My freshman year at the University of Georgia was better than I could’ve ever imagined. My family means everything to me, and my grandfather encouraged me to become a fourth generation Bulldog. I followed his footsteps and came to Athens with high hopes. I auditioned and made the cut for the sousaphone section in the Redcoat Marching Band and was excited for the free football. I had no idea what was in store for me.

You all know the story. Seniors Nick Chubb and Sony Michel and freshman Jake Fromm brought Georgia to a SEC Championship, Rose Bowl and National Championship. What you don’t know is the family tension I experienced. On the surface my family acted as Georgia fans but that was only because my older brother was studying in Ghana. From Africa, he watched Alabama football games with his future in-laws sometimes as late as 4 a.m. My family was torn because either way, one of us would win, and the other would lose.

Unfortunately, I am not the brother who came away with bragging rights. My brother finished his senior year at Alabama the next winter and he hasn’t brought up the championship game since. I think his wife has something to do with that, but he will never admit to it.

It was shortly after that season I realized my passion was in sports. I changed my studies at Georgia from the Terry College of Business to the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communications. My sophomore year I reached out to the Red & Black student newspaper and started my journalism career.

I trained and started to get experience writing when my life took another change. I decided to work one summer as a river guide at the Scout camp Maine High Adventure and spent two months in the most beautiful and remote lakes in the country. I am an Eagle Scout and attended this camp when I was 15, and it was very refreshing to be back. When I wasn’t canoeing through rapids or fishing at camp, I wrote song lyrics in a small journal. I finally had an itch for writing and there was so much to describe in the north Maine wilderness.

I came back for junior year, which would be my third and final year as a member of the Redcoat band. It was becoming a burden to devote sometimes five days a week to the same thing, and my responsibilities in the newsroom were getting larger and larger. I covered woman’s golf, volleyball and woman’s basketball for the Red and Black in the fall and woman’s basketball and tennis in the spring before COVID-19 halted sports in their tracks.

Unlike most of my classmates, I was not at a beach in Florida during spring break when I got word that the school year would become virtual. I was camping in Tennessee. It was actually the next day when my friends and I had the service to read those emails. We were shocked and debated going back into the woods, but we returned to Athens to discover what the new normal would be.

I used to carry an instrument that weighed 40 pounds at football games, but now all I need is pen and paper. I’m excited to be a writer with The Oconee Enterprise and cover whatever comes this fall.

George Zeliff is the sports intern for The Oconee Enterprise. Opinions expressed are those of the writer.

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