When asked of Tennessee athletics during their time as a student, most people in my graduating class won't have many fond memories.

My time on Rocky Top began the same year as Derek Dooley's — enough said for the football program.

Donnie Tyndall is the third men's basketball head coach the Vols have had in those four years. There was a Sweet 16 sprinkled in there, but that sweet turned sour awfully quick.

The baseball team is 30-76 in the SEC since I got here. Get the trend?

But at least for me, it's been different. Working in sports journalism for the past four years, especially this year with The Daily Beacon, has been an unforgettable experience I've been incredibly lucky to have.

I spent my first three years with the Tennessee Journalist. Working my way up there into the sports editor's role allowed me all sorts of awesome opportunities and taught me lesson after lesson on what goes into covering a collegiate athletics program.

Going into my senior year, though, something was missing.

I had yet to write for The Daily Beacon.

The first words of advice I received as a freshman from a UT graduate sports journalist, was, "If you aren't working with the Beacon by your sophomore year, change your major." Of course, he was around long before TNJN and other similar programs existed for journalism majors. But the Beacon's more than 100-year-old reputation is unmistakable, as are the rewards of working for a daily newspaper.

Thankfully, I had made friends with then-soon-to-be Beacon Sports Editor David Cobb in journalism class. When I randomly emailed him late in the spring 2013 semester, I didn't expect much.

He answered back and said I could join the sports staff and cover whatever I wanted — football, basketball, baseball, intramural floor hockey, whatever. I could also copy edit the paper a few days a week.

When I met the rest of the staff, it was more of the same. I came in not knowing practically anyone and not knowing the first thing about how a newspaper works, but I immediately felt at home and quickly became familiar.

I've covered stuff like the NCAA tournament, road football games, SEC tournaments and SEC football media days. I've been able to put my microphone in the face of Johnny Manziel, John Calipari and countless other famous people. Those will probably be the things I brag about most from my days as a student reporter at UT.

But what I will remember most are the people who helped me become who I am now — a driven, soon-to-be graduate with quality experience and a firm grasp on the sports journalism industry (did I mention I'm humble, too?).

Many people in my graduating class will cringe at the thought of the UT athletics program from 2010-14 and request a do-over. And rightfully so, considering the results.

But with the memories I've made, I wouldn't have had it any other way.

Steven Cook is graduating summer 2014 with a degree in journalism and electronic media. He can be reached at stevencook21@gmail.com or on Twitter @steventerrycook.

UT Sponsored Content