It’s time to say goodbye

I’ve written somewhere in the ballpark of 9,000 posts on the Big 12 Blog over the last 42 months. It’s been a whole lot of work, but even more fun. It’s been an opportunity I’ll never forget, and one I was beyond blessed to even receive.

Sadly, the time has come for me to leave. Starting Monday, I’ll be writing columns and serving as a TV analyst for Fox Sports Southwest, primarily covering the Big 12. I won’t be far away, and I’m excited about this new opportunity. It will allow me to do more of the storytelling I got into this business to do.

Today’s my final day at ESPN.com, and instead of wasting a whole bunch of words about myself and how I feel, I wanted to take some time to thank all the people who helped make these last few years happen. Any talent or gift we have is given to us by our Creator, but He also puts people in our lives to help us use those abilities. Looking back on those people is always a humbling experience, and though I’ll never be able to fully repay them, I wanted to offer a sincere thank you.

Thank you to Melissa Smith, my high school newspaper teacher who opened my eyes back then to the concept that, yes, you really can make a living writing about sports. Thank you to Chip Souza, who inexplicably allowed a high school kid to cover high school and junior high football for his paper. I wouldn’t know the basics of how to write a game story or a feature without his help. (Also, thanks for coining the “Microwave” nickname I can’t seem to shake.)

Thank you to my friend Greg Bowers, still the best boss and editor I’ve ever had and the person who has influenced my writing more than anyone in my career. Thank you for taking a chance on me and motivating me every week to prove you right. (And for shaming me out of overwriting when it was needed.)

Thank you to fellow Missouri alum sportswriters like ex-beat partner Andrew Astleford, Robert Mays, Matt Harris, Andrew DeWitt and Joel Erickson. You’ve all encouraged and motivated me in some way or another, and I’ve learned as much from all of you as I did in my formal education.

Thank you to Mr. Carter (I don’t think I’ve earned the privilege of calling him “Leon” yet), Sandy Rosenbush and Greg Lee for turning down my application to the Sports Journalism Institute the first time around, and motivating me to make sure they couldn’t turn it down when I tried again the next year. Thank you for everything you do every summer to help young minority journalists like myself and for giving me an opportunity to join you in teaching others what you taught me. I hope I can do it again soon.

Thank you to Mike Sherman for bringing me into your newsroom and for being crazy enough to put a kid fresh out of college on your most-read beat. You’re a braver man than I, sir. Thank you to Berry Tramel and Jenni Carlson for encouraging me along the way and offering a helping hand or encouraging word beyond what was required. The same goes for my fellow beat writers at The Oklahoman: John Helsley, Jake Trotter and Brandon Chatmon (the latter two you’ll get to know well in the coming years).

Thank you to my bosses here at ESPN.com: Rob King, Patrick Stiegman, David Albright, David Duffey, Lauren Reynolds and Brian Kelly. Thank you for bringing me on board and making this such a great experience. Thanks to our blog editing staff whose names you never see but substantially improve what you read. Thanks to my fellow bloggers in the other conferences who are about the most gracious colleagues anyone could ask for. The same was true of our columnists while I was here: Pat Forde, Mark Schlabach and Ivan Maisel.

Thank you to others in the business I consider friends but I haven’t had an opportunity to work with closely. You know who you are, especially those across Big 12 country I’ve had a chance to get to know over these past few years. I’m glad I’ll still get to see you around for years to come.

Thank you to my parents, who have supported me through a handful of moves to various locales and have been my biggest fans every step of the way.

Thank you to my wife, Becca, for being understanding and loving and allowing me to do the job I love while continuing to be a model for selflessness in my own life. (And a good mom to our Golden Retreiver, Hope.)

Finally, thank you to the readers. You’ve made this blog what it’s become, and without you, it absolutely wouldn’t exist. I’ve enjoyed your thoughts, comments, emails and I’ve enjoyed trying to entertain you, inform you and make you think. Thank you.

I’ve spent a lot of time on this blog and tried to make it a place I’d want to go to read about the sport I love. Thank you to everyone who helped me get that opportunity. I’m excited about the next one, but I couldn’t move on without the chance to give credit back where it’s due.

Thanks for that opportunity, too. See you around, everybody.

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