The first day still resonates with me like it was yesterday. Of all days to start a first-of-its-kind blog, we somehow picked Jan. 14, 2009.
What happened Jan. 14, 2009? What didn't?
Maybe it was coincidence. Maybe it was fate. Whatever the case was, the day we picked to start one of the nation's first athletic department blogs just so happened to fall on the day after the biggest individual performance in Kentucky basketball history.
Think about that for a second. College basketball's premier program has been full of historic moments and legendary individual performances, but of all days to begin our blog, we had somehow picked the day after Jodie Meeks scored a record-setting 54 points against border-state rival Tennessee.
And that was just the morning. By early afternoon, for my first inside scoop, I was informed star cornerback Trevard Lindley was putting his NFL dreams on hold and was returning for his senior year with linebacker Micah Johnson and defensive end Jeremy Jarmon.
You want to talk about overwhelmed. Sit in an office chair, spin around for a minute and stand up. That nauseating feeling in your head - yeah, that's what I was experiencing that day.
Faced with trying to capture and cover a day UK fans would never forget was not an easy task for a rookie. I had been versed in journalism and trained in reporting long before I walked through the doors at the Joe Craft Center - thanks in large part to UK's journalism school, the Kentucky Kernel and the Lexington Herald-Leader - but charged with being one of the official voices of one of the nation's most proud athletic departments was no easy task. A longtime Kentucky resident and UK graduate, I already understood who was at the other end of the megaphone.
Don't get me wrong, I was unbelievably excited for the opportunity to write about UK Athletics, but I understood the enormous responsibility and privilege of writing for the most passionate fans in the country. I was unbelievably overwhelmed.
Obviously I made it through that first day. There were certainly some bumps along the road, a few typos here and there, and a lot of fun stories to cover. Eventually, I think this blog found its place in the UK world and things calmed down.
But as I close my UK laptop for the final time, consider me overwhelmed again. I'm overwhelmed with loose ends to tie up, overcome with the number of goodbyes I have to make and overjoyed with the new opportunity I've been blessed with. More than anything, I'm overwhelmed with emotion.
Today will mark my final day with UK Athletics. I'm proud to announce I've been hired as the new content manager of CoachCal.com. I will be responsible for creating and managing all content on John Calipari's website as well some of his social media avenues.
As excited as I am for my new opportunity, I'd be lying to everyone if I said this day isn't without great sadness. For the last two and a half years, I've had the honor of calling UK Athletics home. In player interviews with the media or tweets by the program's head coaches, you've probably heard people inside the walls of UK Athletics talk about how this place is about family, or "La familia," as John Calipari likes to tweet so often.
I've learned firsthand what that's all about. At UK, I've forged relationships that will last long after my career is over, taken the step from college to adulthood and made memories I will never forget. A reporter at heart, I was trained to have a skeptical eye at institutions like UK, but as I walk out of the media relations office as a UK employee for the final time - in reality, I'm only moving downstairs to the UK basketball offices - I have nothing but positive memories.
Never could I have imagined following the Kentucky basketball team on every step of its journey to the Final Four. Riding with Joker Phillips thousands of feet in the sky in a Blackhawk with the doors wide open as he visited our armed forces was obviously a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. And meeting LeBron James? Very, very cool.
I could go on and on and on about the experiences I've had over the past few years. I feel privileged to have covered all 22 sports at UK. The amount of time I've spent watching games, interviewing coaches and student-athletes, and sitting in front of a computer and typing is staggering.
All of it was done with one goal in mind: to provide an inside and unprecedented look into UK Athletics. When we set out to do this blog in early January of 2009, we did so with the intent of providing premium content without the premium cost.
As a worrier and constant self-evaluator, I've always wondered if we were accomplishing our goal. Just last week, I left a media panel with several of Lexington's finest reporters feeling like we have indeed achieved our objective.
One TV anchor looked at the position as a competitor in the media market. That was good. One thing we want to do is provide fans with another source for UK news. A couple of other reporters viewed the blog as a platform for stories that don't always get covered. Even better. As newspapers shrink and coverage is limited, it was my goal to continue to provide a spotlight on each and every sport, coach and student-athlete at UK.
As I walk away to a new adventure, I'm confident that goal will not change. Athletic Director Mitch Barnhart and senior associate athletics director of communications DeWayne Peevy took a gamble on me a couple of years ago when they turned my job from a voluntary position into an internship and eventually a full-time position as an assistant director for new media. It was a sign of commitment to new and social media, and Kentucky will stay behind that push long after I'm gone.
Now it's time for me to take the next step. Fortunately, that next chapter happens to be at CoachCal.com. For me, that means I'll still be blessed to be around the UK family and its fans. For those that enjoy my work, it means I'll be just a few keystrokes and a click away.
I'd be remiss if I ended this final post without thanking the people I've come to enjoy working with so much over the last few years, as well as the hundreds of student-athletes and coaches I've met and interviewed. It would be impossible for me to list everyone who has helped me along the way, but know that just about all of you made an impact on my life and I'm grateful I'll still see you around the building.
As for you, the fans, none of this is possible or worth it without you. It's your passion and support that drives UK Athletics, and I have appreciated the reads, support and feedback I've received over the years.
With that said, I ask one final thing of you: Pray my first day on Monday at CoachCal.com isn't quite as crazy as my first day with UK's blog. Knowing Coach Cal's 24/7 world, I have a feeling it's going to be. And when it is and my head starts to spin again, I'm going to look back to Jan. 14, 2009, and smile.