As I made my initial trek down U.S. 1 through the Keys more than four years ago while taking in the amazing views from the many bridges that would soon become a routine waterscape for me, I had no idea what was in store.
In the time since that maiden voyage to my position here at The Citizen, it's almost unbelievable to me the amount of memories I have made on this island that so many of us have called home. Which is why it has been so tough over the past several weeks as realization has set in that I will soon be moving on.
This column will be my last here at The Citizen, as I have made the decision to move on to other challenges. That decision certainly wasn't an easy one, however, in large part because of the people -- whether it be readers, colleagues, coaches, players, referees, friends or all of the other "characters" -- that make up the unique and diverse atmosphere that make this chain of islands what it is.
It would be impossible for me to recount all of the standout memories from the course of my time here in Key West, which began just before the 2007 football season, but I will do my best to recall some of them.
That first season on the gridiron was an exciting one as I followed the Marathon High football team to the state playoffs, which surprisingly is still the most recent appearance for a Keys team in the state tournament. From there, I was watching from the stands, press box or sidelines as Ralph Major, Jr. captured the first and only state championship for Key West High in wrestling, the Key West High and Monsignor Pace baseball teams put on what is still one of the most exciting baseball game I've ever attended on any level in the 2009 district tournament semifinals (a 7-5 Key West win), the sea of red flooding the stands at Rex Weech Field for a surreal atmosphere in the 2008 state playoffs, the growth of the volleyball programs at Key West, Marathon and Coral Shores, the rebirth of football at Island Christian School and the rekindling of the fire in the Marathon-Key West rivalry on the football field, as well as the basketball and volleyball courts.
Of course, there are many other things I will miss as well. Among them: Super Bowl parties hosted by Donnie G in the Crow's Nest, rides up and down the Keys talking sports and watching "Family Guy" with WKWF radio host (and world's slowest driver) Rick Lopez, discussing and watching boxing with local manager Si Stern, sharing jokes and stories with Key West public address announcer Wayne Goldstein, scoreboard operator Joe Albury and officials Rocky Portier and Ricky Brown in the press box at Conchs' baseball and football games, claiming fantasy sports titles over local friends and baseball coaches (sorry, Miguel Menendez), talking high school and college football with Conchs coach Jerry Hughes, Monday night softball with my Four Orange Drinking teammates, and just talking sports over drinks with former Conchs assistant football coach John Grimesey (even if he is a Packers fan who is completely wrong about the BCS).
While my byline will soon be gone from these pages, I have no doubt the local sports scene will still get the attention it deserves here in The Citizen thanks to Sports Editor Ralph Morrow and fellow sports writers J.W. Cooke and Ron Cooke, who have each helped me in more ways than they probably know over the past four-plus years.
Since that first unknown trip, I can say with certainty that I have enjoyed just about all of my time here in the Southernmost City. While I am very much excited about the future, this has been a fun ride that I'm sure I won't forget. Hopefully, I'll get a few more opportunities to make that long drive down the Keys before it's all said and done.
Assistant Sports Editor Willis Jacobson's Gettin' the 'W' column appears exclusively each Friday in The Citizen. He can be reached at 305-292-7777, Ext. 223, or at email@example.com.