On all of my social media accounts I have a short quote in the biography section that reads, “Do everything in love.”
That four-word phrase, 1 Corinthians 16:14, is the driving force behind how I live my life and serves a reminder whenever I’m working.
As a sports reporter, I’m always looking ahead to the next game and the next story because that’s a big part of my job. But at the same time, I also try to remain cognizant of the power my words can possess.
Throughout every sports season there are a handful of athletes who become mainstays in our coverage. They’re used to seeing their name in the newspaper and being interviewed.
However, there are often countless other athletes who don't have as much talent or potential, but they’re working just as hard to succeed. They may only have one opportunity throughout their entire prep career to have a story specifically written about them and their journey, and I don’t take that lightly.
In some ways, I see myself in many of these athletes — never the fastest or strongest but relentless and determined. To me, that is the essence of prep sports.
I’ve written several stories about a few individuals who seem destined for greatness in athletics and may even go on to make a lot of money as professional athletes one day. But on the other side, the majority of the kids I come across will have to accept that their future won’t look like that.
In reality, they probably have four years of high school sports, and then it’s over. So while they’re in the midst of the “glory days” that many of us still look back on, I try to view my stories as an opportunity to document their personal history rather than another assignment on my checklist.
If that means driving to an extra game or practice, even on my off days, then so be it. My 2018 Honda Civic, which I purchased in June of 2018, already has over 50,000 miles on it. Most of them are due to my commute back and forth from Romeoville, Illinois, to the Region for work, but quite a few have been voluntary.
I tell people all of the time that I could do 75% of my job over the phone, while lying in bed with my laptop. However, that wouldn't be fair to any of the athletes that I cover.
When I was a sophomore in college, I had a journalism teacher, Rich Martin, who always stressed the importance of “shoe leather.” He’d constantly reiterate that writing is just one part of journalism and that showing up, being present and wearing down the leather on your shoes by engulfing yourself in your community is just as important.
I don’t recall much else from his class, but that is one lesson that stuck with me.
During my time as a prep athlete, I received only one postgame interview, and I remember it vividly. I scored 13 points off of the bench in a Christmas tournament my junior year and helped my team earn an upset victory. Back then, I was still aspiring to play college and professional basketball.
However, as time went on and that goal began to dissipate, I can’t help but think that I still ended up right where I needed to be — even if I didn’t know it yet.
This year, I covered everything from Lighthouse hurdler Jaylynne Williams becoming the Lions' first state qualifier — across all sports — to Griffith graduate Kody Hoese being selected by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the first round of the 2019 MLB Draft.
But perhaps most importantly, I also wrote a few pieces about former Calumet football and basketball player CJ Walton, who died on Sept. 12.
I never had the chance to meet the 14-year-old freshman, and it hurts that every word I’ve written about him is in the past tense.
When I interviewed his parents, Curtis Walton Sr. and Quentina Walton, before the Warriors' boys basketball team dedicated its last home game of 2019 to their fallen teammate, I tried my best to explain to them that the article would come straight from my heart.
No embellishment, no drama — just as pure as the memories they shared with me. Before I could even finish my thought, Walton Sr. interrupted me.
“You know what that is?” he asked.
“What do you mean?” I responded.
“Writing is your ministry,” Walton Sr. said. “I can tell that you love what you do and that you put God first.”
I hadn't looked at my profession through that lens, but the more I think about it, the more it resonates. Maybe this is my ministry — and from a broader perspective — my way of making the world a little better.
Throughout my career and overall life, “Do everything in love,” has been my personal call to action. It’s helped me stay grounded, humble and aware of what a privilege it is to be 24 years old and already living out my dream.
As we shut the door on 2019, I hope you all join in my effort to love — firstly and abundantly — and let that be the seed for everything we plan to grow and cultivate in the new decade.
This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at email@example.com