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What don’t we know about your time covering Auburn Athletics?
Kathy M. — Facebook
Not always, but in most cases there’s a story behind the story. For sportswriters, each article may bring back specific conversations or laughs with sources, exciting successes, or, often, nagging frustrations.
During my almost two years at SEC Country, I experienced quite a few of each. In recent weeks I’ve written about some of my favorite articles from the last two years of covering the Tigers. Today I’d like to focus on a few posts that have interesting back stories — whether because of the voices involved or because of the emotions that went into crafting the narrative.
I have a long list of articles that could have made the cut, but here are a few tidbits (in no particular order) you may not know about my time at SEC Country:
Watching newcomers play a vital role on a talented team is always thrilling, and watching Marlon Davidson do just that in 2016 was a highlight of my time covering Auburn. I got to see that happen again a bit with Traivon Leonard the following season.
As a former Division I athlete, I got into sportswriting to share the struggles athletes go through both on the path to college, and then during their time on campus. As the first freshman to start on the Tigers defensive line in decades, I quickly learned that there was even more reason to be astounded by Marlon Davidson. In my opinion, Davidson exemplified how there is so much more to student-athletes than meets the eye.
Travois Leonard was another example that tops that list. After a long and treacherous road to Auburn, he’s getting to live out his dreams. To hear him open up about his life changed mine forever.
The two stories are entirely different because I was permitted to speak to Leonard, but not Davidson. I was also not allowed to speak to Kenneth Carter, Davidon’s brother who’s on staff at Auburn. The two articles explain how crafty reporters have to be sometimes to get background information and also how lucky we are to cover such interesting, tough subjects for a living.
Big Kat Surprises
I frequently say that Auburn writer Benjamin Wolk is “always right,” but some may not understand the joke.
In the 24 hours leading up to our first National Signing Day, there was a lot of back-and-forth. There had been talk of our team sending me to Cordele, Ga., to cover Big Kat Bryant’s (then Markaviest) commitment ceremony and admittedly, I was, um, less than thrilled about the trip.
Cordele isn’t that far from Auburn, but it was going to require an early departure and Bryant was rumored to be headed to LSU. It seemed like a pointless trip. However, Benjamin encouraged me to travel to the Watermelon Capital of the World, insisting that it could result in a huge payoff.
Now keep in mind, the drive to Cordele isn’t scenic by any means. As a woman who arrived in Auburn after spending over two years in New York City, I spent most of the drive wondering where in the world I was going, and if my GPS was right. When I pulled into the Crisp County parking lot, I received a text message from our SEC Country LSU writer, who informed me Bryant was headed to Baton Rouge.
I’ll be totally honest: I was not happy. I tossed my phone across the front seat of my car, and then quickly retrieved it, calmed down and walked inside the packed gym.
Less than 30 minutes later, of course, Bryant announced that he was indeed going to be an Auburn Tiger — and I may have been the most shocked person of all. I learned my lesson, though: Always trust Benjamin Wolk.
Close to violence
Technology has allowed sportswriters to do some incredible things in recent years, but it’s also caused some major issues. This is one of my personal favorite anecdotes, simply because it demonstrates the obstacles that writers deal with in real-time, high-pressure situations.
On the day this was written, my colleague Justin Ferguson and I were still relatively new to covering the beat full-time, and also to each other. I wrote a stock report during the LSU game, but it wasn’t an easy feat. That was the game where Les Miles messed up his clock management and complete chaos ensued in the final seconds.
Writing the story was tough enough, but to make matters worse, I’d only worked in Jordan-Hare three times and was still figuring out a few things. After getting the story posted, and confirming that Auburn did in fact win the game, I had a matter of minutes to get from the press box down to the media room by the team’s locker room. I sprinted — in heels, which was obviously my mistake — down the giant ramps in Jordan-Hare and barely made it to Gus Malzahn’s postgame presser. Dripping sweat, the only seat that was left was in the middle of huddled media. And it was then that I realized that my story had been deleted because I’d lost my internet connection.
As I learned this, Justin was trying to game plan our postgame coverage. In a complete panic, I ignored him for what seemed like five minutes before finally, again, in utter panic, gently putting my hand to his head and turned him around in order to get him away from me.
To this day, Justin will tell you that I punched him in the head. It’s been a running joke since September 2016. Now, I think I speak for both of us when I say that it’s a funny picture about our early working days together and on the beat.