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STOVALL: 'Thank you's' in order after successful media day kicks off 2018 football season
Covington News sports editor, Gabriel Stovall, right, stands with Brett Fowler, sports editor at The Walton Tribune during last Monday's inaugural East Metro Atlanta Football Media Day. - photo by Sydney Chacon

Growing up, I knew of a pastor who never really liked to publicly call names in gratitude, especially at church, because he was always afraid of inadvertently missing someone and, thus, offending folks. 

Funny thing is, when he chose not to say anyone’s names, some were still offended by that, because they felt slighted to have not been acknowledged. 

I guess you can’t please everyone, huh? 

Well, I’m not that pastor and this column is not church, so I’m going to take this time to say ‘thank you’ to as many people as I can possibly think of. 

My thanksgiving, of course, is coming in response to this past Monday’s first — and certainly not last — East Metro Atlanta Football Media Day. What started as just a mere passing idea about 14 months ago grew into a full blown vision and morphed into complete manifestation last Monday at the Porter Performing Arts Auditorium. 

And because there are so many instances in life where plans fall apart or things don’t go off as smoothly as you desire, the fact that things happened about as well as could be expected for us for a first-time event involving so many schools — well, let’s just say it’s the coolest thing ever to watch a plan come together. 

I’ve said it before and I’ll keep on saying it as long as I’m around, and even if I’m one day removed. The East Metro Atlanta area — for our purposes, Newton, Rockdale and Walton counties — has great football talent, not to mention other sports, and it needs to be highlighted as brightly and frequently as possible. 

That said, last week I wrote a column in part about the necessity of community support in helping keep the best and brightest student-athletes of Newton County right here in Newton County. 

This week, with the media day event, I saw a great example of the kind of next-level support I was talking about in real time. 

So the first thank you's go out to the Porter Performing Arts staff, in particular, Abigail Coggin, who was extremely helpful in assisting us with coordinating the event in the facility’s auditorium. She also made sure our public address system, wifi access and graphic art for the projection screen were all coordinated and working at optimal performance. 

Thank you, Abigail, for your cooperation and even your patience when things went a little longer than we originally planned. 

Also, a big shout out to Chick-Fil-A Newton Plaza. They are our title sponsor for all things middle and high school football this year, and to commemorate that, coaches and players dined on chicken nuggets, strips and fruit during the meet-and-greet time. I do agree with Social Circle coach Chad Estes, though. We probably need a few more trays when feeding hungry young football players! 

Speaking of coaches, this event wouldn’t have even gotten to the runway, let alone off the ground, if not for the immense cooperation of the coaches from Newton County, but also Rockdale and Walton. 

I tweeted out the other day how grateful I am for the relationships built between our sports staff and the Newton County coaches, really of all our sports. But I’m absolutely thrilled at the support we received from Rockdale and Walton counties. 

Our paper doesn’t cover either of these counties regularly — except for Social Circle coverage, since a portion of the town is in Newton — so Walton and Rockdale coaches could’ve easily said, ‘Nah. 

We don’t know you guys. We’ll pass.’ But they didn’t. Some made special arrangements in their busy schedules to make sure their school was represented, and that made my heart glad. It showed that you all really value the idea that our area athletes deserve more attention.  

I want to thank members of the media, other than our own, who took interest and/or attended, as well. Particular shout goes to Jamie Walker of CoachWork Productions and 92.9 FM, The Game. We look forward to working with you in the future on some other projects ruminating in my brain. 

Several other media organizations expressed interest in being there, but were already obligated to a couple other media days happening across the metro, which is fine and understandable. My hope is that in the future, we’ll have the kind of event that will cause other media organizations to bump us up a bit on their priority list. 

A gargantuan kudos to The Walton Tribune sports editor Brett Fowler, who is pretty much responsible for the Walton County connection, but also provided valuable feedback and expertise before, during and after the event. 

The Tribune is our sister paper which makes Brett my “ink brother” in sports editing, and it’s awesome to have a colleague to work closely with and bounce things off of on this and other projects.

Thank you, David Clemons and Patrick Graham for giving us space to run with this vision. Clemons is the publisher of The News, while Graham is the publisher of The Tribune and owner of both papers. If those guys say “no” then nothing else really matters, so thank you both for saying, “yes.” 

Finally, sports team. Let me tell you about smaller papers. Typically they are called “one man/woman bands” when it comes to sports departments, meaning you’ve got a sports editor and that’s about it as far as paid staff goes. 

But one thing I’m grateful for is the fact that I’ve been blessed with a ton of young, talented writers, photographers, videographers and social media enthusiasts who make up my sports staff. They work for little more than gas money and just the sheer thrill of putting together quality sports journalism. 

Most are college students who will, no doubt, move up and on to bigger (better is debatable) papers and publications in a couple of years, but they don’t mind providing their gifts, passion and time to our undertaking of creating Georgia’s best small paper sports coverage. 

Although they aren’t technically sports staff, The News managing editor, Jackie Gutknecht and page/graphic designer Brian Worton. Jackie took time out of her uber busy schedule to just sit and take in the event to show moral support, while Brian is the guy behind the awesome on-screen graphics you saw. 

All of you are the reasons why this happened. I just came along for the ride, and I enjoyed every minute of it. Already, we’re looking at how we can make this event even better next year. We even have a couple of other schools/media publications in our general vicinity who want to get in on this next year. 

I say, why not? In the words of my father, it’s a sorry dog who doesn’t wag his own tail. Translated: If we don’t support and shine light on our own, then we ought not expect others to. And even if they do, our shine should shine brightest. 

And if I did miss any name, I’ll use the old church saying that I grew up around: Charge it to my head and not my heart. 

In case you forgot, I love ya, Newton County. Let’s have an awesome football season.

Gabriel Stovall is the sports editor at The Covington News. He can be reached for tips and story ideas at Follow him on Twitter: @GabrielStovall1.