Friday, November 27, 2020

Column: Students Continued to Write as their World Dramatically Changed

By Jeff Roberson
Hottytoddy.com Contributor
robersonjeff0630@gmail.com

In this first semester to teach sportswriting, I’ve received good advice from veterans of classroom instruction.

Jump right in and give them assignments early, I was told by one in January. The semester only lasts 14 weeks and it will go by quickly, he said.

It lasted half that, at least the part where the teacher stands in front of a class of actual persons who are in the same room.

Only seven weeks, but by then I was actually able to put a name with basically every face. There are 39 students.

I planned to meet with each one individually the week before spring break, so we set up a schedule. For various reasons we didn’t get to even half of them, but there would be plenty of opportunities the week after spring break, right?

If you can make it through this semester, I was told recently by the same faculty member with the advice above, then you can make it through any semester.

I hear ya. I’m already looking forward to the fall. There will be a fall, right? And students will be back in the classroom, won’t they?

Hopefully the first week of class we can look at each other and talk about Ole Miss and Baylor playing football. And write about it.

I’ll be learning them and they’ll be learning me. All new names and faces for a new semester.

But I’ll remember the students from this semester. They’ve been great through all this. It’s hard to believe the end of those 14 weeks of “classes” is almost here – a week from Friday. May 1.

They’ve continued to work while away from campus. In the weeks ahead, we’ll put more of their stories on HottyToddy.com for you.

They’ve written stories on former Rebel players Romaro Miller and Michael Harmon, Tim Jumper and Dawson Knox, Jake Gibbs and AJ Kiamie. There’s a story about 1983’s “Immaculate Deflection” written by a student who actually has connections to that moment in Egg Bowl history. The “kick” was nearly two decades before the student was even born.

There are stories on sports media personalities and former coaches, like Ole Miss men’s tennis hall of fame coach Billy Chadwick and Oxford High football coach Johnny Hill. There’s a Peggie Gillom feature on the hall of fame women’s basketball player and coach. The golf coaches at Ole Miss – Chris Malloy and Kory Henkes – each have a story written about their programs.

One student said she was going to set up something with the Chiefs and interview former Ole Miss quarterback Jordan Ta’amu. It’s one of the stories I don’t have yet. I hope she gets it done. That one would be of great interest.

There’s a story with Tony Plohetski, an Ole Miss Journalism alumnus who has built a strong media career in Austin, Texas, and who wrote a widely-read story earlier this year on former Texas and Ole Miss quarterback Jevan Snead, his death, and the aftermath for his family.

There are more but those are some. We haven’t really had to be creative in our pursuit of stories. Even without any games going on, those were all right there for the writing.

I’ve seen cooperation from faculty, staff, and students to finish the semester as strong as possible with a lot of compassion and understanding. We have no idea what the students and their families are going through financially, emotionally, spiritually, daily, whether close to here in Mississippi or Tennessee, or in states coast to coast, from California to New York to Florida. I have students from those states and several others.

I didn’t really know what to expect back in January. Now I know to be aware that things can happen nobody could have imagined. And while instructing them, to always listen to the students and keep their best interests top priority. I believe I’ve done that. I hope they think so.

So stay tuned. We’ll have some student stories for you to read on HottyToddy.com in the days and weeks ahead. They’ve given their best in the most difficult situations they’ve likely ever faced.