As anyone who follows this blog knows, Tuesday was a crazy, yet exciting and incredibly interesting day at The New Hampshire. Tuesday's are pretty much our days off, at least for the office staff that works Monday's and Thursday's to put the paper together. But in association with UNH athletics, this was the busiest news day that I, and possibly even Chad and Tom, had encountered in our collegiate journalism careers.
What happened was this: former UNH tight end Scott Sicko decided (originally) that he was not going to sign an NFL free-agent contract after going undrafted in the 2010NFL Draft, despite receiving contract offers from five teams. I wrote a story about it, for those who weren't aware and didn't look at the front page of Tuesday's TNH issue. Now keep in mind that this was a big deal, and made national headlines on Yahoo.com, FOXsports.com and on College Gameday Live on ESPN. Peter King, Sports Illustrated's NFL writer, wrote about it in one of the weekly issues. Sicko was famous strictly because he turned down the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
When Sicko turned down the five offers (submitted by the Chargers, Chiefs, Cowboys, Jaguars, and Jets) he had the nation in his face criticizing him. But the only publications and reporters that contacted Sicko were the Albany Times-Union (his hometown newspaper), Peter King of Sports Illustrated and myself. I called Scott on Sunday night and got a quick phone interview with him, and he was very gracious and complied and answered my questions thoroughly. When I asked him if there was any chance he would change his mind, he said, "None. I've made my decision."
It was around 12:45-1 p.m. when I received a text message from Chad Graff, the Managing Editor at TNH. I opened his message to find, "Sicko signed with the Cowboys." I sort of laughed it off and texted him back, saying that I knew he was joking because I had talked to Scott just two nights prior. I got one back that said "I'm completely serious, there are reports everywhere online." I swore a few times and sprinted back to my room down the hall to check for myself. Sure enough, the first thing on Google was labled, "Sicko signs agreement with Cowboys."
To make it even worse, Huffinton Post also featured my story on their website, which means national exposure.
I didn't know what to do. I texted and called everyone I knew that might have some insight for me, including my co-Sports Editor, Zack Cox. When I calmed down and realized that this wasn't going to kill my journalism career (I may have overreacted a little) I began planning my moves to approach this.
After Chad called me and told me that his boss from the Union Leader wanted him to write the story for their site, I decided to write up a small press release and throw it up online. So I did, thus completing the first step to my plan, although I managed to temporarily destroy the sports page at tnhonline.com. Chad called me back, saying he was at the field house and waiting to hear back from the football team to see if they had practice. If not, then we could talk to UNH head coach Sean McDonnell. If they did have practice, we would have to wait until 7 p.m.
They had practice. I found this out after I sprinted to the Field House too. I should mention that it was raining, which adds to the effect somewhat.
Chad and I casually walked back to the TNH office at the MUB, where we hung out and wrote essays that were due within the next 24 hours while we waited for seven o'clock to roll around. When we went back over to the Field House, we got our interview with coach McDonnell, who is always a very helpful source. But Scott wasn't there, and his quotes meant the most to our stories.
After another cold and rain-soaked walk back to the MUB, we finished our stories minus the Sicko quotes. When it was 8 p.m. I gave him a call, and the three of us teleconferenced until we had all the information needed to complete our stories.
When I talked to the Scott Stapin, the SID for football, earlier, he said that Sicko had appeared on the Dallas Morning News, as well as several radio stations in Dallas. Those media outlets aside, Chad and I (and Peter King) had the only solid stories that Sicko was headed to the NFL. I don't think I need to mention, it felt awesome.
It was pleasing to say that we could be put in the same category as the Albany Times-Union and Peter King.
But one conversation I had with Chad really struck me as we were walking back from one of our trips to the Field House. We talked about how great it would have been if this was out only job. Imagine if neither of us had to write essays or attend class. If our only focus was on getting the story. I can safely say for both of us that sports is our passion. We didn't feel as though this were a chore; we wanted to be doing this because we enjoyed it.
That day taught me a lesson. What I'm doing for TNH right now, including with Wildchats on WUNH and SCAN TV, is exactly what I want to be doing after college. I've already found my dream job; now it's all about the practice I receive for the future.