There’s really nothing else to call this blog/article/post. When writing about my season spent in the press box, I had no choice but to do some reflecting. I took over at Victory Bell Rings almost exactly a year ago today. It was four weeks after the firing of Joe Paterno. A week after a crushing defeat at the hands of Wisconsin. I was tired of the media shit storm that was raining on Penn State and I had some things to say.
I started out writing about head coaching rumors. That was exhausting. Things morphed and, before I knew it, I was covering recruiting. Let me say real quick that I’m not surprised one bit that the 2012 class is sticking together and sticking with Penn State. I interviewed the majority of those kids in the spring and each one was more impressive than the last. Guys like Malik Golden, Jake Kiley and Evan Schwann who kind of got lost in the fray this year will all go on to represent Penn State in a great way. After my first conversation with Steven Bench, I knew he had all the qualities you want a quarterback to have. The future of your program is in great hands, Nittany Nation. I didn’t even know 17/18 year old kids like that existed and Penn State has a stable full of them.
As for the 2013 kids, they haven’t signed so my relationship with them isn’t quite the same. However, I will say that Adam Breneman is one of the finest human beings, at any age, that I have ever encountered in my life. Believe it or not, some high school recruits won’t drop what they’re doing to knock out a quick interview or spend countless hours raising money for charity. Adam is a special kid and if he never plays another down of football in his life, I’ll still be a fan of his forever.
The whole year hasn’t been rosy, though. At one point, I was duped by a kid and reported a false commitment. I learned that I kind of suck with names. I called Bill O’Brien “Bob O’Brien.” Easy enough. I aslo called Cam Williams “Cam Newton.” Called Jalen Ramsey “Jamal.” There are more, but you get the idea. Let me say, there is nothing like realizing you’ve made a mistake after you’ve published it to the eyes of thousands of people. That is a rush!
A year ago, I used to wait for the Pennlive tweet, linking to an article containing the top stories of the day. EVERY day I looked forward to 8:30ish when the tweet would come and I’d spend the next 30-40 minutes reading each story. The first time I saw VICTORY BELL RINGS was linked from that page was monumental. It had never occurred to me that was even a possibility. Within a few months of that, I was covering recruiting FOR Pennlive.com. Not long after that, I got my first link on ESPN.com. I called my mom that day to tell her. Writing this at this very moment, I can’t believe some of the things I’ve accomplished and experienced in the last year.
Best of all, I spent 12 months covering a team that I loved more than any other team I’ve ever watched or rooted for.
I was closer to the 2012 Penn State Nittany Lion football team than I’ve ever been to any other sports team in the 20+ years that I’ve been a sports fan. That likely would have been the case without VictoryBellRings.com, but being here, on the sideline and in the locker room intensified that relationship 10 times. I was a fan, living the dream. I fist-bumped Vandy and Fitz, had conversations with Roof and O’Brien and hugged Jordan Hill in the tunnel as he left the field for his final game as a Nittany Lion, right after I met Daryll Clark in the end zone.
What in the world am I supposed to do as a fan to beat what my life has been for the last 12 months?
That was the question that I asked myself last week on my ride home from the Wisconsin game. There is no encore to that. That’s why I’ve decided to step down as the lead editor here at VBR. I’m passing the torch to Matt de Bear who had become my “right hand man” over the last several months. While not quite as handsome, Matt is both smarter and funnier than I am. He’s a Penn State alum who loves his school so much that he watched a women’s soccer match on Sunday. I would never do that.
I’m sure I’ll miss it and in a week when Jake Waters commits (spoiler!) I’ll probably be begging Matt to write the post. However, I look forward to reading what others have to say about it. That’s the one thing I haven’t done much of in the last year. I’ve been lucky enough to meet guys like Jeff Junstrom and Jared Slanina of BSD, Kevin McGuire from everything, Drew Balis and Ryan Beckler of Onward State, Matt (RowlffDogg) of JoePas Doghouse and a few others. I’m eager to sit back and start religiously reading those guys like I used to. By the way, you wouldn’t know it from Twitter but RowlffDogg is the nicest guy in the world and his wife is a dear. I will be crashing their tailgate for years to come-that’s a promise.
I owe another tremendous thank you to Michael Castillo of ReignofTroy.com. Michael is a director for the college network at Fansided and is a USC student (almost graduate) who runs their site. He’s also become one of my best friends. He taught me so much about so much in the last twelve months that if I try to go into it even a little, I’ll end up typing 6,000 words like I’m Corey Hunter. Thanks, bro.
Speaking of Corey, I want to give a huge thanks to the entire VBR staff who has helped along the way. Brett Cogar, Chris Chuff, Chuck Reynolds, Matt de Bear, Craig Dauman, Eric Sion, Mary Clarke, Scott Anderson and Pat Rothdeutsch who really showed me the ropes as far PSU/media relationships are concerned. Pat left VBR to take over the sports editor position with the Centre County Gazette. He now gets to cover Penn State and central PA high school sports, both of which he has a passion for. The rest of those people all had a part in making the site what it is today: A gambler’s haven with some solid hockey coverage via Ms. Clarke.
Finally, on the off chance that she reads this, I must thank my wife. I’ve put countless hours into Penn State football over the last year and much of that time came at her expense. That couldn’t have been easy but I never, well…rarely, heard a complaint out of her. It didn’t take long for VBR to become important to me and, sensing that, she allowed me to live the dream. Just her way of reminding me how perfect for me she is.
Now that I’ve rambled on, let me get out of here by saying you’re all a bunch of fuckers! Thank you so much for the ride!
For ramblings about Penn State and the Cleveland Browns, follow some guy named Tim Tolley on Twitter.