This is the First Story of the Rest of My Life
My 15-year career in newspapers ended last week when I left my position as sports editor of the Charleston Gazette-Mail. Yesterday was my first day of employment at Marshall University. My new role: Assistant Athletic Director for Fan/Donor Engagement and Communications.
I am still a storyteller, sure, and I’ll do that for you on HerdZone.com and in the pages of the new official publication of Marshall University athletics, Thundering Herd Illustrated. This is a position about me and you. It is baked right into my job title – I’ll engage with you; I’ll communicate with you.
So, how’d I get here? My name shouldn’t be unfamiliar to most of you. HerdZone.com’s previous columnist, Jack Bogaczyk, is my mentor. Bogaczyk hired me in 2009 to become the Charleston Daily Mail’s Marshall beat writer. He and I worked side-by- side for three years until he joined the Herd in 2012. I followed him as sports editor at the Daily Mail, and now I’ll take over for him here. Sort of.
This role will evolve somewhat. I want to try and fill Bogaczyk’s massive shoes again – a feat that, I can tell you from experience, is no small chore. You’ll continue to receive quality coverage of ALL Marshall athletics here at HerdZone.com. Then, of course, we have Thundering Herd Illustrated. THI’s content will give an exclusive look behind the scenes of Thundering Herd athletics and will be distributed to qualified members of the Big Green Scholarship Foundation, based on giving level. The publication will have an official magazine format and will be produced and distributed in conjunction with IMG College, Marshall University athletics’ official media rights holder.
We’re already planning and developing content for the first magazine. Trust me, you’ll want a copy.
I treasured my role within newspapers. It was, in most respects, a dream job. As a Charleston native, I grew up on Mountain State sports. As a DuPont High graduate, my idols growing up were Jason Williams and Randy Moss – two outstanding athletes who starred at Marshall in basketball and football, respectively. Their passion for playing sports was infectious to an impressionable teenager like me, and my trips to Huntington to watch them play stuck with me. They made me believe a kid from eastern Kanawha County could make it anywhere.
That’s why it was such an easy decision to return to West Virginia in 2009. I remember the call to Bogaczyk and me pleading with him to not entertain the idea of hiring anyone else. I wanted to be here in Huntington, and that’s before I even met the people here.
In my three years on the beat, I fell in love with the community and its people. I’m moving from one relationship-driven profession to another, so how I connect with you through words and photographs and videos is important. I want to bring you behind the veil and be your tour guide for Marshall sports. I want to continue to build on the Thundering Herd’s remarkable brand. I want to shine a light and enhance the visibility of our student-athletes, no matter the gender or the sport.
After this column, it is about everyone but me.
That said, we’ll end with a story about me.
As an old-school newspaperman, objectivity was paramount. Inside the press box, there is always an announcement forbidding media members from cheering. This is something I took seriously, so much so that even my wardrobe was created carefully. Open my closet and you’ll find lots of black polo shirts and an emphasis on earth tones. I rooted for good stories and it is hard to root against good people, but the outcome of the games was not important to me.
My adherence to those principles is over. In my career, I’ve won multiple Sportswriter of the Year awards, voted for the Heisman Trophy, voted in the Associated Press football and basketball polls and been a part of award-winning sports departments in Virginia and West Virginia. I have been in charge of thousands of sports sections and written thousands of stories. It was all thrilling.
There is a tremendous amount of excitement in being part of something so special, and it all pales compared to what I’ve experienced here this week.
My office is inside the Henderson Center, and a Marshall logo appears beside my name outside my door. My 4-year- old son, Gunnar, can’t stop talking about Marshall and the Herd. My boring closet devoid of color is getting a welcome makeover. Turns out, I look good in Kelly green.
And, while I’ll still respect the press box moratorium on fandom, don’t expect me to stifle my enthusiasm elsewhere. I am one of you now, and there is an unrivaled elation as I type these words for the first time: