NORTHWESTERN COMMAND – Nearly 10 years ago, my parents and I loaded two cars to the brim and departed left Concord, Ohio, driving south. I had relatively few possessions then. I had relatively few life experiences. But I was taking my first big risk. I had accepted my first job at the Rocky Mount Telegram, a small paper, in a tiny town on the North Carolina coastal plain.
My stomach was in knots the entire trip. Big change will do that, at least for me. I’d never lived outside my native state. I felt I was traveling to a foreign land as we traversed through the Blue Ridge and to the coastal plain. I fretted crossing the Mason-Dixon line, and feared only country music would be played on the radio. I was anxious as to what awaited in my future.
Cortez burned his ships when he reached the New World to keep his crew better motivated. My parents didn’t burn their sedans but they did leave me in Rocky Mount, N.C. with a 1996 Chevy Lumina, a flip phone, and a few furnishings for a $500-per-month apartment. I was rolling the dice on a career in journalism, starting from the bottom.
Ten years later, after stops at Myrtle Beach and with the Post and Courier, I’m heading back north.
In the most bittersweet of the 804 blog posts I’ve authored for the Post and Courier, I am writing today to tell you I’m leaving the Clemson beat to be part of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review’s Pittsburgh Pirates coverage team next month.
It’s an exciting time for me as I have a passion for Major League Baseball and enterprise writing, and Pittsburgh is a larger market, and nearer my family. But it’s also a difficult time.
I spent nearly all of my 20s, most of my young adulthood, an important formative time, in the Carolinas.
I met my wife in South Carolina.
I grew as a person and as a writer as I never could have if I didn’t travel here and live here.
I’ve made what I suspect will be lifelong friends here.
You’re probably not surprised to learn South Carolinians are thought to not always be receptive and welcoming toward Ohioans, but I typically found the opposite to be true.
I’ll miss many things like the environment of Saturday at Memorial Stadium, the camaraderie of the beat, the weather, thoughtful readers, and the staff at the Post and Courier. I have truly enjoyed about writing about Clemson and engaging with the Post and Courier readership, particularly in this blog.
I moved from Rocky Mount to Myrtle Beach in 2005 where I covered preps and then Coastal Carolina. On Jan. 21 2009, I traveled to Chapel Hill, N.C. to cover my first event as the Post and Courier’s Clemson writer, a forgettable 24-point thrashing of the Tigers by North Carolina much like Clemson’s 52 previous trips to Chapel Hill.
But there were more memorable events and stories to follow like Clemson’s overtime win at Miami later in the fall, documenting two ACC Player of the Year campaigns (C.J. Spiller in 2009, Tajh Boyd in 2012), Clemson baseball’s run to Omaha in 2010, and the up-tempo offense revolution Chad Morris brought to Clemson in 2011 that led to Clemson’s first ACC title in two decades.
I suspect 2013 has a chance to be the Tigers’ best season since 1981.
During my decade in the Carolinas I grew most as a writer and journalist in my four years at the Post and Courier.
The Clemson beat is a competitive one. Larry Williams, who preceded me in this position as the first full-fledged P&C Clemson beat writer, was a tough act to follow — made tougher by the fact that his reporting remained on the beat at TigerIllustrated.com. There were a number of other media outlets and talented writers covering the team like my friends Greg Wallace and Paul Strelow. It forced me to try and think differently, to provide you, the reader, with thoughtful and inventive stories. That’s what I’ve tried to do. Sometimes the ideas failed or fell flat, but I hope more often than not they made you think differently about the sport, whether it be investigating the incredible history of Memorial Stadium, investigating Clemson’s unusual coaching compensation practices, and always questioning, questioning why college basketball scoring is really down.
For those of you who loyally read my stories – hat tips to Matt Jerdan and Lee Elrod – I am particularly grateful.
I’ll be forever indebted to P&C columnist Gene Sapakoff for recruiting me, and to sports editor Malcolm Dewitt for hiring me and giving me the freedom to write the stories I chose to write. I’m also thankful to have a supportive family, and a wife willing to move with me as this adventure in journalism continues.
This is not an easy move. Even though I’ll still be in ACC Country thanks to John Swofford’s acquisition of Pitt, I have grown an attachment to the Carolinas.
Change is difficult. But as I’ve learned it’s impossible grow, to achieve, without it.
I’ll still be around for a few weeks but as I close this post I want to simply say thanks for reading … and keep reading because I’m confident the Post and Courier will fill my shoes with another talented journalist.
Thanks again, everyone.