The very first football game I ever covered as a media member was, technically, in high school.
For two years I stood on the sidelines of Springdale Bulldog 7A-West games back in Arkansas. I was armed not with a pen and notepad, but with a video camera, filming highlights for the high school news broadcast.
Then I would go to my friend Michael’s house, where we were awake until the early-morning hours editing the footage on a Mac laptop.
It was a glamorous two years.
Five years, two states and two college degrees later, I’m covering my first NFL game.
From my vantage point in the press box, sitting behind David Newton and to the left of someone from ProFootball Talk, I can see the Cleveland Browns and Carolina Panthers are on the field at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C.. They’re warming up for their Week 16 game with the slimmest of playoff chances.
It tells you how odd of a year it is when the 5-8-1 Panthers have post-season hopes and the 7-7 Browns have been eliminated.
Johnny Manziel is going through warm-up passes Brian Hoyer. Cam Newton is stretching with the rest of the Panthers.
In a few hours I’ll be in a press conference and a locker room, in the presence of Newton and Manziel.
Over the last couple of years, I have gotten the opportunities to cover big events like the Big Ten Championship, the Indianapolis 500 and the Brickyard 400. It’s been more than surreal to be in the same room or even asking questions of athletes I’ve been watching since I was a kid or have seen non-stop on television for the last few years.
I spent 30 minutes with John Force in September. I was within spitting distance of the Brad Keselowski – Matt Kenseth fight at Charlotte Motor Speedway and I’ve gotten to ask Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Gordon and Ryan Hunter-Reay questions.
I even hung out briefly with A.J. Foyt in his team’s garage at IMS.
But maybe the most surreal moment came two weeks ago at the ACC Championship game.
After two years of hearing about, reading about and watching the Jameis Winston saga play out at Florida State, it became real during the post-game press conference.
Now, the Manziel
legend myth annoyance story is before me for all of my senses to take in.
I don’t when I’ll get this chance again. My internship with Sporting News ends in January and I don’t know where my next stop will be. I have to enjoy the spectacle, the story and the characters while I have the chance.
Which probably means it’s time to wrap this up.