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July 31, 2014

The end of an era and the beginning of a new one



August 1st will see a changing of the guard here on Inside the Gators as Bryan Holt departs and Landon Watnick arrives to take over his duties as football and basketball beat writer. After three years of outstanding service, Bryan is leaving for an exciting new opportunity in the 'civilian' workforce, while Landon will be joining us after working for various other outlets.

So, without further ado, here is the ending of one chapter in ITG history and the beginning of a new one.


BRYAN HOLT...

Too often, sportswriters overlook the reason they began doing their jobs. I'm as guilty of it as anyone.

We talk about working in a press box for eight hours like we're headed to a July construction site. We turn road trips or flights to places we've never been into social media complaints about travel and airlines. Often, we don't mean it but it comes natural. We're human, and humans by some odd law of nature aren't supposed to enjoy their jobs.

Confession: I've kind of had a blast doing mine.

I was 13 when I made my first trip to Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. For three hours, I had the kind of smile on my face typically reserved for a jet ski or a pretty girl. Every now and then when I'm walking through The Swamp, I stop for a second and think about that day, that feeling. I've tried to maintain that same boyish excitement, though it hasn't always come as easy.

Working in sports has allowed me to live out the daydreams that kept me from ever fully grasping grade school: rocking atop Kyle Field, sitting courtside for a basketball game on a naval ship, visiting bourbon-infused Southeastern Conference cities.

Today is my last day at Inside the Gators.

The past three years have been a rush. I have gotten to write about a team I spent childhood Saturdays watching with my grandpa. I'll get to recreate those days this fall; this time with a Budweiser in my hand.

I'm not leaving to pop up at some other outlet or pretend a sportswriter - a person whose job is more often than not to disappear - is some LeBron-esque free agent. I made the personal decision this job is a memorable chapter of my life but not my career. I will begin my new endeavor, marketing representative for a Tampa radiology company, on Monday as this site rolls on with a new writer.

None of this would have been possible without the people who have inexplicably given me chance after chance over the years. Journalism is a unique field where you work side-by-side with your competitors every day. I've had the pleasure of learning how to be a professional in this field or any other from some of the best this business has to offer.

As for the ITG subscribers, thank you not only for your readership and support but also the times you told me how much you hate my guts. Sports invoke emotions and it has always been my goal to make this site as entertaining, informative and unique as possible, even if the subject is not always what you'd like to hear.

Believe it or not, it's an exciting time to follow the Gators. Here's to the ride.
LANDON WATNICK...

Not everybody is fortunate enough to find a career in the field that they truly love.

Since an early age, following sports - especially the Florida Gators - has been my passion. As a kid, I would study headlines, brainstorm depth chart scenarios and analyze box scores until my eyes became sore. At games, I would be the teenager cheering until his lungs began to burn. I guess it's fair to say my sports fandom took a toll on my body.

When I joined my high school's student newspaper, my love for writing blossomed. Then and there, two passions merged. Not many high school kids have an idea of want they want to do with their future, but I always felt like I was destined for a career in sports journalism. Earning a full-time job in the field, I knew, would be the biggest obstacle down the line.

My long-time goal finally becomes a reality Friday. I am excited to announce that I am joining Inside the Gators as its full-time Florida Gators beat writer.

I'd like to thank everybody who has helped me reach this point in my life. During my three years at the Independent Florida Alligator and the year as a correspondent for the Tampa Bay Times, I have learned a multitude of valuable lessons that have shaped me into the reporter I am today. The countless hours spent working to meet deadlines, revising stories and pounding away at my keyboard transcribing interviews were surely worthwhile.

Covering Florida football, men's basketball, softball, women's soccer, gymnastics, tennis and golf during that span was an enriching experience. Plus, I'll never forget my month long trek with the Alligator crew from Atlanta to Orlando to Memphis to Dallas during the Gators basketball team's postseason run this past spring. The memories from March 2014 will last a lifetime.

As I join a community filled with some of the best and most passionate UF fans out there, I'm motivated to make your experience at ITG as enjoyable as possible. I want to get creative with the role, whether that means experimenting with unconventional story formats, multimedia, etc.

One thing you'll learn about me is that I'm always trying to think outside of the box, so if you ever have any feedback or suggestions, I'm all ears. The best way to reach me is at landonwatnick37@gmail.com. Also, I constantly tweet about UF sports @LandonWatnick. I will be very active on social media once open practices kick off next week.

It's time to begin the next chapter of my life, and I'm going to hit the ground running.


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