Banker trades suits for black and white stripes during football season

September 02, 2021

U.S. Bank Private Wealth Advisor Tyree Walton spends weekends officiating college football games

By midday every Friday during the college football season, Tyree Walton wraps up his work at U.S. Bank and catches a plane to his other job – where he has to make split-second decisions without hesitation in front of a stadium filled with tens of thousands of fans.

Walton is a back judge in the Big 12 Conference, responsible among other things for watching over all kicks from scrimmage, including ruling on field goal attempts. It’s a high-pressure, heavily scrutinized role – and one that he credits with honing leadership and communications skills that accelerated his career in banking.

“When a coach asks you a question, being able to articulate what you saw or what your responsibility was on a certain play is critical,” he said. “Officiating very quickly taught me that the most important thing is communication, and the same thing applies when you’re dealing with customers.”

Walton played football for most of his childhood, earning a scholarship to Adams State University in Alamosa, Colorado, as a running back. After graduating and moving to Denver, he fell into officiating almost on a whim after striking up a conversation with a customer at a pizza shop where he was moonlighting as a delivery driver. The customer turned out to be an NFL official, who told Walton that college football programs needed a pipeline of young talent and that working games would be a way for him to give back to a sport he loved.

Walton started working Pee Wee and high school games, then quickly moved into the Division II Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference. The D-1 Mountain West Conference followed, where he was the only official from Colorado selected to officiate on the 2018 Mountain West Championship. The next season he joined the Big 12 conference.

"The transition from player to official was humbling very quickly in the hardest way possible,” he said. “When you’re an official, you show up to the stadium and it’s no longer about you. No one is there to watch you officiate. But you can easily translate that lesson to life, and realizing at a certain point that it isn’t about you but the people you can impact.”

It’s a belief that Walton, who recently accepted a new role as a private wealth advisor after working primarily as a business banker, has carried throughout his decade-long career. He’s known among the Denver business banking team as a generous colleague and mentor, said Patrina Pettry, who leads Consumer and Business Banking for U.S. Bank in Denver. Those qualities helped propel him to win the Legends of Possible Award, the highest recognition at U.S. Bank, for each of the past two years. Earlier this year he received the “40 Under 40” award from The Denver Business Journal.

“Tyree is a leader, and he does so with true courage, collaboration and authenticity,” Pettry said. “That has always been the case, but throughout 2020 and beyond he’s played a pivotal role in leading not just his colleagues on the Denver team but the larger community.”

Following the killing of George Floyd and the ensuing protests and unrest, Walton joined with several other members of the Denver team to form “We the Solution,” an employee-led group that collaborates with managers to ensure everyone has the opportunity to build the skills needed to foster a diverse, inclusive and equitable culture. We the Solution also has spearheaded community volunteer projects, from delivering meals from local Black-owned businesses to nonprofits that serve Denver’s homeless population to raising funds for an organization that helps families break intergenerational cycles of poverty and violence.

While the 13-week college football season is particularly intense with travel, officiating is a year-round commitment that includes in-person and virtual camps,  clinics and scrimmages. Even the officials have their own judges, and after every game, Walton and his officiating crew receive grades from an on-site evaluator who watches films of the game and grades their calls and “mechanics,” meaning whether the official was in the right position at the right time.

The officiating crew he works with has been together for three years, and includes a firefighter from San Jose and an attorney from Pittsburgh.

“Like any good working relationship, your personalities have to mesh and you need to know how to communicate with each other – and we all get along really well and have jelled as a team,” he said. “There are no egos on our crew. At the end of the day, we all just want to run a good game."

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