As 2013 comes to a close, I thought it might be fitting to look back on some personal memories I will take away from the past 365 days. Each year feels like it goes by so fast when you get to the end, yet it feels like an eternity when you reflect on everything that transpired.
I hope 2014 brings this kind of joy. In no particular order, here are 13 things that stand out in the rear view mirror:
1. Ringing in the new year celebrating a field goal. I will always remember transitioning from 4th-and-18 to Chandler Catanzaro to the ball drop at midnight. I have gotten to know Catanzaro a little bit since then, and I can say that I am prouder of him now than I was then because of the person I’ve found him to be.
I was also blessed that night to be surrounded by some of my closest friends in the world. Fittingly, we will all be ushering in 2014 at a wedding for my friend Jesse and his bride-to-be Candice tonight. Friendship was an important part of my 2013 experience, so it was nice that it began in that setting.
2. The Colts played in a playoff game, which was amazing. As a Colts fan, I cried a little bit when Peyton Manning announced his departure from Indianapolis. I figured the road back to success would be long and tumultuous, but Bruce Arians and Chuck Pagano—with the help of a quarterback named Luck—turned things around in a hurry. It was one of the best rebuilding jobs I’ve ever seen after a 2-14 gut punch in 2011.
3. Manning’s return to Indy was special, too. Seeing him get emotional while the Colts paid tribute to his accomplishments with a highlight reel and a standing ovation was priceless. A fierce competitor like that doesn’t break down right before kickoff very easily, so the emotion was clearly genuine. It was emotional for many Colts fans across the country, and winning the game against Denver made it super sweet.
4. It may sound crazy, but the most meaningful thing I experienced was Daniel High School’s state title in softball. It meant more because of the family connections to the program. One of my sisters had been involved in the program for eight seasons as a player and assistant coach. Another one was a senior left fielder. My dad was an assistant coach who coached many of the key contributors during elementary and middle school in the rec program, and my grandpa also helped out quite a bit. It was the culmination of a lot of hard work by a lot of family members, so watching that achievement was truly special.
5. I watched my high school teammate get drafted in the first round. For the second time in three years, I got to see a guy I played ball with growing up get drafted into the NFL. I still remember when Jarvis Jenkins, who graduated with me at Daniel, was picked by the Redskins. I was at a Clemson baseball game. It was surreal.
DeAndre Hopkins raised the bar for us, getting picked in the first round by Houston. My alma mater has barely 1,000 students, so to have a pair of NFL alumni at the same time is unbelievable. I was very proud on that day to see a kid I first watched on the football field as a third-grader have his hard work validated.
6. I don’t root for the Texans, but I did when Nuk single-handedly put the team on his shoulders to win in overtime. Who would have thought that 30-24 win over Tennessee would be the last one of the year for the Texans? Still, it was nice to see Nuk step up after Andre Johnson went down. That included a sick leaping grab to give Houston the walk-off win.
Nuk won the Rookie of the Month award in September, when he averaged 7.3 targets and five receptions per game. His numbers for the rest of the season: 5.3 targets and 2.7 receptions per game. I think I found the answer to Houston’s issues.
7. I joined the staff at The Clemson Insider. I was very honored when Robert approached me to be a part of this family here. I had worked with Will in the past and felt very comfortable joining forces with him and Ed to make as formidable a team as there is on the Clemson beat. I enjoy writing this blog for you, our loyal readers, and covering Clemson. I can’t think of many things I’d rather be doing to make a living at this point in my life. I am eternally grateful for the opportunity I’ve been given, and to Robert, Will, and Ed for putting up with my eccentricities.
8. I continued my live broadcasting career doing high school football games. Technically, I was the color analyst. James Thurn was the play-by-play guy. But broadcasting high school games allowed me the chance to further explore this field. Thanks to James for allowing me to join his team. It took a ton of extra hours and harder work than most people probably realize, but it was a lot of fun calling those ball games all across the upstate—and even heading to Columbia for the AAA state championship game.
9. My first game as a truly professional writer was a big one. I split duties while I was a student, writing stories after completing my in-game tasks for Clemson’s sports information department. There where a handful of times when I went on the road to cover a game, but I was still a student. With that part of my life behind me, Clemson-Georgia was the first athletic event I ever covered as a non-student writer. It could have been a cupcake game against an anonymous school, so I don’t take for granted the good fortune I had to draw that assignment first.
10. Speaking of being a student, I graduated—again. I didn’t walk this time—there’s a story about walking when I earned my bachelor’s degree, but I won’t bore you with the details—but I was glad to no longer be considered a student. I loved my six years at Clemson pursuing two degrees, but the relief of all of it being over was definitely worth the wait.
11. The Pacers made me proud. I grew up when the Indiana Pacers were consistently near the top of the Eastern Conference standings. I dismissed the team—as many Indiana natives did—when committing felonies and fighting became more important to the players than winning games. Now the good people of the nation’s best basketball state have a pro team they can be proud of—an actual team to go up against the star power of the Miami Heat. Watching Larry Bird and Frank Vogel build a winner has been a pleasure.
12. Auburn’s magical season was, well, magical. I will always remember where I was for the Miracle at Jordan-Hare and the long field goal return against Alabama. Whether the Tigers win the BCS title or not, 2013 will still be remembered for seeing a resurgence almost nobody saw coming.
13. My brother got engaged. That was a nice moment—there’s a story there, too. I’m very proud of him and excited to see his life continue to unfold with a family in the works. He’s lucky to find his match in the world, and Caroline is truly his match.
That’s my 2013 in a nutshell. For my thoughts on 2014, check back tomorrow.