Blake Von Hagen Headshot

Is this really the end?

I’m starting to understand the person who coined the colloquial phrase about time flying by. It feels like I was just driving to Charlotte for Tennessee’s football opener under Jeremy Pruitt.

That was the first of many road trips. By the end of the year, driving to Nashville for the SEC Tournament felt like a five-minute voyage. That’s what trips to Texas A&M, Ole Miss, LSU — and all the others — will do to you, I guess.

I loved every minute.

Those minutes started when I covered the swim and dive team in 2017. I can’t say enough about how that experience taught me what journalism is all about.

It also taught me why the Daily Beacon is important. Sure, articles about football and basketball are great.

But a feature article about Colin Zeng — who has now won multiple NCAA National Titles as a diver at UT — stands out in my mind. Or a conversation with his coach, who always made sure to say, “Thanks for your coverage” as I left Allen Jones Aquatic Center.

Then I moved on to cover baseball last season, where I covered the Vols’ 10-1 win against James Madison on a Tuesday and came back to see Tennessee lose 21-2 the very next day. Head coach Tony Vitello was a dream-quote machine.

I didn’t think I had a shot at landing the sports editor position last May, but Tyler Wombles and Damichael Cole took a flyer on me. I’m still all parts thankful, mystified and honored that they did so.

It’s hard to describe the last year.

There’s always been something happening, which meant there was no time to reflect. But as I have started to do that now, the only word that comes to mind is “gratifying.”

Covering all 12 Tennessee football games from the press box was surreal. It wasn’t a season to remember for most people, but I know I will never forget it.

I won’t forget driving back from South Carolina and trying to find a Waffle House that didn’t have a line out the door in the middle of the night. I won’t forget the crazy dude that ran — on foot — after us for no reason as we drove away from the Waffle House that didn’t have a line out the door.

Now I know why it was empty.

The men’s basketball season was less forgettable for Tennessee fans. It didn’t end with any spectacular hardware, but my car ended up with spectacular mileage.

It also might have meant a few all-nighters after getting back to Knoxville from SEC road games a few hours before class started, but it was a dream. Covering the aforementioned SEC Tournament and NCAA Tournament is something I will never forget.

I’ll also never forget the people I worked with this year. From co-workers at the Beacon to Knoxville media members and the fantastic Tennessee media relations department, I was able to meet a lot of people who are smarter and funnier than I am.

I’d be amiss to not say thank you to everyone who read my work this year. If you are still reading at this point, you’re the ones I really need to thank. The comments on articles and interactions on Twitter meant the world to me.

There’s really nothing left to say.

Thank you.

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