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Monday, April 22, 2024

The Hawk’s wisdom hits home for soon-to-be-departed columnist

For more than a week, I’ve tried to figure out what I wanted to accomplish with my last column in the Alligator.

What did I want to share with the readers? Who did I want to thank? What lesson did I want to pass down?

For days and days I agonized over this and came up with literally nothing. All I had was my byline, which will be running for the last time today.

I even forced myself to start writing just to see if something would come out. All that yielded was 842 words that I deleted after changing my mind multiple times.

This is the most challenging thing I’ve ever had to write.

I want to thank UF coaches Tim Walton, Mary Wise and Kevin O’Sullivan. You’re great coaches and were a pleasure to work with over the years.

Thanks to SIDs Zanna Ollove and Sean Cartell. You always went out of your way to help me do my job.

And thanks to everyone who read any of my columns over the past year and a half, it means a lot to know people are reading and discussing.

But this one time, this column is not for you all.

This column is for the Alligator. For the people who continue to work there now. And for the people who will work there long after I’m gone.

For three and a half years, I gave everything I had to this paper, and I was lucky enough to work with people who did the same. People who became my best friends. Friends who became my brothers.

Thank you Mike, Bobby, DiFer and Adam. I will remember all the times we had together, not because of where we were or what we were doing, but because all of you were there.

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Mike, you’re the only reason I got a job at the paper. You taught me how to report. And you kept me from quitting when I honestly considered it.

Bobby, I spent the most time with you out of anyone. You are an exceptionally giving friend, and we made the journey from fan to reporter together.

DiFer, you’re everyone’s most entertaining friend. I don’t know how you put up with all of us. I never remember anyone ever fighting with you or complaining about you. As much crap as we give you, don’t ever disappear, man.

Adam, you came in late, but added so much. Your fire and determination made you a perfect fit with the group. Anything you ever did at the paper, you did well.

I left Phil out of that group, not because I’m better friends with him than any of the rest, but because he impacted my alligatorSports experience more than anyone else. You helped me so much with my writing when I was raw and inexperienced. We always challenged each other’s opinion in an unreasonably constructive and productive way. And I’m incredibly proud of the section we put out together last fall, when we made the paper our life.

To Nick Zaccardi and Katie Sanders, I always took notes on the way you worked, even if you didn’t realize it. You set a great example for any less experienced writers to follow.

To Steph and Erica, we made your lives as hard as possible sometimes, but it was always in the name of a good product. Thanks for all your hard work. You never get the credit you deserve.

To all future Alligator writers, editors, photographers, and multimedia and production staff: I can only hope you will feel the same way about your time in that old office as I do when you’ve finished your last story.

Please, work hard, chase stories, stay late and be proud to pick up your paper every day.

Most importantly, always understand that as long as your name is in that masthead, the paper is a reflection of you.

Too often excuses are made, responsibility is passed and accountability is lost.

Too often I hear reporters talk about writing for a Hearst and editors working for a résumé.

Your name is on that story and on that paper. And that should be enough to make you want to be great.

This summer, I had the chance to cover the National Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony in Cooperstown for MLB.com. Former Expos and Cubs legend Andre Dawson repeated a message throughout his speech that stayed with me and anyone can relate to.

“If you love the game, the game will love you back,” the Hawk kept saying.

I loved working for the Alligator. Gave it all the love and effort I had.

All it gave me back was a future in journalism and some of my very best friends.

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