As the final days of SEC Country wind down, we, the writers, have been asked to share a list of our favorite stories.
Narrowing mine down to 10 wasn’t easy, but before listing them, some quick notes of thanks:
To the editors and people behind the scenes, I’ll forever be proud of the work we did. SEC Country quickly established itself in the college football world, which was not an easy thing to do, and a lot of it was because of you.
Additional thanks to our readers for sharing so much time with us. We hope you had as much fun as we did. Here’s my list of 10 favorites, with links to the stories.
1. The ‘Decade of Dominance’ series
Trying to come up with new story angles for Nick Saban is nearly impossible, but one of the things that kind of lingered from the book I did, Nick Saban vs. College Football: The Case for College Football’s Greatest Coach, was that he’s had such amazing success in such a short period of time at Alabama.
So I kept an eye out for how his accomplishments measured up to the greatest decades in college football history. I didn’t know for sure until this 10-part series — which ran from July 2-August 27 — came to fruition, but then Alabama won yet another national title.
My favorite story of the 10 was easily the last one, giving Saban the It’s a Wonderful Life treatment and speculating how different Alabama, Tuscaloosa and college football would be had he not said yes to former athletic director Mal Moore.
2. Tua Tagovailoa’s comeback
National championships never get old, but I will never forget standing on the sideline in January next to some journalism giants during the fourth quarter and in overtime of the game against Georgia, and we were all saying to each other, “Can you believe this?”
And that was before the 41-yard touchdown pass from backup quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.
3. The Alabama hockey story that won an award
I recently had the honor of winning best columns from the Alabama Sports Writers Association for the second time in three years. The judges looked at four columns from each person, and I’m convinced the one that put mine over the top was about Jon Lovorn, an Alabama club hockey player from Newtown, Conn.
That’s the home of Sandy Hook Elementary School. Lovorn dedicated his senior season to the 26 victims: 20 kids who were 6- and 7-year-olds along with six teachers who had been murdered. It’s a story that will never leave me.
Senior Night is about 26 names, a Town, and a message bigger than myself and the game of hockey. Newtown, Love wins 💚 pic.twitter.com/O17n2IG8tw
— Jonathan Lovorn (@JonathanLovorn) February 23, 2018
4. Ashley Williams
Every once in a while, you hear about a female athlete who gets pregnant at college and then just sort of disappears off the roster. Ashley Williams was different, though. With the help of her family, she was able to come back, finish her career and graduate.
What made the story incredibly special to me was sitting down and talking with everyone in her family. Special thanks to Ashley, her family and Kristy Curry for their time and for letting me do it.
5. Keith Holcombe
I didn’t know that much about diabetes before doing this story, but Keith Holcombe and his mother opened my eyes to what real resiliency is about.
6. The other Crimson Tide national champions
For years, I’d been interested in doing a story on the Alabama wheelchair basketball teams and finally got a chance. I spent a memorable morning with them right before the men won another national championship. You bet I was watching that game from afar, and I hope I can go back and do another story on them soon.
7. Ronnie Clark
True story: The day I was scheduled to meet with Ronnie Clark, my car developed a big-time oil problem and I had to take it to Birmingham to get fixed. I went early in hopes of a quick repair, but it didn’t work out. So I was sitting out in front of the shop doing a phone interview with Ronnie back in Tuscaloosa. Despite the very large car repair bill, I eventually left in a great mood because I liked the story so much.
8. The story of a 5-foot-1 Marine officer
An Alabama gymnast who made it through Officer Candidates School at Quantico? Every reporter should want to do a story like that.
- From balance beam to Marine officer, the career of Alabama’s most inspiring athlete is coming to an end
9. Quanesha Burks
I loved the idea that Quanesha Burks would get recruiting calls when she worked at McDonald’s while in high school. You have to like the humble beginnings turned elite athlete story, and hers definitely qualified.
- Alabama’s ‘impossible’ athlete Quanesha Burks set to cap illustrious NCAA career at Outdoor Championships
10. Levi Wallace
I wasn’t the first to do a story on cornerback Levi Wallace, but I wanted mine to stand out — and not just because I once worked in his hometown of Tucson, Ariz. When he opened up about his late father during an interview session, it was Labor Day, just after Alabama defeated Florida State. I’ll always be thankful that his high school coach called me back even though it was a holiday.
A play for the ages … pic.twitter.com/wci42trRS5
— Christopher Walsh (@WritingWalsh) January 9, 2018