NEWORLEANS- When dawn breaks Saturday morning, for the first time since I was a junior at the University of Georgia, I won't be considered a working journalist.
It's a strange feeling, leaving behind something to which you've devoted your entire professional life.
After nearly seven years at WWLTV.com, I'm putting down the recorder and closing my station-issued laptop to pick up textbooks and student loans; I'm heading back to school, enrolling at LSU to earn a doctorate of physical therapy.
I won't be covering athletes anymore, but I just might be helping them recover from injuries.
Yet, to my boss, that's not actually the story. Like a lot of things I've written in my time covering New Orleans sports, I suppose I've buried the lead.
I moved to New Orleans in July 2007 without a job. The pull of the city was enough for me to quit my job at a newspaper covering Auburn University sports so I could relocate here when there was still some question about New Orleans' future.
And I leave WWLTV not to relocate elsewhere, but to continue my growth in a city that now is on the fast-track to once again being this country's best and is fully in my blood.
But it wasn't an easy decision to leave my job as a full-time reporter.
The memories, even just from the past seven years, and the relationships made it one of the hardest decisions of my life.
I'll never forget standing in the Saints' locker room at Sun Life Stadium in February 2010, maybe an hour after New Orleans had finished off the Colts, and spotting Bobby McCray standing by his locker worn out from the game but not too tired to pass up celebrating with his son. The young McCray, meanwhile, was not too interested in the celebration thanks to large earphones blocking the noise so he could concentrate on the video game he was playing.
Or getting to know Doug Thornton, executive vice president of stadiums and arenas for SMG, and Jay Cicero, the president and CEO of the Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation, and seeing just what it means to love this city from two people whose goal it is to make it the best place it can be.
Or the many conversations I had not about basketball but about books or The Office with David West in the Hornets' locker room after games, no matter the outcome of the contest.
It's not just who I covered, either. I will leave my position in awe of WWLTV's newsroom and grateful for the opportunity to be a small part of it.
As I told my colleagues, changing professions was difficult, but ultimately the right move for me. My father is a physical therapist and I've spent much of my 30-plus years fighting the urge to follow in the family profession. I could only fight it so long. To see people come up to him while I was growing up or whenever I still go home and show such gratitude for how he helped their lives has made a deep impression on me.
Our readers also have made an impression on me. I want to thank those who took time to read my columns, to email me, tweet me or talk to me at Mardi Gras parades or at restaurants for letting me be a small part of your lives.
I can make one promise to you on my out I will continue hunting for King Cake Baby and Evil Pierre's lair.