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Building up chemistry to create a better product

In the final days leading up to the football season, players have returned from summer camps and vacations and are prepared for another fall of Friday Night Lights. At the media and picture days each team has recently taken part in, it was evident the reporters are prepared to get the season underway as well.

Yes, I’m still the new guy, but spending the past summer at workouts and OTAs has allowed me to begin building relationships with the teams and players throughout the Greater Valley Area. My predecessor, Sam Chandler, set me up by giving me a couple of months to learn the ropes before diving into the most important time of the year around the community.

I’m slowly moving away from being referred to as the “guy from the newspaper” as more and more people recognize me as “Rashad.” As a journalist, the rapport and trust that is built with community members is the most important part of the job and it makes for better stories and content for you, the reader.

Players and coaches from every school have shown me love and respect, but one thing that has impressed me the most about players in this area is the level of respect players have for coaches and other individuals does not change as more attention is garnered.

Days after Lanett’s Trikweze Bridges made his commitment announcement and made national news by choosing the University of Oregon, he was still one of the players who spoke to and took photos with everyone who wanted to during the team’s picture day. LaFayette senior LaJaReon Bryant was the first person to greet me once I walked into Bulldog Stadium and Springwood’s Chris Ramseur showed love after our first couple of encounters during the week.

Showing respect regardless of classification or stardom is impressive, even at the high school level these days. With the Internet, players are not just well-known figures in their own communities anymore, but routinely achieve region-wide recognition. Some of the players have thousands of followers on social media and are mentioned by verified accounts on a regular basis. That attention makes it easy for a teenager to develop an inflated sense of self-worth.

The humbleness of the top players in the Greater Valley Area is not only a testament to the community’s values, but the parents and coaching here as well. Star high school athletes are not always humble nor easy to work with. To that, I say thank you for making my job easier.

Rashad Milligan is the sports editor of the Valley Times-News. He can be contacted at rashad.milligan@valleytimes-news.com.