Sometimes you get to start with your dream job. That’s what happened to me.

As sports editor of The Villanovan in 2009, I was the beat writer for the men’s basketball team that made it to the Final Four and the football team that won the FCS title.

It doesn’t get any better than that.

Moments like those are not only memories that will last forever, but are also experiences that have shaped my career as a sports journalist.

As a full-time reporter for Cleveland.com and a freelance writer for Men’s Health, Popular Science, USA Today and SLAM magazine, I’m constantly drawing on what I learned years ago as a Wildcat.

While I grew as a writer from my classes as a communication major, I really developed my skills by being thrown into the fire as a member of The Villanovan.

Game stories taught me how to write on deadline. Covering the basketball and football teams showed me how to develop relationships as a reporter to get the information I need.

And the weekly production nights every Tuesday meant that if I didn’t learn quickly how to edit, manage a staff and work with others, then I was only sleeping six out of seven days a week.

Being a part of every step of the process also gave me an extreme amount of pride in the finished product. Even though I’ve had my name printed elsewhere, nothing ever beat the feeling of seeing the entire sports section hit the campus on Thursday morning.

One of the reasons I came to Villanova was because of its strong athletic programs. Although I wasn’t going to ever play — well, I did win an intramural flag football title — I knew that I wanted to contribute in some way.

Through The Villanovan, I achieved that. When our issue came out after Villanova beat Pittsburgh in the 2009 Elite Eight, almost everyone I knew — including players — said they would save the copy forever. Even Scottie Reynolds’ dad called our office for a few copies. And the football team was always grateful for any press it ever received, as we gave them more coverage than any publication out there.

Head Coach Andy Talley made it easy to want to cover them. He invited me into his office for weekly chats about the team, gave me DVDs of games that weren’t on television and helped coordinate my hotel when I went down to Chattanooga, Tenn., to cover the national title game.

Jay Wright wasn’t too bad either.  When my schedule allows me to cover some Villanova basketball games, he still sets aside a few minutes to catch up with me after the press conference.

A lot of teams that I deal with these days can be a real pain in the neck. Just getting a simple email request responded to can feel like a monumental accomplishment at times.

That was never the case at Villanova.  Every team made me feel like part of its family. It’s not that surprising considering that’s how almost every person makes you feel when you’re a Wildcat.

Thinking back to my senior year, I must have been asked at least once a day what I was going to do after I graduate.  Although things have worked out pretty well, I had no answer to that question at the time.

And it wasn’t because I was unprepared or unmotivated. I just wrapped up my dream job. Why would I want to leave?

But rather than give it up entirely, I’ve found a way to keep college in my life. It’s why a lot of what I cover is college athletics, and it’s why I’ve also become a journalism professor at a nearby university.

And if that Villanova athletics beat writer job ever opens up at one of the Philadelphia newspapers, you can bet mine will be the first résumé they receive.

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