Southern Pigskin’s Silver Anniversary
By BJ Bennett
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Once South Carolina and Vanderbilt tee it off, it will signify more than just the start of another year. It's a milestone for us and shows us how much further we hope to go.
Time, they say, is relative. A weekend with that special someone, ladies no jokes please, can fly by like Dale, Jr. on his way to the delivery room. The rigors of a wedding rehearsal, however, can stall like an Atlanta traffic jam. As we persevere through the final few days of the off-season, we here at SouthernPigskin.com wanted to take a moment to reflect on our ride through the years. The start of this season stands as our tenth anniversary. And yes, we still smile and say "I love you too".
For three business partners, what started as a conceptual venture suddenly grew legs -- and has long been off and running. We've grown organically, both by circumstance and design. Good things sometimes take time and, in the south, we have no problem waiting. A mere free-flowing blog has emerged into a true regional fixture, fit with administrative structure, a wide-ranging foundation and defining business bonds. As we gear up for our second decade on the sidelines, notice the chest hair and voice change. We can't help but feel a little bit proud.
Every corporation's strength is rooted in relationships and we are honored to continue our partnerships with three of the biggest brands in the country: Bud Light, Steak 'N Shake and Southern Tide. Bud Light, who sponsors our Southern Power Poll, leads the market as "The King of Beers" and is working diligently to promote safety through their "Drink Responsibly" campaign. Our SoCon Power Poll is brought to you by Steak 'N Shake, who also brings you ice cream concoctions that will make your lips quiver. We would like to congratulate our friends in Statesboro, Georgia for the recent opening of their new restaurant. Southern Tide presents our "Tailgater of the Week" and does so in quintessential southern style. Southern Tide is one of America's fastest growing companies, and it's management is why. That and the fact their clothes are exceptionally made.
Our growth has been fortified by our merging with USA Today. Now members of the USA Today Sports Media Group, that alliance has advanced our networking and national appeal multi-fold. We recently attended a USA Today summit in Las Vegas, Nevada, a learning experience that will keep us on the cutting edge of the massive media paradigm shift. Our relationship has allowed many of our writers to be featured in various USA Today publications.
We've taken a back road with country music sensation Rodney Atkins. The award-winning singer has become more than just an annual bottom feeder in our staff picks (wink, wink), Atkins is a friend and a fellow southern college football enthusiast. We have partied with Rodney in big cities and small towns all across the southeast. We admit it, we've been known to namedrop him in conversation. What's scary, is he does us as well. Rodney's music is currently featured in the hit-film "The Bourne Legacy". His new single "Just Wanna Rock 'n Roll" is climbing up the charts.
This season, we our introducing a new name in our weekly predictions, the 2000 Heisman Trophy winner Chris Weinke. A former national champion at Florida State and NFL quarterback with the Carolina Panthers and San Fransisco 49ers, Weinke is now the football program director at the IMG Academy. Weinke is considered one of the top quarterback training coaches in the country. It was recently announced that the IMG Academy will field a high school football team for the 2013-2014 season.
Our Fall Saturdays will be even more frenzied this year as we have partnered with Pigskin Fantasy U, a new, innovative host for fantasy college football. In conjunction with another country music icon, Rodney Atkins' buddy Darius Rucker, we have helped promote a platform that has revolutionized the fantasy landscape. Pigskin Fantasy U allows you to draft teams, not players, with overall win totals being the ultimate goal. With live drafts, customizable settings and an interactive interface, Pigskin Fantasy U can help college fans get their fantasy fix.
As the college football season starts this weekend, we will have our eyes on number 83 for the Clemson Tigers. War hero Daniel Rodriguez, who was featured as our 2011 Person of the Year, has fulfilled his dream and promise to a fallen comrade to play college football. Earlier this year, we were able to spend a few days with Daniel and his sister Veronica and get a up-close-and-personal feel for his personal struggles and triumphs. We ate BBQ, went to the beach and went duck-hunting with Daniel, gaining indescribable respect for his fortitude and might. Saturday night at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, Rodriguez begins the next chapter in his life.
One mainstay throughout our evolution has been our commitment to the military. We have seen firsthand the sacrifices made by our armed servicemen and women, touring rehabilitative facilities at Fort Stewart with our 2010 Person of the Year award-winner Cpt. Matt Smith. We have worked closely with his unit and, with the help of Southern Eagle Distributing, make sure our nation's best stationed nearby are taken care of. We have sponsored "Warrior's Weekend on Jekyll Island" and "The Cpl. John Stalvey Foundation". The first-ever "Cpl. John Stalvey Celebrity Basketball Game" drew out the likes of friends Greg Jones, Roddy Jones, Jeremy Mincey and Ben Troupe, among others.
Over the last decade, we have experienced remarkable success. We've paid for our progress with blood, sweat and tears and we have the head-shaking friends and family, and receipts, to prove it. To our colleagues at the ACC, SEC and Southern Conference, here's to another season of what we all work for. We appreciate your candor and professionalism. To our contacts in the sports world, we value your perspectives -- now check your freaking voicemails. To our readers, you are the driving force behind everything we do. Your patronage is a valuable affirmation because we are you. We grew up the right way, with Saturdays trumping school days. Like you, we grew up "Down Here" -- the brand, the cause rather, that we represent.
"Critics label our view of college football as naive and tendentious. Our response? We couldn’t agree more. Southerners revel in regional bias and why shouldn’t we? In the south, we transform a vast picnic area into The Grove. We see a stadium on the river and bring a Navy. We take a plain desert stone and make it magic. We have The Chop, The Chomp and The Ramblin’ Wreck. We root for the same team as our dad, the same team as his dad and say 'to hell' with the team of your dad’s dad. We call players by their first names, anyone on the athletic staff 'coach' and to the chagrin of media pundits and those who just don’t understand, we say 'we'." -- Down Here, SouthernPigskin.com.
As we move forward, we do so with big plans not only in mind -- but also in the works. Later this fall, we will release a brand-new redesigned website. Consider that step one. In the meantime, continue to visit our social networking platforms on Facebook and Twitter. Our Facebook page, specifically, has experienced staggering growth and reaches four million people each week. Look for us in USA Today, on Big Lead Sports and listen for us on the radio. Voice your opinions on our message boards.
Here we sit, tail wagging, anxiously waiting the start of the five-month game of fetch known as the college football season. This extended weekend, Thursday through Monday with five straight days of southern college football, will be the absolutely-perfect way to start. Once South Carolina and Vanderbilt tee it off in Nashville, it will signify more than just the start of another year. It's a milestone for us and shows us how much further we hope to go.
It's a nostalgic, come-full-circle feeling. From skipping the college town streets as a child with mom and dad to walking right past those very spots en route to press row, college football reminds us of a simpler time, reminds us to take it all in with the power of perspective. As ten years approaches, It reminds us just how indebted we are to you.