“Jones makes debut, leads former Huskies in NFL action Week 1.”
I didn’t write that headline, because at the time I didn’t know I had to, yet I remember seeing that title overarching an article with a big picture of former UConn defensive back Byron Jones and an article summarizing former Husky exploits from the debut of the 2015 NFL season. It took up half of our back page. The calendar tells me it must have been either September 14th or 15th, but I remain as enamored with this story now as I did back in that long-ago Freshman Fall.
Why? Because underneath the headline, there is a byline that says, “By Matt Barresi, Campus Correspondent.”
Well, I’m a Staff Writer now, but throughout my life I have always loved to read, watch, listen and talk about sports. I pored through sports books growing up, loved to flick through the Boston Globe sports section and was an ESPN junkie which included an annual Christmas gift subscription to the magazine (I collected them all by the way). I’ve always enjoyed pontificating about sports, whether it’s trading conversation with others or getting my abstract musings down on paper.
I joined my high school newspaper, the HHS Indian, my senior year of high school, plain and simply because I wanted to write about sports. Coming to UConn, I sought to do the same. I can remember strolling down Fairfield Way for my first ever involvement fair and putting my name down at tables by WHUS and The Daily Campus, unsure of which route I really wanted.
I would get an email about a Sunday meeting at this obscure building adjacent to Storrs Center, one conveniently near my freshman dorm Shippee Hall. 8 p.m. I sauntered over probably 15 minutes early, walked up the steps and into a newsroom to find a bunch of kids watching Sunday Night Football, familiarly bantering about fantasy football. One of them (shout out to Bryan Lambert) was wearing a Maine Red Claws hat. I was simultaneously intimidated as hell and knew I had found a place at this school. I never did make it to WHUS.
My dorm could’ve been across campus and I still would’ve made those meetings each week. They may be what I will miss the most. Just a bunch of good people chopping it up and busting jokes about sports. It never gets old. But that first meeting, I remember getting the budget of articles for the week and soon discovering they were nearly all taken. Unsure of how to find my way, the editors fortunately needed someone to write this “Huskies in the NFL” article and for whatever reason I piped up. Boom, wrote it, had it edited and there it was, published.
See, the thing is, my high school paper was online only. As someone who grew up with the tangible, when I saw my name in print, featured prominently no less, it was just like, “Wow. I made it.” It was, and still is, a profound personal moment. And it was all so informal and fun. I saved that paper my whole first year in Storrs and still curse myself for leaving it behind on move out day.
When I started at the Daily Campus, I didn’t know anything about anything. Four years later not only am I a staff writer, but proud to be a Digital Producer and Member of the Board of Directors as well. That didn’t happen without incredible people and incredible experiences.
Matt Zampini was the first sports editor I had and ran that initial meeting. I feel so bad for all the time he spent his senior year splashing red changes on my earliest articles. It took me several weeks to get the spelling of Orlovsky down. But he made the barriers to enjoying the DC so low, ran a great section and was always a resource.
His associate editor, Dan Madigan, took over the section next year and kept things full steam ahead. Of course, Dan is a great guy who was very kind and helpful to a poor writer like myself, but he was also the funniest guy I know. Literally no one has better Bob Diaco jokes. Those meetings were can’t-miss and I look back at them so fondly. The culture of the section was elite. He also encouraged me to become a staff writer, unknowingly giving me a lot of confidence that maybe I can have an impact in this thing after all.
Then some hapless Brooklyn Nets fan Tyler Keating took over and really bolstered that mindset. Tyler gave me and others so much freedom, yet was a guiding hand at the same time. His subtle and short humor kept things jocular, but importantly, he also really let me try a bunch of new things while showing a ton of trust and respect for me and my work. I’m sorry for what Dave Gettleman is doing to your team, buddy.
This year could’ve perhaps been my year as editor, but I committed to be a UConn men’s basketball manager first and foremost. However, ultimately, Mike Logan helped create a situation where I still feel like it was my year. He let me get away from the beats and focus on feature writing which I always wanted to try. He was always supportive and not only greenlit, but tried to assist with, the many things I brought to him. He allowed me to have a strong presence in the section and in seeking my advice from time to time, allowed me to find some personal validation in helping our department.
All four of those guys were a tremendous, tremendous reason why I had such an amazing four years at the Daily Campus and I am very thankful for all of our relationships. That is what the Daily Campus is about, the people. There are so many I have interacted with that deserve shouting out, but there just isn’t room so I will have to be “succinct.”
Pete and Espo for being great friends and mentors to a young freshman on his first beat, covering UConn softball. Connor Donahue for always being willing to chop it up about Boston sports and allowing me over to the digital side. Steph Sheehan and Antonio Salazar, who were on my first go around covering the women’s soccer team and have always just been cool people, actually teaching me a little about the game. Bryan Lambert, consistently good for an entertaining conversation about Boston sports or the South Shore. Luke Swanson, whose existence allows for me to have my wonkiest and off the beaten path sports talk with. Chris Hanna, whose leadership and passion, as well as friendliness, led to a great senior year. So many others who I have to omit, regrettably.
As someone privy to our website analytics, I can tell you one does not write for the Daily Campus in order to be read. I have many different types of friends and people in my life, varying in degrees of significance, at and away from UConn, who do share one major similarity: They don’t read my articles. That’s fine, I certainly wish they would, but as I mentioned at the beginning, I joined the Daily Campus because I like talking about sports and my time here gave me an amazing outlet to do so.
But there is one person who I can count on in a lot of ways, one of them being faithful readership. He is the one who got me into sports, got me into reading (about sports) and has always supported this endeavor of mine. Anytime I have something that goes out, I can rely on a text or an email with a little note of feedback. Dad, thank you. I don’t think you realize how much the engagement has meant, nor how much you have helped me grow as a writer.
I have grown a lot over the course of these four years. When I started with the Daily Campus my prose was quite lousy, now, it is up to less lousy. I was bigoted about women’s sports, now hopefully I am an advocate. I had never covered a team before, but despite knowing there were many occasions where I was ambivalent, I look back to my times on beats very fondly. UConn athletics has been a very fluid place, evolving for better and worse, but I enjoyed my up-close seat to it. I didn’t intend to get deep in the Daily Campus; I just wanted to write about sports. But I am thankful for my decisions to join and work producing digital and serve on the Board. The Daily Campus became a major part of my identity these past four years and as a tubby, unaware freshman aggregating Jordan Todman stats that first time, I couldn’t have written a better story myself.
Matt Barresi is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.