ATHENS, Ga. -- “Incredible,” was the only word I could think of as I took my seat in the press box of Sanford Stadium.
I had been to this college football palace before as a fan of the Georgia Bulldogs, but that was also five years ago, and before they made some incredible stadium renovations to the west end zone.
When I was asked by our incredible sports editor, Gabriel Stovall, to cover this game a few weeks ago, it was if I had said yes before I could even finish reading the text.
This season, I was tasked with covering Georgia State, which I had no problem with, and honestly thought would be a better situation for me than covering Georgia since there would be no potential biases in my reporting. Gabe told me that there was a chance for some Georgia games if something came up where he couldn’t be there himself, and sure enough, something did.
Because his incredible son has become so good at karate in such a short period of time, he had a tournament that was unmissable, allowing me to tackle another dream of mine in the sports journalism world.
It is no secret that I am a lifelong Georgia Bulldogs fan, something I can proudly say and will always say no matter the circumstance. I knew that I would have to eliminate my bias, though, when it came time to cover the game in the press box as cheering is strictly prohibited.
What made it easy for me was the fact that the Dawgs faced a heavily outmatched Middle Tennessee State program. Although they are a solid program, it was an easy win for Georgia.
“You don’t always need to be a ‘big boy’ paper to do big boy work,” Gabe always says. He restated it again when talking about how I was doing a good job covering the game.
He’s one thousand percent right. Ever since he has joined The Covington News staff, and then brought so many along to be apart of the team, including me, we have continued to raise the bar for sports journalism not just in the community, but abroad.
So, when I take seats in press boxes that are “official” and are crowded by several members of media outlets all over the state and country, I know exactly what he means. Covington News Sports is becoming a “big boy” entity in its own right.
What made the experience even more rewarding, was seeing Jeremiah “J.J” Holloman produce his breakout game, becoming the team’s leading receiver of the contest, and scoring his first career touchdown.
This is the same J.J. I used to watch light it up at Newton. He was a grown man among boys in those high school days, and when given the opportunity, he can show that he is still an incredible receiver in a position group filled with depth at Georgia.
And then on the other side of the ball, I watched Eastside alum Eric Stokes Jr. play much of the second half and prove why he was such an incredible overall athlete in his Eagles playing days. I don’t think he allowed a single catch after being targeting a few times, including a fourth down pass into the end zone that he broke up with ease.
It was all so special to me.
The Covington News sports team has covered some incredible athletes in the past few years. When these athletes continue at the next level, it provides us with the opportunity to follow their careers.
I am forever grateful for these athletes’ contributions, affording a “small town” paper new opportunities, and I am forever grateful that these opportunities are given to me by Gabe, who is so selfless in affording others the chance to grow our own careers.
“There were days when I fought and struggled for opportunities because I dreamed of seeing myself in certain places. Now I fight for opportunities because I want to have the ability to put others in places they dream of seeing themselves in,” is a fitting tweet from Gabriel that I read while writing this column, and he is absolutely correct.
I can’t thank him enough for the opportunities he has given me. At a fresh 20 years old, I believe I was easily the youngest person in that press box, which speaks volumes about where my journalism career has taken me in such a short amount of time.
The chills I got taking my seat in the beautiful Sanford Stadium, watching my favorite college team play while covering them from a journalist perspective is an opportunity I will never forget, and I can only be even more excited about opportunities like that which are given to me in the future.
Tyler Williams is a contributing sportswriter for The Covington News. He’s also a graduate of Alcovy High School and is currently a journalism major at Georgia State University. Follow him on Twitter @StevenTyler42.