Kendrick E. Johnson and London Culbreath

The opportunity to cover standout student-athletes like McKinney North alum London Culbreath, right, was one of many memorable moments during Kendrick E. Johnson’s four years as sports editor for the McKinney Courier-Gazette.

Before I move on to the next chapter of my career, I must conjure up the words to salute a city that will always have a place in my heart.

Who would have thought taking over the McKinney sports beat four year ago would lead to lifetime relationships and friendships while vastly improving me as a journalist, but that’s exactly what happened.

In my four years as the McKinney Courier-Gazette sports editor, I’ve been blessed to see McKinney North win a state title in track, McKinney Boyd baseball produce one of the most magical postseason runs the state has seen in recent memory, and watch a group of hard-working girls in the McKinney basketball team, as well as their talented coach, Deb Harris, shock the state by coming a buzzer-beating shot attempt from playing for a Class 6A title.

These events and many more will all stay with me the rest of my career, as I would like to thank the many athletes and coaches from all the sports program from McKinney, Boyd and North for allowing me to tell their stories efficiently and professionally.

One thing that can’t go unsaid, which is more important than the wins, losses and championships, is the first-class leadership that McKinney ISD has from top to the bottom. With that, I’d like to give special shout-out to principals Alan Arbabi of McKinney, Dr. Jennifer Peirson of Boyd and Jae Gaskill of North for allowing me into your schools freely to do my job and accurately report and highlight your talented student-athletes.

I also want to commend all three of these special principals for being “woke” on race relations, even before our country was under major civil unrest. As an African American who grew up in northeast Dallas in the 80s and 90s, the perception of McKinney growing up was that it was a hard city to be successful in if you were a minority who wasn’t from there.

From the time I met each principal, they all were warm and welcoming and sincere, which set the tone for me to have a great experience working in McKinney while feeling comfortable in the community. I can honestly say I respect each principal individually, can call them a friend and would even feel comfortable sending my own kid to their respective schools. At the end of the day, I simply want to say thank you for allowing me to do my thing comfortably the last four years at your various schools.

It can not be said enough in the current climate we live in how important it is to have leaders who care about everyone, are sincere and walk the walk while setting the perfect tone to make McKinney schools and the city a better place.

Next, the athletes: After being a former high school basketball standout and Division I athlete, it’s been fun documenting so many talented student-athletes from all over the city of McKinney, along with developing long-lasting friendships with their respective families.

That includes McKinney football legend and future Hall of Honor inductee Matt Gadek and the Gadek family, North running legend London Culbreath and the Culbreath family, along with the entire talented Frazier family  from North and the Kelty, Markham and Wyatt families at Boyd. It has been an awesome and positive experience to tell your stories and those of the other special athletes in McKinney for the last four years, and I want to thank everyone for allowing me in your own individual space regardless of what was going on.

Lastly, the administrators: From superintendent Rick McDaniel to athletic director Shawn Pratt and his supremely talented staff, thank you for being top-notch and open with me to put a professional and positive spin to help take covering McKinney sports to the next level. McKinney has a gem of AD in coach Pratt because if you don’t always agree with his decision, one can’t dispute his passion for kids and the city of McKinney or his track record, which has led to him becoming one of the top athletic directors in the state.

No matter if you support McKinney, Boyd or North, you have to respect the people who run the show in McKinney as they are setting the correct tone MISD needs to thrive.

Thank you to the many talented coaches from all the schools for allowing me into your huddles, locker rooms and special environments. All that, combined with our personal conversations, allowed me to tell your respective stories at such a high level that I’ve been asked about specific McKinney sports teams by a few high profile A-list sports personalities, from UFC President Dana White to NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal.

I’ll close with this — thank you McKinney and MISD for allowing me to grow personally and professionally while leaving a positive mark in my life.

For continued coverage of the local sports scene, follow Kendrick E. Johnson on Twitter @kendrickjohnso 

 

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