By RYAN HERMAN
Some of you reading this column may recognize the name and photo accompanying it.
No, I haven’t worked at the Lincoln Times-News before; Lincoln County is where I grew up.
Not only am I excited about taking over the sports department for one of the best small-town newspapers in the state, I am even more excited to be back home in Lincolnton after spending nearly the last five years in the sun-drenched flatlands of Eastern North Carolina.
My life has changed drastically since I left for Kinston, where I served as the sports editor of The Free Press beginning in October 2008. The tiny Lenoir County town –– although slightly larger than Lincolnton –– is where I found love, married, and became a father.
The hometown of current professional athletes Jerry Stackhouse, Quinton Coples, Carter Capps, Chris Hatcher, and recent Los Angeles Clippers first-round draft pick Reggie Bullock, may be where I learned to love and live. But it’s not home.
Like Dorothy said, there’s no place like it.
Born in Gastonia, my parents and I moved to Lincolnton just before my third birthday. I attended Union Elementary, then West Lincoln middle and high schools before heading off to Appalachian State University and graduating before its football glory days.
Four different newspapers and more than seven years experience later, here I am, doing something I always thought would be cool –– running the sports department for my hometown paper.
I did a lot of neat things in Kinston, a mecca for athletics. I covered the majority of the career of Bullock, from interviewing Roy Williams about Bullock signing with the Tar Heels to watching his expression in person as NBA Commissioner David Stern called his name in this year’s NBA draft (which was priceless, by the way).
I watched as Kinston High’s boys basketball team won state 2A titles in 2010, 2012 and this year. I sat courtside at the Dean Dome in March when Kinston became the first 2A school to sweep state boys and girls hoops titles since Bandys did it in 1982.
I had four of eight schools I covered play for a football state title in the same year in 2011 (one private, three public). I watched as Tarboro’s Todd Gurley tore up the Eastern Plains 2A Conference for four years –– I’m sure this name rings a bell for many of you, especially Lincolnton football fans –– but his senior year he fell short of beating Kinston, which won the league title after beating Gurley and Tarboro in double overtime and went on the play for its first state championship in football.
I could go on and on about the things I was fortunate to cover while in Kinston. It was and is a heck of a place to work in this business. But it’s not home.
Lincolnton is, and I’m more than excited to be able to do the same things in the town and county where I grew up.