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From Tassels to Peaches: The Story of a Recent Graduate’s Journey to the Peach Bowl

It was May 2nd, 2021. I was sitting in the south parking lot of Spartan Stadium with my mask on wondering how I got here. It wasn’t the fact that my graduation ceremony was in an unordinary setting that bothered me, but how it came upon me so quickly. Flashbacks of my first dorm room move-in and strenuous class projects flooded my head as I crossed the stage and received a rolled up piece of paper that said my diploma would arrive in the mail in the next 2-3 weeks. It took two months. None the less, I was free. I was officially in the workforce, and thanks to Woodward Sports, my career had already begun. Little did I know however, that Michigan State would still be in the cards for me. Let alone a football game as prestigious as the Peach Bowl, but more on that later.

A Season To Remember In More Ways Than One

One afternoon in August of last year, I was copied on an email from Michigan State University Athletics. Thanks to some good friends of the network, I was given the privilege of media credentials.

I had been in the press box of Spartan Stadium previously with another job. Never had I enjoyed an entire game from it’s comforts. As the season progressed and the Spartans rose higher and higher in the AP Rankings, I grew as well.

Before I had only followed beat writers on Twitter, but now I was learning what it was like to be one. I found out that the preference of kickoff time was opposite then when I was a student. The noon kickoff meant I couldn’t sleep in when I was in school, but for one night game in October I didn’t leave the stadium until 2 A.M.

Mel Tucker proved himself to be a great coach on the sidelines and an intense motivator in the locker room this fall. However, in his press conferences, it was a different story. Throughout the season I had to develop a system that allowed me to tweet quotes on the fly, log them for my postgame story, and later edit them for play back on the networks Monday programming.

The hot dogs in the press box concession stand were some of the best I have ever consumed. Air conditioning and a chair with arm rests was a major upgrade from having to stand on the bleachers for 4 hours in the student section. Although I wasn’t able to cheer for touchdowns, I was able to browse social media and check scores during commercial breaks. The quality of the games was nothing to complain about either.

The Road To Atlanta

The Spartans punched their ticket to the Peach Bowl by winning ten games. While they traveled by air, I drove the 750 miles down I-75 South. Of course a stop at Chick-Fil-A was on my itinerary as well, after all they are the official sponsor of the Peach Bowl.

My hotel was in a sketchy area. So sketchy, my car was missing a window and my winter coat had been stolen the night before the game. I was rattled, but once I laid eyes on Mercedes Benz Stadium, the bitterness was gone.

Instead of showing my credential to get into the press box, they gave me a grey vest.

I had field access.

It was a whole new element for me. Coach Tucker walked right by me on his way to the locker room. Jalen Nailor made sure myself and all the other photographers knew how excited he was to be back from his injury. I couldn’t stop looking at how massive the stadium was.

Michigan State received the opening kickoff. Payton Thorne and Jayden Reed connected for a touchdown as they have done so many times before.

Oh, and did I mention it all happened right in front of me? Standing behind the field judge in a yellow polo in the cover image of this article is yours truly.

Fast forward to the fourth quarter and the Spartans were down 21-10. Hope was beginning to dwindle for the fans and I was frustrated in the lack of video I was providing our social team.

Then, Connor Heyward made a catch most players his size can’t make. Scoring the first of three touchdowns in the quarter. The best part of it all; I captured it perfectly through the lens of my iPhone 12 camera.

Cal Haladay would later seal the game with an interception. It gave all the Spartan fans in the club level seating a reason to throw their beers in the air because they quite literally did not care.

MSU was Peach Bowl Champions. I casually worked my way into the crowd of celebrating players. While they were putting on their championship shirts and hats, the shutter of my camera was working overtime. Looking back on it I kind of wish I had casually grabbed one of those shirts as well, but I was living in the moment.

A moment I most certainly will never forget.

A picture I was able to snap of Quavaris Crouch, Ronald Williams, and Marqui Lowry among other Michigan State players showing off their Peach Bowl Championship swag.

In Conclusion

The 2021 the Michigan State football season was memorable for the program itself, and for me personally. I challenged myself in a profession I never thought I would come close to trying. However, the love of my team is what kept me motivated to keep pushing myself. I wrote one blog a week and produced the video series ‘The Michigan State Update’ which can be viewed on the Woodward Sports Twitter every Wednesday.

As for the team itself, I must say it is extremely difficult to not be excited for the future. It did not take MSU very long to find a replacement for Mark Dantonio, and boy, did they find a good one. He may be a little boring when talking to the media, but I would be a fool if that is what I base my opinion of Mel Tucker off of.

In just one full season he has already brought us a New Years Six Bowl win. With a couple more solid recruiting classes and a few more gems coming from the transfer portal, who knows what Tucker can do.

Everyone is bought in. The fan base, the staff, the players, the athletic department, all believe in the man they call Tuck. Now it is just time to sit back and watch. I am blessed that I will be able to cover it all for the fans of Woodward Sports.

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