Bartending, Country Music and Kay Adams’ Relentless Path to Success

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Photo via Kay Adams

It feels like Kay Adams is everywhere.

Turn on NFL Network for “Good Morning Football,” there she is. Turn on DirecTV “Fantasy Zone” on Sundays, there she is. Watch DAZN, there she is.

It is easy for young people in media to look up to Adams. She’s smart, confident and successful. But getting here was not a cakewalk, as Adams can explain.

“My parents grew up in Poland and immigrated over here and had a crazy work ethic,” Adams says. “It was, ‘Work as hard as you can and we can’t afford to pay for college, so you’re gonna have to get a scholarship’ mentality. Once I was on my own, I had to pay for school.”

Adams knew she wanted to work in media while attending Whitney M. Young Magnet High School in Chicago. She wrote for the school paper, turned science projects into video reports and turned a presentation on “Romeo & Juliet” into a modern reenactment.

“I thought about entertainment news, but then I got into actually got to thinking what the daily grind of that would look like, sizing up the Kardashians all day every day, and it didn’t seem meaningful to me,” she says of her high school self.

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Adams went to the University of Missouri, but paying her own way in college meant taking on a ton of outside work, some glorious and some not-as-glorious.

“I worked at a bar, so i could actually have money,” she says. “It was a sports bar, where guys would come in — girls too — and I would casually talk sports with them. I always loved it. I had a brother that was two years older than me that got me really interested in that. I knocked on every door in Columbia, Missouri. I went for journalism. I quickly found out I didn’t want to do hardcore journalism. I was more interested in some more editorial things.

“I knocked on a women’s door and I said, ‘Do you have any spots open?’ She said, ‘We have a country radio music spot open from midnight to 6 a.m., Fridays and Saturdays. Do you want it? Do you like country music?’ I couldn’t even say honky-tonk, but I was like, ‘Sure, I’ll do it.’ I studied, killed it, did that about a year until I weaseled my way into the top 40 station. Then, at three in the morning, I’d go to get coffee and the ESPN guys who had the radio station next door, we’d talk about the St. Louis Rams and the Kansas City Chiefs and they’d invite me at two in the morning to come in and talk sports.

“It’s dead air, and I would do that. That sort of grew my career. After that, SiriusXM was launching their fantasy sports station. I launched the station with them, from St. Louis. I had an ISDN Box that I would plug into and I was part of a show, as they were looking to cast a female talent to be part of their show.”

If you’re wondering what bar Adams is talking about, it’s Willie’s Pub and Pool in Columbia. She handled the 3-8 p.m. happy hour.

As for her academics, Adams started in journalism but moved more into communications.

“I had to figure out what I wanted. I thought I wanted to be Giuliana Rancic, but no, I wanted to be Kay Adams,” she says.

One of Adams’ early gigs was as the in-stadium host at Busch Stadium, a role she basically talked her way into.

“I’d be knocking on the St. Louis Cardinals’ door until they hired me,” she says. “I cannot tell you how many emails I sent the local NBC affiliate in St. Louis saying let me do this. I’ll create this. I’ll do it for free. I wanted to work for pennies, for peanuts. The Cardinals basically paid me in beer to be there for seven-hour rain delays and I bartended to make up for that. My advice is there’s not really an excuse because there’s not really a thing where if you have money, you’re gonna make it, and it’s not a thing where you need to have all the talent. I know that I’ll make it if I outwork the person to my left and my right.”

Even now, with Adams having a stable job, she won’t stop working. She didn’t take a vacation this past year. “Good Morning Football” is making sure NFL fans see the sport as a 365-day-a-year affair and Adams is committed to that. She’s not about to put her success out for chance.

OK, one more story from Adams:

“It really comes down to a relentless (mindset) you have to have and a willingness to not care about the door getting slammed in your face. I, at one point, showed up to the local affiliate at NBC because they wouldn’t answer my emails. I remember his name. His name was Adam. I was like, ‘You have to let me do this.’ He was hesitant. It was a website called Metromix. It was like a lifestyle website. It was like a Thrillist back in the day. I taught myself all this editing stuff to put together like, ‘This is what to do around St. Louis on St. Patrick’s Day.’ I put a couple together and showed them and he put them up.”

Adams also instructed Front Office Sports not to look up these embarrassing videos, but we are doing our best to find them. Metromix, then a partner of KSDK-TV, ceased operations in St. Louis in December 2011.

Adams, who worked in both the St. Louis and New England markets, is busy during Super Bowl week, on and off air. On Radio Row, she spoke on behalf of Olay, one of her sponsors. Over the summer, Adams took Olay’s “28-Day Challenge,” using Olay products for 28 straight days before walking the runway for New York Fashion Week with no makeup on.

“I was nervous, I was insecure and then I used the products for the 28 days, I got up there and there was so much support from Olay, from P&G, from these awesome brave, fearless, confident, wonderful, driven women that we all got up there together and I feel like it kind of changed me,” Adams says.

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On game day, Sarah Michelle Gellar will star in a Super Bowl commercial for Olay, while Adams, Gellar, Aly Raisman and other Olay Women will watch the game together from a Mercedes-Benz Stadium suite.

Adams’ parents were immigrants from Poland. On Sunday, she’ll watch the most high-profile live event in the continent with an Olympic gold medalist and an Emmy Award winner, among others.

And she has some final advice for those needing guidance:

“Outwork everyone; take any job. Take the country radio music station job from 12-6 a.m. Don’t turn down the internship. Go for that too. Diversify as much as you can.”

Kay Adams isn’t here for your excuses, and you shouldn’t be there for them either.