This is the first column I've ever dreaded writing.
I've struggled to write things before, sure, but this is first time I truly didn't want to write something. Saying goodbye is never easy, not for me at least. But that's what I have to do now.
A year's gone by in the blink of the eye here in Southwest Oklahoma, and with it the end of my time at The Constitution.
It was never the plan to make my stay here this abbreviated and I regret my hasty exit. Sadly, and of my own doing I'm moving on, heading back to Oklahoma City. I'll still be writing for a smaller paper in the metro and I'll be closer to family.
This is my chance to thank people, although I can't name everyone that's had an influence on my time here, and a chance for me to reflect on the last year.
First, I owe a lot professionally to Constitution Sports Editor Joey Goodman. He has a way of the demanding the best out of people and getting it with nothing more than a few kind words and a smile. Once I got to know Joey, letting him down was my biggest fear professionally.
The Constitution wasn't my first stop out of college, but it was the first time I felt like I was playing with the varsity. And for the first few months I, admittedly, was in over my head. I felt like I'd made a big mistake to be honest.
Lucky for me the sports crew fellow writers Tyler Palmateer, Kyle Vrska and Nick Livingston put up with my new guy routine for a while, at least until I settled in, probably at the expense of their patience at times.
In the process, I hope they made me a better writer and a better journalist. I'll always be grateful for what they did for me and always consider them friends.
I'd be remiss if I didn't offer a big thank you to all the coaches and players I got to know. I didn't get to know any of you well, but well enough to appreciate what you do and who you are. You're the ones that make my job our job as writers rewarding, fun and worthwhile.
I think, at least in a small way, we live vicariously through your wins and losses and highs and lows. It's your stories that inspire us to write.
There are plenty of things about this job I'll miss, but I'll miss football Fridays the most. Leaving the office in the afternoon eager to cover your game, then coming back at night for the deadline crunch to get the stories in Saturday's paper was an adrenaline rush.
Most of the games run together, even after just one season, and it seems like an injustice to everything I covered to pick even a few favorites, but there were a handful of moments and people that stood out to me.
Covering Lawton High football last season was one of those. I'll always remember the first time I was set to meet Wolverines head coach Randy Breeze. The consensus was he was the nicest, easiest guy in the world to get along with, but I still had the stereotype of a curmudgeon, hard-nosed old school football coach stuck in my head.
Breeze quickly dispelled that idea, which seems ludicrous to me now, with a disarming smile and a quick handshake, 'nice to meet you young man,' he said. He made me feel at home in that instant and every time after. He made my first, and as it turned out only football season here an enjoyable one.
Covering the Sugar Bowl later that season was a great experience for a kid that grew up in a household full of Sooner alums. The trip, which included a New Year's Eve night in New Orleans that muddied the lines between work and play, was a memory for a lifetime.
The game was a whirlwind. I was under a tight deadline that night, so tight that, I hit send on my column as Geneo Grissom stretched the ball over the goal line for the sealing score in the final minute of the game. Professionalism took precedent over any childhood allegiance I might've brought with me, but in that moment I'll admit it was hard to suppress the 12-year-old fan inside of me.
Tough losses stuck with me, too. I'll never forget the Eisenhower-Putnam City West boys area final basketball game in Choctaw with a state tournament trip on the line.
The Eagles were big underdogs that night but built a big lead against the top-ranked Patriots, only to let it slip away late.
The collective dejection of players and coaches alike was palpable. I knew right away I couldn't put into words the hurt on their faces. They were so close to something they wanted so badly, and it slipped away.
My postgame interview with Ike head coach Bruce Harrington was probably the toughest three minutes on the job I've ever had. I'd have rather given him a pat on the back than asked him questions then.
Ike's story had a happy ending I was there the following night when they advanced to State.
Lastly I'd like to thank our readers. Like the players and coaches we write about, without you, we'd let me speak for myself I'd be nothing. It'd be like putting a message in a bottle that was destined never to be found. So simply put, thank you for reading.
Thank you to everyone for making it hard to say goodbye.