What Fayetteville State meant to me

BY ALEX PODLOGAR

I have a recurring dream that I’d wager is not unlike one many people have.

It’s the same every time. I wake up in a UNC dorm room, and realize within seconds that a class I thought I had dropped in the semester’s first week is actually still on my schedule. This isn’t my fault, necessarily. I had dropped the class, and thus hadn’t returned to it for the remainder of the semester.

But apparently there was a glitch, and I am still on the active roll.

And it’s the day of the final exam.

Panicked, I don’t know what to do. There’s no way I can pass the class, and there’s really no use in attempting to take the final. Yet I fly in eight different directions trying to get ready and dash out of my room, trying desperately to remember what building the class is in, what room number, and how to even get there.

The dream usually ends here. I never see the exam, and I never know what the subject is. I don’t know why I have this recurring dream, or what it says about me, my psyche or, well, anything. Nothing like this ever happened to me while in college, and I don’t usually feel this overwhelming sense of dread in my daily life, whether at work or at home.

And yet I occasionally find myself anxiously sitting up in bed, dead of night, my lovely wife of nearly 14 years sound asleep beside me.

What’s odd is that for much of my professional life, I’ve been surrounded by people who go back to school for a master’s degree, or whatnot. And I’ve been steadfast in my claim that I have no real desire to ever go back to school, despite knowing what I know now. Some sort of term paper doesn’t frighten me, what with my career spent in writing, to the point that I’d either throw one together in the 5 minutes after the assignment is issued or do exactly what I always did – wait until the last minute and write it overnight. Who knew such procrastination was really just practice for a life of writing on deadline?

And I had a lot of practice.

What I failed to realize until recently was that I indeed, while feeling stuck in a career and an industry that seemed to be falling in on itself in a way only Stephen Hawking could appreciate, found new promise and hope in doing exactly what I said I had no earthly desire of doing.

I went back to school.

My lovely wife can tell me now that two years ago, she could read it all over my face. The drain of being a small town sports editor for a daily newspaper for over a decade had taken its toll on my countenance. I needed something new to reignite the engines, and needed to find an industry that hadn’t been crippled by the emerging media age.

I found that at Fayetteville State University. And I’ll be forever grateful for the opportunity granted to me by Assistant Athletic Director for Media Relations Adrian Ferguson and Director of Athletics Edward McLean. Their patience with me as I learned the ropes of sports information – essentially the other side of the coin from my previous profession – has enabled me to grow as a person in ways I could’ve never imagined.

I found a renewed fervor in my writing, and a passion for helping media members in any way I could. I might have been passed over when applying for an open position here and there in the past, but I took great pride in getting reporters the information they needed – and getting it to them when they needed it (if not before) and exactly how they needed it. I understood all along where they were coming from, and aimed to be as helpful as I could. When that small detail or statistic I gave a reporter surfaced in a story, I beamed as though my byline was on it. The masses may not have known where that stat came from, but the reporter did. I reveled in that.

I’ve taken great joy in following the student-athletes at Fayetteville State, in all sports. I smiled at the sight of Richard Medlin returning to Capel Arena after signing an NFL contract, and I stood when John Herrington’s heave from beyond midcourt rattled home to beat Elizabeth City State.

I’ve cringed at the fumbles, and ached at the last-second losses. I’ve shut my mouth and cast a downward gaze in silent locker rooms, and high-fived behind closed doors in jubilant celebration after a buzzer-beating Sidney Evans 3-pointer on the CIAA’s grandest stage.

I’ve put in long hours, and I know at times I’ve made Adrian Ferguson’s worse hours feel even longer. Still, I’ve never once felt like an outsider since stepping foot on campus, and the camaraderie and support felt in these offices overlooking the hardwood of Capel Arena are unique.

These kids you root for here are one thing. The people you meet are another. To list them all and their impact on me as a person and a professional would weigh this down even more, but it is my sincere hope they know who they are. Should they have any doubt, they need only to refresh the athletic department staff directory on FSUBroncos.com. They are all listed there.

To come into a new field and be accepted immediately despite what had to be the frustration of dealing with the new guy is something that is truly rare. The sports information directors of the CIAA – I include Eric Moore and Shera White as well – is a group whose talent, ability, reputation, doggedness and iron will should never be questioned. To have worked with them has not only been a great pleasure, but a staggering learning experience in the fine arts of teamwork and professionalism.

(In addition, allow me to thank FSU Chancellor James A. Anderson, who would often take a moment to send me an email after he had read something by me he liked. It meant a lot, every single time. Every. Single. Time.)

And so it is with equal parts excitement and sorrow that I’ve come to a point where I am leaving Fayetteville State Athletics. I’ve accepted a position as the Content Manager for Pinehurst Resort, home of Donald Ross’ famed Pinehurst No. 2 golf course and host of the 2014 U.S. Open and 2014 U.S. Women’s Open.

It will be a big step for me professionally, not unlike the step I made when I left behind newspapers for Fayetteville State a little less than two years ago. But it is one in which I know I am ready and capable of excelling.

Were it not for Fayetteville State, though, I know I wouldn’t feel so confident.

Though I said I’d never do it, I went back to school. And it’s the best thing I could’ve ever done professionally.

Of course, that’s the way it’s supposed to happen at colleges and universities around the country.

And, clearly, it happens at Fayetteville State.

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