment (LSSE), the event and sports marketing company associated with the Texans which has established Houston as one of the leading event destinations in the United States.
NRG Stadium will host the College Football Playoff national championship game in 2024.
In 2006, LSSE resurrected the city’s diminishing bowl game which had lost $1 million the previous year, assumed the debt and in roughly a decade elevated the event into the fourth best-attended bowl game behind only the Rose, Cotton and Peach Bowls. Along with the AdvoCare Texas Kickoff staged Labor Day weekend, the pair has raised nearly $1.4 million in financial support for DePelchin Children’s Center, Houston’s oldest children’s charity and the bowl’s official charitable beneficiary.
NRG Stadium has also become a regular venue in the two-year rotation for the CONCACAF Gold Cups (determining the continental soccer champion of North America, Central America, and the Caribbean) … hosted a historic Manchester Derby featuring Premier League titans Manchester United and Manchester City and held outside of the United Kingdom for the first time in its 174-game history … plus the 2010 MLS All-Star Game which drew nearly 71,000 … and the Mexican National Team 16 times, establishing Houston as the U.S. home for El Tri.
Such rich recent history will likely prove favorable for Houston hosting World Cup matches among 10 U.S. cities in the winning North American bid for 2026.
All of which spikes a particular pride for Rootes above and beyond being a two-time national soccer champion at Clemson (1984 and ‘87) when he wasn’t serving as student body president.
“Many of those involvements are huge for the image of our city, beamed throughout the world,” Rootes says. “It’s all in our part in helping make Houston the best in America.”
During the spring and summer runup to the 2018 Texans season, Rootes collaborated with new general manager Brian Gaines on a $6 million internal facility makeover which “takes us from good to best in class.”
“We transformed into a state of the art, league-leading environment,” Rootes says. “We touched every aspect, from weight training to sports performance to food service and nutrition with our partners Aramark and Sysco. Given the parity in the NFL, we as an organization must search out every advantage to give the Texans the best possible edge to win a championship.”
Rootes characterizes his tenure with the Texans as “promises on the front end that have been absolutely fulfilled.” And applies the same ripe description for his ongoing encounter with St. Thomas.
Rootes characterizes his tenure with the Texans as “promises on the front end that have been absolutely fulfilled.” And applies the same ripe description for his ongoing affinity for St. Thomas where he has become an ardent supporter.
In the spring of 2017, Rootes provided a galvanizing testimonial during a campus event welcoming potential parents and students. In reaching out to those who would later form the newest members of the Eagle community representing the Class of 2021, he retrieved an invaluable slice of advice he had received just weeks into his college introduction from a savvy sophomore that made an indelible impression.
“Jamey, don’t ever let academics get in the way of a good education.”
Relationships. Values aligned. Progress in the pursuit.
Catholic. Basilian. Teaching Goodness, Discipline, and Knowledge since 1900.