Well, this is it.
After two years on the Kentucky beat — a time I’ll never forget — this is my last byline for SEC Country. It’s a journey that began in Portland, Ore. I was finishing an internship when I first talked to Kyle Tucker about joining him to cover Kentucky for the site.
I’m so glad things lined up to lead me to Lexington. I learned from Kyle, and so many other great journalists on the Kentucky beat. Though we’re all competitive, they became some of my best friends. I could never thank them enough.
I was lucky to work under editors such as Daniel Shirley and Pete Scantlebury and still lean on the advice of Seth Prince, who has mentored so many young journalists who have come through the OU (University of Oklahoma) Daily.
Although SEC Country ended sooner than any of us could’ve anticipated, it was a wonderful ride. Thanks to everyone who read our work. You’re the fuel behind the words we write.
I’ll always remember the places this job took me and the stories that came out of them. Here are a few of my favorites.
I went to Gary, Ind., to tell the story of Lonnie Johnson and, specifically, how the town he grew up in changed his life. He lost loved ones to the city’s violence, and he wears those memories with the tattoos on his arms and chest. I drove through Gary with Lonnie’s mom, and each stop was filled with another story.
Nate Northington, Greg Page, Wilbur Hackett and Houston Hogg broke the color barrier in the SEC, and the legacy of the four men was cast into a statue that stands outside of the Kentucky football training center. The three men still living — Northington, Hackett and Hogg — along with Melvin Page, Greg’s brother, shared stories on the adversity they faced, and wonder what it all means 50 years later.
Kentucky’s baseball program had never booked a trip to the Super Regionals. That is, until last season under first-year coach Nick Mingione. This was the most memorable game I covered on the Kentucky beat.
Lynn Bowden has long been compared to another Northeast Ohio great: former Ohio State star Maurice Clarett. But Bowden’s career — and life — will be judged by how it diverges from Clarett’s. This is the story of how Bowden and Clarett first became connected, and how Clarett now serves as Bowden’s unlikely mentor.
Kentucky’s 1986 team shouldn’t be all that memorable, except for the fact that it’s the last Wildcats squad to beat Florida. Former players Marty Moore, Derek Abney, Jacob Tamme and Patrick Towles remember the closest calls in the 31-year losing streak.
For my first feature, I talked to Stephen Johnson about how he overcame Tourette’s syndrome. The football field was an unlikely safe haven where his tics were less frequent. And then one day, in a snap, Johnson explains how his symptoms stopped.
That initial story led to a better follow-up. Mikayla Mccoy, a young girl in New Jersey who knew nothing about Kentucky football, wanted to know why Johnson told his story. Samuel Doster, a boy from Louisville, Ky., wanted to know if people teased Johnson. Both Mccoy and Doster — struggling with their own versions of Tourette’s — were inspired by Johnson. The Kentucky quarterback never knew he’d be the one to have the answers.