Eric Woods Headshot

One year ago, I wrote my first story at the Beacon covering a cross country meet. I was just a sophomore journalism student trying to get his feet wet. I didn’t have a clue what I was doing.

Fast forward to the spring and I got put on the men’s tennis beat and truly found a love and passion for what I was doing.

I began covering women’s soccer this fall before getting thrown onto the football beat midseason. 

My first game? Alabama. 

I watched the field goal go through from the sideline, and I looked behind me to see thousands of fans racing to get on the field. With each passing fan, I saw the release of 16 years of pent up emotions, and it reinforced a reality that I had known since I was a child: Sports are special.

Now, I have the opportunity to cover my first love: basketball.

While I love the NBA, college basketball is particularly exciting.

From sitting under my covers past my bedtime and watching Villanova’s Kris Jenkins nail a three pointer to defeat North Carolina in the championship to watching Butler’s Gordon Hayward nearly slaying the giant that was Duke with his half court shot.

I watched guys like Jimmer Fredette and Kemba Walker defy all odds and immortalize themselves in basketball history. I wasn’t old enough to remember Steph Curry’s run at Davidson, but I go back and watch clips and it would always send me into a trance thinking “that could be me.” 

You see, in college basketball, quite literally anything can happen. I’ve seen Cinderella runs such as UMBC, Oral Roberts and—close your eyes Vol fans—Loyola Chicago. 

I know Knoxville is generally a college football city, but you just don’t see things like that in college football. In college football, usually the better team wins games and you have a general idea of who will secure the national championship. But in college basketball, I’d be willing to bet that none of the top-5—or maybe top-10—teams with the highest preseason odds will win it all.

Last year, three out of the No. 1 seeds were out of the running by the Sweet 16. Granted, the other top seed, Kansas, won it all, but my point still stays valid.

No, my dreams of one day being in the Final Four have—surprisingly—not come to fruition, but college basketball teaches one important lesson: there is no limit to your greatness if you put in the work.

I’m not going to get all motivational here, but seeing underdogs reach the top is a special story. Don’t get me wrong; the Zion Williamsons and the Anthony Davises of the world were special to watch in college. But they already are what they are: physical freaks who were bound to succeed.

Some of the underdogs like Steph, Kemba and Jimmer reach the NBA and do great things as far as basketball goes, some don’t. 

That doesn’t take away from the fact that those who “didn’t make it” etched their names in sports history forever. They have the memory of a time when they did something great. A memory that they can share with their kids. A memory they can use to fuel the rest of their life in whatever they do.

I can’t wait to have the chance to possibly watch these moments unfold this season, and I am beyond excited to cover Tennessee basketball this semester.

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.