As I gathered my thoughts to write my final blog for The Scout Leader, I realized I’ve seen and done so much in my four years with The Sun that I could write for days.
However, I don’t have time for that and you certainly don’t.
As some of you might know from stalking my Facebook or subtle Twitter drops, I’m leaving The Sun on Monday to cover SEC football with Chris Low on ESPN’s blog network. I’ve always dreamed of covering just college football and this is a great opportunity to do just that.
But I wouldn’t have gotten this chance without my experience at The Sun. And what a four-year experience it’s been for me. From cutting out my first story to appear in the sports section (a story about Kestahn Moore that sits on my desk in my home office) to wild and wacky journey I’ve been on while covering recruiting.
Recruiting might have worn me down mentally and physically, but without the work I put in I don’t know if I’d be writing this today. Traveling around to watch the best high school football players on Friday nights and watching future stars compete at camps and combines was a blast.
Though there are a lot of mental games played in the recruiting world, it’s been a hell of a ride and I’ve taken pride in what I was able to do in my time on the beat. I’ve been lied to countless times (thank you for the unwanted national exposure and multiple radio interviews Nu’Keese Richardson) and I’ve had to dig quite deep to get accurate information. The beast that is recruiting is one like no other in sports, but to be able to continuously compete with regular recruiting writers and websites makes me feel like I did the job I set out to do.
I’ve got stories for DAYS when it comes to the recruiting world. Maybe if I see you out with a cold one in your hand I’ll tell you some one day.
Of course, I was first hired to help with football coverage. Covering Florida’s football program has been a wild ride in itself. From covering a Heisman Trophy winner in Tim Tebow, to two SEC championships and a national championship, I don’t think I could have asked for anything better. Well, I was hoping to make my first trip to California last year, but someone had to ruin those plans. Thanks, Alabama!
From watching Percy Harvin perform better in person than on video games to being shut out of spring practices, covering the Gators has been an adventure. There were ups and downs, but to have the experience at my age is something I wouldn’t trade.
Oh, and getting to cover the Orange Bowl during the ’08 season gave me the chance to dominate other media members in Wii Tennis. I’m looking at you Stewart Mandel.
But football wasn’t my only responsibility. I’ve spent countless times in the press box at McKethan Stadium watching Florida’s top-notch baseball team over the years. Kevin O’Sullivan is building something special there, guys. How’s this for irony? The year I would get to travel to Omaha (if Florida made it to the College World Series) I won’t be covering the team anymore.
Track and field has always been one of the more exciting sports to cover and watching Florida’s men’s and women’s track teams during relays is something I advise everyone to witness while Mike Holloway is still in town.
While my basketball coverage was limited, the moment I won’t ever forget was when Chandler Parsons’ buzzer-beater against South Carolina last year required me to delete my entire sidebar on Devan Downey right before deadline. Oh and I can’t forget about the time I was pushed to the second row for media when Kentucky came to town. Had to make room for the bow tie guy …
The list just goes on when it comes to sports, but what really sticks out to me are the relationships I built along the way. Road trips with Robbie Andreu and Pat Dooley were great. Barbecue pits in Alabama and Dooley’s endless iPod are what I lived for. Listening to Robbie’s war stories from being on the beat are priceless. And Kevin Brockway’s karaoke is a treat for everyone.
I won’t forget working for one of the best bosses in the world in Arnold Feliciano or being pushed (in a good way) by Jeff Barlis when it came to churning out content.
Of course, I can’t leave out the readers. All the mailbag questions, the compliments and criticism. Couldn’t get enough of any of it. However, the guys who didn’t want me to have a female celebrity to sponsor my mailbag, shame on you. Come on!
It’s been a fun ride, and while it’s sad to see it end, I’m excited about my new adventure. Plus, I’ll still be in the SEC, so I’ll be popping in and out of Gainesville from time to time.
Before I go, I’d like to dedicate my four years at The Sun and my new beginning to my parents, Peter and Patricia. They were both writers and professors, so whatever “talent” I have came from them. A year ago today, my mother passed away, eight years after my father. My mom kept up with all my work and watched as many Florida games as she could so she could make sense of what I was writing about. I’m pretty sure she could describe the spread option offense perfectly in 15 seconds or less.
Here’s to making them proud.