I still have Ian Cohen’s Alligator Goodbye Column bookmarked on my laptop.
Cohen was one of four seniors — along with Ethan Bauer, Matt Brannon and Dylan Dixon — who, as a freshman, I considered to be Alligator royalty. I could talk about those four all day, but it suffices to say they each taught me invaluable lessons and made me a stronger writer in my first two semesters working for this incredible newspaper. Unsurprisingly, they each wrote incredibly eloquent Goodbye Columns.
There was one line in Ian’s column, though, that really struck me: “Sometimes I feel like I didn’t go to college at Florida, but that I went to college at The Alligator.”
Two years later, I finally get what Ian meant.
When I look back at my college years, this newspaper is the first thing I’ll think about. It’s not just the number of hours (a lot) that I devoted to the paper; it’s the people I met, including most of my best friends. It’s what I learned, one constant from my days as a copy editor through my days as sports editor. It’s the memories I made, which I’ll get to later. Working for The Alligator has been the highlight of my college career, which makes this column the most difficult I’ve ever had to write.
After Florida plays in its bowl game, I’ll be moving on to new challenges. I’ve given everything I possibly can to this paper, and it’s time for a new hire to make some memories of his or her own here as I did.
And what incredible memories they were. Interviewing Pete Alonso and Abby Wambach were two of the coolest things I’ve ever done. Covering football and road-tripping to all the games with some of my best friends is something I’ll never forget. I’ll also always remember the long nights spent in the office with some of the funniest, hardest-working people I’ll ever meet.
About those people: I’m not a journalism major, and at times (especially early in my tenure, when I wasn’t sure if I was wasting my time or not) they were what kept me coming back.
Thank you to Matt Brannon for giving an 18-year-old kid whose only experience in journalism was at his high school paper a shot. I still have my original application. It’s hilariously bad. To this day I’m not sure why you hired me, but I’m so glad you did.
Thank you to River Wells for being my best friend at this newspaper and a lifesaver as my assistant sports editor. I couldn’t have done it without you. By the way, if there are any music executives reading this, sign him.
Thank you to Tyler Nettuno, Dylan Rudolph and Kyle Wood for just being awesome. There’s no other group with which I would rather trek down the shoulder of a rainy, muddy Bluff Road in Columbia, South Carolina.
Thank you to my amazing coworkers, who are even better friends than they are writers: Jake Dreilinger (promoted me to sports editor), Bryan Matamoros (coy), Dylan O’Shea (go Mets), Chris O’Brien (dumbass), Morgan McMullen (geezer), Mari Faiello (fellow Wolf Tracks alum), Mark Stine (maestro), Alanis Thames (GOAT), Joseph Salvador (most dedicated guy I know), Evan Lepak (did everything over the summer), the seniors I mentioned earlier and so many more.
Thank you to my mom, who convinced me to pursue journalism in high school and let me know The Alligator was looking for sports writers. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for her insistence on getting involved. Thank you to the rest of my family, as well, for being so supportive.
Also, a special shoutout to all the UF student-athletes and UAA employees I worked with. Most of them probably don’t remember me, but none of my work would’ve been possible without them. I always tell people that covering small sports like soccer was just as much fun as covering football, and a lot of that had to do with the people affiliated with the programs. In particular, thank you to Funda Nakkasoglu and Sam Stolte for being so accommodating.
Finally, thank you to you, the reader. I’m so grateful to the people that support our work. I appreciate every person who has picked up a copy of the paper, read an article of mine, sent me an email or replied to me on Twitter. Even you, guy who told me to “go play in traffic.”
I guess you (sort of) got your wish. I’m gone. You won’t have to read another column from me comparing Kyle Trask and Emory Jones. Not in these pages, at least. I’m leaving The Alligator, but The Alligator will never leave me.
Sam Campisano was a sports editor and writer at The Alligator. Follow him on Twitter @samcampisano.