I’ve written this column a thousand times in my head over the past year.
I laid awake at night, thinking of what I could and would say when my time here at the Collegian finally came to end. Three years go by faster than you can ever imagine, and before you know it, you’re saying goodbye to some of your best friends, colleagues and co-workers that you’ve gotten to know on a personal level in your time together. As my editor Emmett McCarthy always says, “life comes at you fast.”
Plenty of funny anecdotes came to mind, including the time my good buddy and CTV sports producer Travis Green nearly had a panic attack as we drove through a snowstorm on the way back from the 2014 Las Vegas Bowl. He wasn’t wrong for panicking though, as it wasn’t long after that we hit a patch of ice on I-70 and crashed into the guardrail. That’s something we never told the professional staff at the paper about, mostly because we were afraid that they’d never let us go on another road trip again. But, now that I’m finally leaving, and most of the staff that was here then is gone now, what the hell?
I considered telling the story of how I got my start at the paper in the fall of 2013, which by most accounts, was a complete shock. But I would like to say a quick thank you to Tyrus Coder, whom I’ve never met before and probably never will, for quitting the paper two weeks before that semester started and opening a spot for me to join the sports desk. Without that opportunity, I would have never joined the paper, quit my business major, joined the thriving industry that is journalism (sarcasm?) and had the best three years of my life. I’ll probably never get to say it, but thank you Tyrus, you changed my life without even knowing it.
There have been so many moments, so many experiences that would take hundreds of these columns to recount. Each of my 450-plus bylines over the past three years comes with its own story, and that’s just the stuff I wrote about it. So much of my experience in student media was never written about, and hopefully some of it never will be. I’ve been blessed to be apart of three terrific staffs, each complete with a litany of personalities that somehow seemed to fit perfectly together. The countless hours I spent in both of our newsrooms are some of my favorite memories from my entire college career, and they are things I will carry with me for the rest of my life.
This place is where I got my start in journalism, and it’s also the place I fell in love with what I do. As a kid growing up, I had hundreds of newspaper articles tacked and taped on my bedroom walls, most all of them articles and photos of my favorite childhood team, the Denver Broncos. And while I loved looking at all of them, as I grew up, I started reading them and understanding sports on a completely different level than you can just watching SportsCenter. For the past 15-plus years, I’ve joined my father most mornings at our dining room table as we divvied up the sports sections of the Coloradoan and the Denver Post. (And yes, we’re still print subscribers.)
I’ve read hundreds, if not thousands of stories in those publications and others, but I never thought I’d share a media room or a press box, or a bench seat on press row with some of those men and women I always looked up to. But I’ve had that opportunity, and it’s been one heck of an opportunity at that. I can’t say enough thanks to all of the reporters and editors across the country I’ve come in contact with. You all are what I aspire to be, and I look forward to hopefully rejoining you in the near future.
I could spend thousands of words saying ‘thank you’ to all the people who have helped me along the way, and I hope to say it to a select few at the end of this column. But I’d like anyone who reads this to know, if we’ve interacted at all, whether it be in person, by email or on Twitter, I want to say thank you. You took in a slightly awkward, frightened and excited 19-year-old and helped him to become a confident, talented, ambitious man. I can never say enough thanks to all the kind, good-hearted people I’ve come into contact with because each of you has played a role in me becoming the person I am today.
My goal when I came to the Collegian was to tell stories that connected with people, and helped them to connect to sports, and I hope I’ve done that. I’ll be the first to admit that every story wasn’t an award-winner, but I hope they meant something to you. The goal of journalists should always to be serve your reader, and that was what I tried to do every single day. It’s my sincere hope that you had as much fun as I did.
I’m not exactly sure what’s next for me. With one semester of school left, I decided it best to relax and enjoy my final months as a college student. Change isn’t always a bad thing, but for it to truly take hold, it’s best the previous staff moves on to make way for a new group.
Taking my, and our place, will be another talented group of editors who will endeavor to bring you quality coverage of this university and the city of Fort Collins. My only hope is that you treat them as well as you treated me because people like you, the readers, have helped make this place my home.
Lou Gehrig once said he considered himself the luckiest man on Earth, but I think I’d give him a pretty good run for his money in that department. Three years ago, I would have never thought saying goodbye would be so difficult, but here we are. I hope you will all follow me on whatever my next journey is through Twitter and Facebook, and let’s be honest, who doesn’t love gifs and Crying Jordan memes?
Hopefully now I’ll have a bit more time to spend on my schoolwork and my future career opportunities, while spending more time with family and friends and enjoying these last few months before the “real world” comes calling.
It’s difficult to find a way to end this column because that means my time here is officially coming to an end. The last three years have been one hell of a ride, and I truly wouldn’t trade the thousands of hours I’ve spent here for anything. I can’t imagine a better way to spend my college career, and I have you all to thank for that. It’s been and honor and a privilege serving you.
For the final time, the Pope has spoken.
Instead of spending another few thousand words in my column thanking everyone, I wanted to give readers the opportunity to read it without having to read a bunch of “thank you’s” to people they don’t know. So instead, I’ll do that here. There are so many people I could list here, but I hope that if your name doesn’t appear on this list, that I’ve let you know how much your support and friendship has meant to me.
Mom and Dad, and the rest of my family: Simply put, I wouldn’t be here without all of you. Literally. I will never be able to say enough thanks for your support over the past three years, and truly, my entire 22 years. You’ve been nothing but encouraging and loving as I experienced everything I have the past few years. You always had a hot meal and open ear waiting at home for me when I needed it, and both of those things have helped to keep me from going insane.
Quentin Sickafoose: The man who gave me my first shot in this business. I pestered you with emails about joining the paper, and somehow it finally paid off. I will never be able to repay you for the opportunity you gave me here at the Collegian, and I owe so much of what I was able to accomplish to you. I owe you a beer, or a few the next time I see you.
Emmett McCarthy and Sam Lounsberry: Every editor is only as good as his best reporters, and you two exceeded every expectation I had and more. The two of you worked your asses for me the past two years, and you made my job so much easier because of it. I hope I was able to impart a small semblance of knowledge into you guys, but I know that whatever future success you earn will be because of your dogged work ethics and tireless pursuit of quality journalism. You two will do great things in whatever you pursue, and I’m glad I could be a small part of it.
Keith Albertson and Travis Green: Being a TV producer and dealing with a bunch of hack journalists (mostly me), is never easy, but you two took every bit of criticism, bad jokes and one-liners from me and continued to do incredible work. I know I didn’t say it enough, but the time and effort you both put into not only your shows but also your videos will always astound me. What you did made writing a 700-word story seem pretty damn easy. I’ll see you at the ESPN offices in a few years.
Kate Simmons and Kate Winkle: Kate-squared, I can’t say enough thanks to you two for giving me the opportunity to be your sports editor last year. Both of you set an example for what good, quality journalists look like, and we were all simply trying to follow in your footsteps. It still isn’t the same walking into the newsroom and not seeing your poring over a story with a reporter or knitting scarves. You’ve been a part of some of my best memories at student media, and you will always have a huge influence on my journalism career.
Paul Kirk, Danny Mattie, Nic Hallisey, Stu Buchanan, Craig Buchanan, John Martin, Zach Balside and all of the interns in the CSU athletics communications office: I think I can finally admit that I’m a pain in the ass. But you helped me every step of the way the past few years, setting up interviews, providing credentials, writing press releases, answering my calls and texts, and so, so much more. Without your help and guidance the past few years, nothing that I, or the Collegian sports desk has accomplished would be possible. I hope to continue to work with you in the future and continue to pester you with odd questions and off-the-wall story ideas.
The players, coaches, administrators and every other person involved with Colorado State athletics: Without all of you, my job wouldn’t be possible. You stood there and answered every stupid question I ever asked, and you did it without a single reservation. You were the subjects of my stories, and when you weren’t you helped me to tell the story of the person who was. I’ve built great relationships with many of you, and I hope to continue those well into the future. Thank you for everything. I truly couldn’t have done it without you.
The 2014-15 and 2015-16 Collegian editorial boards: You all have become my second family over the past two years, with us spending countless hours in the dungeon that is the Collegian newsroom. We laughed (a lot), we argued, we fought, we cried, but most of all, we had one hell of a run. I’m biased, but I’m not sure that there will ever be a better group of people running our paper than the ones I ran it with. I know I drove you crazy with my perfectionist personality and bad sports cliches, but you all mean the world to me, no matter where have all scattered to. I know each and every one of you will have success in whatever future endeavors you pursue, mostly because I’ve never seen anyone consume as much candy as we did the past two years. If candy consumption is any foreshadowing of journalistic prowess, we’ve got quite a few Pulitzer’s coming our way.
Mike Brohard, Kelly Lyell, Matt Stephens, Sean Star, Ryan Krous, Terry Frei and every other reporter I’ve met in my time at the paper: When you met me, I was just a kid who talked a lot. I’m still an older kid who talks a lot. But I’m also a better journalist and person because of the things you all have taught me. You embodied what it was to be a professional, and you also took time out of your incredibly busy schedules to help me out whenever I had a question. You didn’t have to do all of that, but you did, and you all are a big reason I’ve become the reporter and editor I am today.
Neill Woelk: I think I saved the best (or worst) for last. Your candy bowl is mostly to blame for my addiction to sweets, and because of you, I’ll never look at Starburst the same way again. I think my vital organs may actually be made up of the plaster and high-fructose corn syrup in those things. But you’re also one of my most important mentors, friends and confidantes. I’ve learned more in our hours upon hours of conversations than any class or seminar could ever teach me. You taught me what it means to be a great journalist, and I hope that someday I can become half the journalist you are. No one has had a bigger influence on my journalism career, and I will never be able to repay all of those hours you spent listening to me babble in your office. You set quite the standard for a newsroom adviser that I don’t think anyone will be able to surpass. Thank you for everything. I truly cannot thank you enough.
Collegian Senior Sports Reporter Keegan Pope can no longer be reached at email@example.com, but will always be available for your sarcasm and snarky comments on Twitter @ByKeeganPope.