Monday, July 6, 2020

COLUMN: The end of this chapter, but a start to a new journey

November 29, 2019
<p>Sparty stands in the tunnel before the game against Illinois on Nov. 9, 2019, at Spartan Stadium.</p>

Sparty stands in the tunnel before the game against Illinois on Nov. 9, 2019, at Spartan Stadium.

Photo by Matt Schmucker | The State News

Seven gameday afternoons every Fall, the Michigan State football team participates in its "Spartan Walk" across campus. Hundreds of fans border the East Lansing streets as the team travels from the Kellogg Center, across the Spartan Statue and into the Spartan Stadium tunnel, prepared to go to work against that week's adversaries.

Hours earlier, I make my own walk across campus. No fans cheering me on — just myself. I stroll from my off-campus house, through the tailgates, past Wells Hall and up the elevator to the Spartan Stadium press box. For four years this has been my gameday Spartan Walk, as I prepared for the day's work covering the Spartan football team.

This Saturday's regular season finale against Maryland provides one last chance for the 21 seniors on Michigan State's roster to make that cherished trip through the cold and applause — one that will most likely never be forgotten.

Sadly, it will be my last walk as well, because Saturday evening will be my final hours in the Spartan Stadium press box.

In two weeks I will be graduating from Michigan State, shutting an incredible chapter of my life where I figured out my direction, found my calling and was determined to do anything to succeed.

For 27 Saturdays, this has been my routine. No tailgates. No parties. After Saturday, it will be over — just like that.

And I wouldn't have done it any differently.

It's been quite a journey. I started off as a young, inexperienced kid itching to learn how to be a successful reporter, and was christened into the profession with a 3-9 season my first year on campus. Two years later I interned for 247Sports, where I truly figured out what it took to cover a significant college football beat.

That prepared me for this season, where I was the Senior Football Reporter for The State News. Michigan State had high expectations for its season, and so did I in the way I told the stories of the year.

Deplorably, there won't be a trip down I-69 to Indianapolis for the Big Ten Championship — a plausible goal the Spartans had in August — or to Florida for a New Year's Day bowl game, but with all things considered, this was a pretty successful season.

The product on the field wasn't the best, but the compelling angles and stories were always there. We saw breakout performances and reconnected with former players. We observed a redshirt freshman running back emerge as a future star. There were insane final minutes of football games, players that fought through catastrophe and others that returned home for one final game.

We even witnessed some history.

Saturday's game provides one more opportunity to impart these moments with you.

I will be leaving with some regrets. Some stories left in my back pocket. Some iconic stadiums yet to be visited. What's more, my 0-1 record against The Michigan Daily — which will probably sting for a while.

I'll likewise be departing with lots to cherish. My colleagues on the MSU beat were constantly a wellspring of help. I wouldn't be where I am if the questions I asked weren't answered, and the advice on how to improve my writing wasn't given. And as much as the hours I spent in the press box were filled with work, transcribing interviews and beating deadlines, there were also tons of jokes and laughs.

I will always give an unnamed Michigan State beat writer crap for putting ketchup on his press box hot dogs.

Following my graduation I will be moving to California, where I've accepted a job at The Stockton Record. It's been tough to contain my fervor for this next step in my reporting career.

I hope we stay in touch, because the untold stories haven't come to an end. They are just getting ready to be unlocked.

So, come 8 p.m. — or so — Saturday night, I will say my goodbyes to the Michigan State beat for the foreseeable future. Hopefully, if all works out, we can meet again, where I'll continue to take fans deeper than stat lines and scoreboards.

Until then, I thank everyone who followed mine and The State News' coverage this season. It's been a taxing year with tons of frustrations between the sidelines.

Hopefully our coverage brought some fun into the last three months.

I will be moving on, but the The State News will always be here. I encourage you readers to continue following the student journalists that will guide you through an exciting basketball season, an ever-improving hockey team and many other successful Spartan teams.

Enjoy the rest of your winter. I will be out west, starting my new life, catching some sun and telling some stories in between.

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