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Friday, July 25, 2014

Thank you, Oxford

COLUMN: Oxford wasn’t much more than a blip on the radar of a soon-to-be high school graduate from Atlanta prior to 2002.

Having lived mostly in professional cities (St. Louis, Dallas and Atlanta, among others) during a nomadic childhood, the quaint college town didn’t register with me outside of what I had read in history books.

I knew very little about Mississippi when my dad suggested I consider Ole Miss as a possible college destination.

Much as I’ve heard countless recruits tell me over the years, I fell in love with the town, the campus and the Southern way of life that winter weekend I first stepped foot in Oxford for my “official visit” (Ole Miss beat Vanderbilt 38-27 on Dec. 1).

There would be only one visit. No others were needed.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but I’d found home.

After living in eight cities my first 18 years of existence, I set up shop in Oxford.

Sans a summer internship in Portland, Ore., and another working in Natchez after graduation, Oxford has become my home. I have lived nowhere longer, which is why it saddens me to say goodbye.

Since my freshman year in ’03, I have become a college educated man, found my footing in the real world, made life-long friends, adopted Georgia — my basset hound/beagle mix who rarely leaves my side — and, most importantly, met my wife (a lucky coincidence during halftime of an Ole Miss basketball game, of all places).

I owe Oxford a lot.

Perhaps more than during my time on campus, I’ve learned the most since joining the EAGLE’s sports staff in Aug., 2008.

I’ve learned that while Oxford — and Mississippi in general — don’t exactly have a Norman Rockwell painting of a past, times are changing, things are improving and Mississippians — of whom I now consider myself one — are a prideful people who love where they came from dearly.

Those lessons learned are largely because of you, the readers.

I wouldn’t have won any of the various awards that decorate the halls of the Oxford HQ somewhere if it were not for you.

More than just “characters” in some article, many of you became trusted friends that I hope to keep in touch with even after my last day.

The late nights, early mornings, smoldering summers and wind-whipped winters were all made bearable because of you.

My U-Haul is filled to the brim with Biloxi as the next stop as I complete my last column for the EAGLE.

It’s still a little unclear what awaits us down the line, but one thing is clear: Oxford will always be home. In fact, my parents loved Oxford so much they opted to leave Charlotte to retire here.

“Can you believe HOW MANY stars there are? I’ve never seen so many,” I’ve been asked innumerable times since their arrival.

Actually, now I can.

Thank you, Oxford. (August 16, 2013)

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