This fall I will move on to pursue a new adventure in life: law school.
And even though I will remain affiliated with ‘BAMA Magazine and BamaMag.com in a reduced capacity, my nostalgia for the past three years, and nine years in Tuscaloosa, has set in deeply.
My ability to embark on this new journey was only made possible by Kirk and Lynne McNair's indulgence and support in my effort to seek a master's degree while working for them, and scores of friends who encouraged my belief that a career in a legal profession is a worthwhile endeavor. In addition to being the best bosses I've ever had, the McNairs have been and will continue to be wonderful friends to me and also to my parents, who have enjoyed their company and my job as much as I have. Saying "Thank you" seems inadequate, but I thank them nonetheless.
While I agree with Murphy that there are some stinkers in the media and on the Web, what's more true is that for three years I have been a part of an ongoing conversation about Alabama athletics with some of the most knowledgeable, passionate and entertaining sports fans anywhere – in the media, on the web and even live and in person at our regular lunch gatherings.
For much of that time there has been discord among those who follow Alabama football, but now there is near unanimity that Alabama is poised to march steadily back towards the top of the Southeastern Conference and the nation. I believe that will start with eight or nine wins in the coming season (including a long overdue win against Auburn) and get progressively better. There is little doubt that Alabama is, as Paul W. Bryant once said, "coiled and ready to strike."
When I came to Tuscaloosa as a freshman in 1997 I had a vague idea that I wanted to do something related to my lifelong passion for University of Alabama athletics, and during my time here I have been unbelievably fortunate to have had a front row seat to watch part of University of Alabama history unfold.
Since 2004 that seat has been here as assistant editor of ‘BAMA Magazine and BamaMag.com.
Before then, for a year and a half, I was a very small, fringe part of the program as a post-graduate intern in the Alabama media relations office. I initially elbowed my way into working with the football team by volunteering to work spring practice any time a fill-in was needed. Later that summer, I was pulled in deeper with another non-glamorous assignment as a part of my media relations duties. I was assigned to shadow my predecessor here at ‘BAMA, Jay Lisby, any time he was over at the weight room watching football team workouts (back then that was allowed.) During the summer I spent with him, Jay probably logged 20 hours a week there, and that's a conservative estimate.
Thanks to Larry White, who was my boss at UA, I was fortunate enough to parlay that gig into a 2003 trip to Hawaii (among other places) with the team.
I moved to Tuscaloosa and began school at the University of Alabama in 1997, and landed a job as a student-assistant in the athletics media relations office in 1998. For that I must thank associate media relations director Becky Hopf, who answered my cold call to her office and was generous enough to allow me to volunteer, and I soon earned a paid position.
In 2001 I was hired as a co-op student at the Mercedes-Benz plant in Vance, which paid me over double media relations wages, but I somehow managed to convince broadcaster David Crane to allow me to volunteer as his spotter for the tape-delayed television re-broadcast and finagled my way into the press box again.
In fact, working for David during the 2002 Georgia game is when I finally learned to control my emotions in the press area. An Alabama player who was running back to set up a punt return had his eye off the ball and the Georgia punt was about to ricochet off his shoulder pad. Had this happened, of course, the ball would have been live and Georgia might well have recovered to maintain possession. I grabbed Crane's shoulder and at the top of my lungs – as if the player might hear me – yelled "GET OUT OF THE WAY!"
The punt didn't hit the player, and if it had the only time he would have heard me would have been on the television replay the next day when my screech was broadcast through Crane's mic. What can't be heard on the broadcast is Crane grabbing and twisting my shirt, and slowly, silently mouthing "Caaaalm Doooown."
I since have, but only a little bit.
At times in this position I was lucky enough to be the first one to know a few things, and pass them along to you. Other times I think I was able to provide incisive commentary and analysis on the state of Alabama football. More times than you know I keyed in on something someone had posted and gleaned some news out of it (everyone in the media keeps a close eye on message boards.)
I certainly had the great fortune to interact with scores of wonderful human beings who represented The University of Alabama in competition (football players and tennis players alike), and to tell you about them as best I could. That's the part of the job I'll miss the most.
The hundreds of individual moments I have gathered in my memory over the past three years are shared much more enjoyably over beers than over broadband connections. And if I tried to begin to list all of the readers, friends, colleagues, co-workers, counterparts, coaches, players and mentors who helped me along the way I would certainly leave someone behind.
Though I will be going away, I can't say that I'll be totally gotten rid of. Hopefully, I never will.
(And if you do post something bad about me, I will still be able to delete it and ban you!).