JUSTIN THOMAS

Justin Thomas spent more than a decade reporting on the cities of Carrollton, Coppell, Flower Mound, Lewisville and The Colony.

Little did I know then that attending my dad’s 50th birthday party would be life-altering.

But a conversation with a family friend revealed a potential sports writing opportunity with a group of local community newspapers, and here I am some 11-plus years later penning my goodbye from what was an experience and opportunity I will forever be grateful for.

Part of my “interview” process at what is now Star Local Media was getting to cover my alma mater, Southlake Carroll, play a late-season football game at Justin Northwest.

I had to pay for parking that day, something I would soon learn to get around, and I ate dinner before I arrived not yet knowing the greatness of #pressboxeats.

But I did a good enough job recapping Carroll’s triumph that I was offered a full-time gig, and one of the things I’ll never forget about this last decade-plus is the feeling that I just got paid to watch sports.

I’ll never forget the first volleyball match I reported on a few weeks after that Carroll game, and how little I knew strategically about the sport at the time. Fittingly, it happened to be a Hebron playoff match — which, of course, meant I got to talk to a happy Karin Keeney for the first time afterwards following a win — and how Keeney spoke with me after the match as if we’d already been interacting for years, making the game story all the much easier to write.

On to basketball season it was and soon came a playoff tilt for a strong Lewisville squad I had already seen a handful of times.  The gym was packed that day, and the press box held a mere two people. I was still new at this, and in a bit of a panic I would have to find a spot to stand and try to keep stats in that manner.

But somehow, then-Lewisville head coach Henry Thomas spotted me, motioned to me over, and freed up a seat on the bench for me.

So there I was, an unbiased rookie reporter, working right from the Farmers’ bench.

I would only to continue to discover that’s just the type of man Thomas was, and it was a sad day when our interactions became far less frequent.

I’ll never forget running into former Lewisville ISD athletic director Randy Mayes at a restaurant while with my parents, the warm reception and introduction I received to his family, and the kind words he had about me for mine.

I also recently began saying my good-byes – sorry coaches and administrators, I have really slacked and been putting this off – and the conversation with Hebron football head coach Brian Brazil couldn’t have been a more perfect way to end to our work relationship.

I feel bad only mentioning only these select few individuals and interactions, but there have been just too many relationships cultivated to mention.

And too many memories, though I’ll truly never forget a “stop the clock” moment directed at media members instead of the scorekeepers at a Coppell soccer state title match (shout out, former editor and witness Kevin Hageland), or the runaway cart following the 2011 football state championships at Jerry World.

I haven’t even gotten to any games yet, either, or the world-class athletes I’ve watched make their way to the top of their respective sports.

I had the good fortune of covering numerous lottery picks in both of my favorite professional sports, an Olympic gold medal-winning sprinter, collegiate and professional national champions, countless Gatorade Texas Players of the Year, more on their way to doing the same and an endless amount of high school team state champions at the highest level of competition.

Not to mention the literally thousands of other student-athletes, coaches and fans that just made going to a park or stadium or gym on a Tuesday or Friday night fun.

I’d also be remiss if I didn’t reference how much technology changed during my time, namely how much I disliked social media and the podcast when they first became a point of emphasis, and how much I came to love those aspects of the job.

And I’ve said all this and haven’t even mentioned the relationships that came about with current and former coworkers.

In short, after long, I am so excited for this new opportunity and to start a new phase of my life, but it’s only just now setting in how much I really will miss my tenure with SLM, and I wanted to thank everyone I’ve crossed paths with for making it so enjoyable and that much easier for me.

 

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