Moving on with many fond memories

The day was July 1, 1997 -- the first time I walked through the doors of the Clayton News Daily, going to work for Don Coble on a two-person sports staff.

Back then, I had a lot more hair on the top of my head, and the gut had not yet started to expand like it has now thanks to a middle-age spread, but one thing is for sure, it was the start of an interesting and exciting ride.

Fourteen years ago, words like pica pole and proportion wheel were part of the everyday newspaper lexicon, and tools we used to put each edition together.

We typed our stories on antiquated, out-dated computers. Now, the newspaper industry has gone digital and we have jumped aboard the technology train.

Friday night, after helping put the weekend sports pages to bed, I walked out of the newspaper offices on Church Street in Jonesboro for the last time.

After much soul searching, and many prayers, leaning on my rock-solid faith that has gotten me through this tough decision, I am moving on in my newspaper career and have resigned as sports editor.

I take with me a ton of lasting memories

I can still remember when Jonesboro graduates Harry and brother Toney Douglas were turning heads in middle school before going on to great careers in high school and college. Today, of course, Harry plays in the NFL with the Falcons, and Toney in the NBA with the Knicks.

Jason Heyward couldn't have been more than eight when I first saw him hit a baseball. Years later, he helped lead Henry County to the state title. Today, he patrols right field for the Atlanta Braves.

Kyle Davies was the best high school pitcher I ever saw. He was so popular with the scouts, Bill Pate, his high school coach, had a pre-recorded message on his voicemail so everybody would know when he was pitching again. Matt and Luke Murton were great power hitters for Eagle's Landing and Georgia Tech. Today, they are making their living in pro baseball.

The 1999 Mt. Zion football team was one of the best I have ever seen in my 23 years in this business. They went 14-1, going undefeated until losing in the state title to Oconee County.

The Eagle's Landing Christian softball team captured four straight state titles behind the arm of Hope Rush, who is now at Georgia Tech. That's a run I may never see again in my newspaper career.

This past basketball season, the Forest Park girls nearly won it all, advancing all the way to the Class AAAA title game.

My relationship with the folks at Clayton State has been wonderful. Athletic director Mason Barfield has always been professional and honest.

This past season when Dennis Cox led the women's basketball team to the NCAA Division II national title, he gave me one of my best moments as a sports editor.

Men's basketball coach Gordon Gibbons will continue to put some great teams on the floor at CSU. I will miss seeing his squads play. He had a great recruiting year, and next season will be special. It might just be his team's turn to make a run at the national title.

Pete Petersen's men's soccer team went to the Elite 8, creating more magic. The women's tennis team kept it going with its trip to the Final Four.

Before coming to the Clayton News Daily, the only thing I knew about NASCAR was Bill Elliott was from Georgia and one of the sport's most popular drivers.

After covering races at Atlanta Motor Speedway the past 14 years, I can now tell you Jimmy Johnson isn't just a former football coach, Jimmie Johnson is also a superstar in the world of NASCAR.

My friends at AMS have treated me like royalty and I will miss the annual NACAR race and Thursday Thunder, the summer racing series that I have watched grow from the very beginning.

But it's not just the championships that I have enjoyed. It's the relationships I have built with co-workers, coaches, players, parents and readers.

We haven't always gotten it right -- we are human, and we are going to make mistakes, but on my watch, we have tried to be fair, and honest. When your staff shifts between two and three people and your job is to cover 20 GHSA High Schools, nearly 40 middle schools and many private schools, you can count on sombody getting their feelings hurt.

My goal was to do the best job possible while being a great "ambassador" for the paper. Through the years I learned a lot and cultivated some friendships I will have for the rest of my life.

Along the way, I learned one important lesson. Our readers have a passion for sports, and that's a good thing.

The bulk of my career has been spent here in the Southern Crescent, and it will always be a special place.

As I leave this newspaper job for another, doing something I love, covering the athletic accomplishments of young people, I realize how fortunate I am now, and have been during my two decades in this business.

God Bless the people of Clayton and Henry County.

Doug Gorman is the out-going sports editor of the Clayton News Daily and Henry Herald. This is his final column after 14 years with the paper.