The following four columns were written by graduating seniors of The Nevada Sagebrush 2014-2015 staff.
By Eric Uribe
For as long as I can remember, I’ve longed to be a sports writer.
I wanted this so much that four years ago I moved away from the comfort of my hometown of Elko, Nevada to the University of Nevada, Reno — where I could count the number of people I knew on two hands — just to write sports.
Not only did I accomplish my boyhood dream, but as I sit here and write my last column as a sports writer, I see how this privilege has changed my life.
Covering Wolf Pack sports taught me more about life than any class I’ve ever taken or other experience I’ve had.
I remember how nervous to my core I was before interviewing legendary Nevada football coach Chris Ault for the first time. I was a wide-eyed 19-year-old, he was 65 years old and embodied Wolf Pack athletics.
From the four decades he poured into Nevada to winning 233 games to comparing UNLV red to the devil and communism, Ault had a burning love for this school. From him, I learned about passion.
I witnessed the vilification of Wolf Pack men’s basketball head coach David Carter. Despite dedicating 16 years of his life to the program, “Fire Carter” chants grew louder at Lawlor Events Center every home game. Nonetheless, his ear-to-ear smile and goodwill never wavered, even after being fired. From him, I learned grit.
I noticed the drive that fuels Nevada athletic director Doug Knuth. He inherited a budget-strapped athletic department that desperately lagged behind its Mountain West counterparts.
Knuth is trying to move mountains with projects that include building an indoor practice facility, new tennis courts and a rifle facility and renovating Mackay Stadium, among others.
There’s no priority on his growing to-do list. The impatient, never-satisfied Knuth has to get them all done now, no matter how little money the Wolf Pack has. From him, I learned to believe.
I watched former Nevada point guard Deonte Burton set the school record books ablaze. In between eye-popping stats, Burton dropped jaws with highlight-reel dunks and game-winning shots.
Burton’s mug was glorified around the city on posters and the airport wall. Yet, he remained as soft spoken as ever, followed everyone back on Twitter and deflected praise away from him and toward teammates. From him, I learned humility.
I saw the improbable comeback of Nevada wide receiver Brandon Wimberly. A bullet ripped through Wimberly’s abdomen, leaving him in a coma for six days (where he lost 60-plus pounds), and with a giant scar across his stomach nearly a foot long.
Not only did Wimberly miraculously return to the gridiron, he lit it up, too. He caught 97 passes his senior campaign, finishing third in program history in receptions. From him, I learned resiliency.
It’s cliche, but sports really is so much more about the people and less about the wins, losses and stats. The Wolf Pack is full of athletes, coaches and administrators with an abundance of life lessons to learn from and I’m lucky to have crossed some of their paths.
The most timely life lesson, though? Courtesy of Stefphon Jefferson.
The ex-Nevada running back has rode a rollercoaster. There’s been highs — rushing for 1,883 yards and 24 touchdowns in 2012. There’s been lows — going undrafted, being cut by the Tennessee Titans and flopping out of the Canadian Football League. From him, I learned about life purpose.
Football wasn’t Jefferson’s calling in life, like journalism isn’t mine, no matter the 200-plus stories I’ve written for the Sagebrush, internships and freelance work I’ve done.
Jefferson told me football was merely his platform. Journalism has been mine, too. Having a byline in the paper gave me an opportunity to inform and entertain others with my stories.
While Jefferson found his purpose (graduate school and founding a clothing brand and charity organization), I’m still in deep pursuit of mine.
All I know is everything I’ve learned while writing about Nevada sports — passion, grit, belief, humility, resiliency, purpose, etc. — will follow me for the rest of my life.
To the Wolf Pack athletic department, from top to down, thank you for turning my dream into a reality. More importantly, thank you for helping me grow up.
Eric Uribe had a dream he could buy his way to heaven and when he awoke, he spent that on a necklace. You can follow him on Twitter @Uribe_Eric.
By Daniel Coffey
Among the many lessons I will take away from my university experience, there is that one seems to resonate more clearly than the rest: everything happens for a reason. Sure — I know that it’s an overused cliche that has been sucked dry of any real significant meaning, but as most seniors will tell you, when you finally have that “a-ha” moment — you just get it. At some point, you reach a stage in your university career when you look back and realize that every rejection, success, failure and victory brought you to exactly where you’re supposed to be.
That “a-ha” moment for me came while working as the opinion editor at The Nevada Sagebrush.
My first column graced the student body in the Valentine’s Day issue of the Sagebrush my freshman year; in my infinite 19-year-old wisdom, I wrote about how to become Twitter famous. As a proud tweeter with … wait for it … 140 followers, I knew there was no better authority than me to let others in on my social media success (or lack thereof in retrospect). In case you were wondering, one of my tips was to create a sex tape and tweet it — something I apparently knew quite a bit about.
In essence, it was a kitschy piece that shamelessly flaunted its lack of real substance, and my columns only got worse from there. Want to cheat the Core Humanities system? I wrote a column about that. Not a fan of straight bangs? I wrote a column about that too. It seemed like the sillier my columns became, the more attention I would receive. It was for that reason that I ended my freshman year indignant, feeling as though I deserved to be opinion editor for my sophomore year.
You could imagine my frustration, then, when I didn’t receive the position. I was so devastated that I decided to stop volunteer writing in hopes that the new editor would come crawling back begging for more ridiculous columns. That didn’t happen though — the world kept turning and the newspaper continued to exist without me. In fact, it was me who came crawling back in the spring of my sophomore year asking to write for the section again.
I had just finished my first semester in the journalism program, and I was starting to understand the profound effect that writing could have. That is not to say there is anything wrong with humorous writing, but journalism was starting to show me that there is more power in eliciting truer emotion than a laugh. Sure, I maintained some of my editorial voice and wrote about the occasional silly topic, but it was in my sophomore year that I used the paper as a platform to improve my writing and position myself for the career path I would eventually take.
Although not receiving the opinion editor position knocked me down a few pegs, it also helped find a new ladder to climb. Instead of writing with the intention of boosting my Twitter followers, I was writing with purpose and about topics that I felt mattered. It was empowering to find a more authentic version of my own voice — not the one I used to make others laugh at parties but a voice that spoke out on important issues.
My career with the Sagebrush ultimately came full circle when I was approached by my good friend Chris Boline (yes, he’s one of the guys standing with me at the top of this page). He encouraged me to consider applying for the opinion editor position one more time to see if it would be a good fit, and spoiler alert: here I am writing my farewell column.
This year has been an exciting ride. I’ve had my shameful moments (I still can’t eat an orange popsicle) and even greater victories (#ThanksObama), but overall, The Nevada Sagebrush has helped me develop into a person that owns my beliefs.
Taking over the opinion section has been one of the greatest responsibilities of my life, and I have learned more about making decisions this year than I have than in any other year of school. Everything happens for a reason — I realize now that I would have never been ready to take control of the section as a sophomore. I wasn’t mature enough and I needed to grow up to truly understand the most effective ways of expressing myself.
To all of those that have supported me this year: my parents, Christy, Chris, Caden, Lexi, Raina, Mikey G. and so many more — thank you.
Daniel Coffey’s last name helped him win Treasurer in third grade. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @TheSagebrush.
By Chris Boline
The end of the fall semester of my sophomore year was pretty typical for a winter in Reno: brown, dull and cold.
At the time, I was the assistant sports editor and cross country beat writer for the newspaper and had never written anything more than a couple of snarky sports columns. Over that particular break, since the other Sagebrush sports writers were out of town, my usual writing workload increased; I wrote every story there was on basketball during the break and was able to learn the ropes of dealing with the bigger sports on campus.
Then one day I got an email from the Nevada athletics public relations office saying that head coach Chris Ault wanted to hold a news conference on Friday of that week to “talk about the future of Nevada football.” Little did I know that this conference would turn out to be Ault’s final one as head coach of the Wolf Pack. Being able to witness a legend step down right in front of my eyes, I not only knew that it was a pivotal moment in the history of Nevada athletics, but it also was the moment I knew that pushing myself to write for the paper was the best decision I had made in college.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned in college, and I like to think I’ve learned a good number of lessons, it’s to put yourself out there because you never know what will happen. When I first came to the University of Nevada, I found it incredibly easy to just stay in my comfort zone and blend in. However, after my first semester on campus I found that just being another face in the crowd was not for me. So I took a chance and reached out to the editors of the Sagebrush, even though I had no prior journalism experience, and never looked back.
My sophomore year was the jumping-off point for many great memories with the newspaper. From traveling to Pasadena to cover the Wolf Pack in the Rose Bowl to shaking hands with former basketball great and current motivational speaker Chris Herren, I have a long list of unforgettable experiences. Being able to have a front-row seat for the evolution of Nevada athletics is something I will always be grateful for. Working with such eclectic writing staffs was another highlight of my time at the paper. I am never going to forget all those stressful deadline evenings of playing A Tribe Called Quest or some pro wrestling theme song just to make the night a success. These were all events where if I wasn’t willing to take a chance, I would never have been there.
Even though I have exceeded all my expectations of college, I’ve still failed multiple times over the course of these last four years. I was not named an outstanding senior for the College of Business, but to get recommended by my professors was an honor in and of itself. Some of my personal relationships with those around me have failed, and even though it hurt, I always took something away from it.
I’ve always said that there are more skilled writers and editors than myself on this campus, but being successful requires that you have the confidence to take the first leap. It is my last wish as an undergrad that if you are reading this, you, too, take that chance because it’s never too late.
Working at the newspaper has been a lot of fun and I want to thank so many people because if it wasn’t for my family, The Lost Boys, members of my fraternity or anyone else I wouldn’t be where I am today. A part of putting myself out there is that, while I did go and try new things, I never strayed too far from my roots. You all are so incredible that I can honestly say that I love so many people I’ve worked with — and that’s something I don’t just throw out there.
Over these last three years I have succeeded and failed, but at the end of the day I have been grateful to have been taken on such a great ride.
To quote the famous Steve Blum, who was involved in so many great shows on Toonami from when I was growing up:
“So until we meet again, stay gold.
Following graduation, Chris Boline and his dog Waffles will ride off into the sunset. He can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @CDBoline.
By Dylan Smith
Well, shit. This is a difficult thing to do. I’ve been given seven hundred words through which I am supposed to sum up my collegiate experience; a short, thoughtful thank you and goodbye to all the people within academia that have helped me get to where I am now. The thing is, though, that I still don’t know where I am, who I am and I have found that I really don’t want to leave. I don’t even really know what it all means yet, and I sure as Hell don’t know who to thank, whom to truly say goodbye to.
I started my collegiate career in Monmouth, Oregon. So, although the people there most likely won’t read this in print, I guess I’ll start with them. I wound up there as a 19-year-old, clean-shaven, vaguely put-together athlete. The people I met in Oregon, specifically in my dormitory, are the people that showed me, purely through experience, what it meant to make a mistake. I developed lifelong relationships in that small town and began to come into my own: I quit baseball, began writing shitty poems in dark spaces by myself and was kicked out of my dorm in the last week for the accumulated alcohol-related charges. I found that there was life outside of the baseball diamond, that I could create an identity of my own. I began to take chances, to make mistakes and, in retrospect, the mistakes I made as a young man are those that have dictated my path through the university.
Getting kicked out of my dorm was a big deal. I had drunk so much, and had gotten caught so often, that it would have been very difficult for me to return to Western Oregon University. There was a large Judiciary bout that I had lost and soon realized that the best decision was to leave that college altogether and to come back home to the University of Nevada, Reno; home to my family, to my beautiful girlfriend who had powered through the year of long distance and still loved me. I could wipe all the spilled alcohol off my otherwise clean slate.
In coming to UNR, very few of my freshman courses transferred, and I soon found that I had forced myself into a 5-year academic corner with no chance of opting out or expediting the university process. I quickly decided to major in marketing (a decision I still am unsure of) and settled into what my life would become: a big, brilliantly drunken blur of people, words and experiences that eroded the mundanity of my youthful self.
I soon found that three years of experience at UNR was nowhere near enough, and by the time I came upon what would have been my senior year, I was thankful for my mistakes as a young man. If I had graduated in 2014, I would have never spoken to Chris Boline, the editor-in-chief of The Nevada Sagebrush, after reading my poem at an open mic. He would have never asked me to come to a Sagebrush meeting and to write for the opinion section. I would have never met Leona Novio at that meeting; a woman that soon became one of my best friends. She would have never hired me as the literary director of the Brushfire Literature and Arts Journal, and would have never introduced me to the editor of Insight Magazine. I never would have written four articles for that publication, and would not have found my voice as a writer among a community of like-minded people. Ultimately, I would have never found myself being paid by all three of these publications and would not, at this moment, have a solidified, determined and realistic idea of what I want my professional life to be.
I still have the stank of an unwashed, boundary-pushing drunkard, but I am so goddamn happy with the things I have accomplished. To all the friends who have made mistakes with me, the co-workers within these publications who have informed and improved my writing and the assholes who have instilled within me a conviction for my lifestyle and beliefs both personally and professionally, I would like to thank you from the bottom of my heart. You have all created the man that I am, and I won’t forget you.
Dylan Smith can be found at the nearest bar. If he’s not there, you have no chance of contacting him. Sorry.