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Monday, April 22, 2024

Jacksonville die-hard takes his talents back to Duval after being groomed and developed by Alligator Elites

"Hell, let's give it a shot"

Where would I be? 

As I write this, it is a Sunday afternoon in early December. I just watched the Jacksonville Jaguars lose another game to go 1-11 to stay on track to draft Trevor Lawrence or Justin Fields. 

Well, I sort of half-watched it. 

I covered Florida’s men’s basketball game against Stetson today. This follows a college football rankings story I wrote earlier today for another publication and a high school football TV show that I directed, edited and produced two days ago on Friday night at, like, 4 a.m.

Needless to say, I am exhausted. But having to finally accept that graduation is actually happening in mere weeks and I have to say goodbye to some of my favorite human beings in this world at The Independent Florida Alligator, I have to think to myself:

Where would I be? 

Without The Alligator, would I have done any of that other stuff today? 

The honest answer is no. 

Obviously I wouldn’t have covered men’s basketball for The Alligator without The Alligator itself, but I wouldn’t have my Sports Illustrated editor title either. I wouldn’t have the resume that it took to get basically every opportunity I have gotten in this industry called sports media. 

But more importantly, I wouldn’t have access to memes as elite as the memes our very own editor, River Bartholomew Wells, sends on a regular basis. I wouldn’t have people to rant about the incompetencies of the Jaguars too like I so often do to our Duval crew. I wouldn’t have videos of myself singing “Beautiful Girls” with Dylan O’Shea and “Promiscuous” with Kyle Wood at Social karaoke night. 

For me, I had kind of an odd path to the sports staff. I applied to both sports and news and got rejected by both heading into my first semester at UF in the fall of 2018. So I spent most of that fall not involved in very much as far as work experience. When the semester was over and applications for news were open again to apply for spring, I tried again. 

Nope.

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At this point,I figured I just wasn’t cut out for it. I had almost nothing on my resume at that point anyway. But then the Journalism Department Chair at UF, Ted Spiker, sent one of his 50,000 emails to journalism kids that caught my eye. 

It was an Alligator application for copy editors. 

I figured “Hell, let’s give it a shot.”

I aced the AP Style quiz and got the job. After about a month at copy desk, editing stories and exchanging hot takes about Feleipe Franks to then-sports editor Jake Dreilinger in the office,  I applied to the sports staff again. 

Jake and then-assistant editor Mark Stine told me a few weeks later that they wanted to bring me on and give me track and field. I ran track for seven years and have always loved watching it. So to me, that was an awesome first beat to have. And looking back on it, covering Grant Holloway with my first-ever beat was pretty damn cool, too. 

And when I think about my experience since that moment now, I can’t feel much of anything other than thankful for the student newspaper that has no equal. It’s a better paper than most regular, full-time papers. It’s run by passionate students that are damn good at their jobs. 

I’m unbelievably proud that I got to be a small part of that for six semesters. 

So to people that I owe a lot to here, such as Jake, Mark, Alanis Thames, Tyler Nettuno, Kyle Wood, River, Mari Faiello, Brendan Farrell —the list never stops — thank you. To my beat partners I’ve gotten to spend press box time with — Bryan Matamoros, Payton Titus (as heard on Paul Finebaum), Evan Lepak and Dylan O’Shea, thank you. 

And to the rest of the roster, thank you, too. 

Thank you for laughing at my awful jokes. Thank you for pretending to care about my Jags takes. Thank you for enjoying the fun press conferences with me and suffering through the awful ones with me, too. 

But more than anything, thanks for existing and being amazing human beings. You’re the people that make me glad I chose this as my future career path. You’re the people that make saying goodbye suck so freaking much. 

I love you all dearly, you know I’m a text or a DM away at any time. I will not respond without a meme attached, though. 

Graham out. Go Jags.

Graham Marsh was a sports writer at the Independent Florida Alligator. You can follow him on Twitter @GrahamMarshUF.

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