To Everyone at Grizzly Athletics: THANK YOU

Earlier today I walked out of the Adams Center for the final time, ending an almost five year ride with Grizzly Athletics. I like to think I left a small part of me behind. With the long hours I worked and the contributions I made I hope I left the department better than when I arrived. But this blog post is not about me (By the way, for all I know my employers could have thrown a celebration party after my car drove out of the parking lot). Rather, this post is to say thank you to the people who supported me, helped me, and listened to me. It is to show gratitude to those individuals who believed in me and let me grow. It is to recognize my co-workers and bosses who helped make me look good and who always took my best interests to heart.

First and foremost I want to thank Christie Anderson. She hired me, she believed in me, she mentored me. Without Christie I would not be where I am at today. I learned everything I know about marketing in intercollegiate athletics from her. For over a year before we got more suitable offices I sat behind Christie and observed everything she did. What an awesome learning experience! I have so many memories with Christie whether it be going on trips, working games, or doing things totally unrelated to work such as going to concerts or bowling.

Next up I want to thank Jim O’Day. My first role model in the college athletics world he treated me with so much respect and kindness. He knew about the power of social media long before many other college administrators even knew what the phrase meant and he gave me the green light to take Grizzly Athletics full throttle down the new media avenue. Two years ago on that terrible day when he had the rug pulled out from underneath him I will never forget the address he gave us at the hastily called all-staff meeting. He epitomized class and humility in a very dark moment and that will always stay with me.

I owe so much gratitude to Brynn Molloy. She came into the Marketing Director position and just kicked butt. Definitely one of the most positive people I know I had a wonderful ten months working for her. We had such a solid working relationship based on collaboration and respect. She was there for me and I was there for her. She allowed me to continue to do my thing and always took the time to tell me good job. We came in each morning on fire for Grizzly Athletics and it made for a great work environment. It is no secret why everyone loves Brynn.

I don’t think I had a bigger supporter when it came to getting me to where I wanted to be than Greg Sundberg. Besides being the best leader I know, no one took the time to help me reach my goals more than Greg. He cares so much about his employees and brings the same positivity to the office each day in the same way Brynn does. I said Jim was my first role model in college athletics; after Greg started overseeing all external communications a couple years ago he became my second. “Sunny” played a big role in getting me to where I am now.

Then there is Kent Haslam…the third person I identify as a role model of mine in intercollegiate athletics. I was so happy and relieved when he got hired as our athletic director. You would be hard pressed to find someone with greater integrity than Kent. Over the past couple years he has been a great supporter of mine. Always sending recognition my way and 100% supportive of my decision to go to Coastal Carolina I feel very fortunate that our AD cared so much about me. Grizzly Athletics is in great hands.

Thank you to our sports information staff! I had the opportunity to work very closely with our legendary SID, Dave Guffey. I earned Dave’s respect and he treated me like a son. I will miss him a lot. I also feel like I got a lot from Joel Carlson (Assistant SID). No one writes better than Joel and I had the pleasure of reading award winning material from his desk on a daily basis. I know by paying attention to his techniques and style that it made me a better writer myself. Rounding out the staff is Renee Valley who never ceased to lend a helping hand when it came to making a few more credentials or helping me find something in the archive room.

I owe big thank yous to the people who generated much of the great content that I was able to use on our new media outlets to give our fan base a great experience. Nate Michael (Griz Vision producer) is an extremely talented individual and one of the best guys I know. Todd Goodrich (University of Montana photographer) works magic with the lens and pours a lot of his time into covering athletics. Jerek Wolcott (videographer, now at Idaho State) really started the video tradition at Grizzly Athletics and was a great friend of mine.

Thank you to our genius I.T. man, Aaron Heiner. This guy gave me a new perspective on what it is like to work under pressure. He also bailed me out of numerous situations involving technology on game days. Speaking of smart people, I couldn’t have succeeded at my job without the help of Chuck Maes. That man has a computer for a brain with incredible knowledge on how every device and piece of equipment under the name of Grizzly Athletics works. . Just like with Aaron, Chuck has helped me out many times when I needed quick assistance.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention my office mate, Paul Hengel. Paul became a great friend of mine and provided me an example each day of what hard work is all about. No one works harder in the department or has more demanded of him than Mr. Paul. We got along great and our office arrangement couldn’t have worked out any better.

Much appreciation to Heather Alexander (business manager) who showed great patience towards me when I asked stupid questions or accidentally went away from protocol when completing a business transaction. I also am very thankful for how much she has made my transition between jobs easier. Heather, you better make good on your plans to visit Myrtle Beach during the summer of 2015!

Then there are just the people who have supported me so much during my time with Grizzly Athletics. I am talking about people like Janie Haight, Sue DeMers, Cyndi Steigers, and Celine Fisher. They have acted as moms to me and supported me since I have stepped foot in the Adams Center. I was overjoyed when my “Montana Moms” got to meet my real mom at my going-away party late last week.

I don’t want to forget about the coaches. I learned a lot about the crazy lives they live full of pressure, stress, and travel. Take it from me right here: Our “Big Three” head coaches (Robin Selvig, Wayne Tinkle, and Mick Delaney) are absolutely class acts. They are passionate for the Griz and are incredibly kind. Each one of those men took time to congratulate me when I announced that I was moving on. Special shout out to Griz softball coach Jamie Pinkerton who became a good friend of mine. I am sad that I will miss the first pitch in 2015. Also thank you to soccer head coach Mark Plakorus who always took time to talk to me and even attended my going-away party.

Finally, thank you to all the students I had the privilege of working with over the years. From our student-athletes to our Spirit Squad to our team of interns to our mascots I felt so fortunate working a job where I got to interact with young and motivated individuals on a daily basis. In the end my ultimate mission was to serve them and I felt so lucky that I was able to do just that.

The chapter is closed. I now move onto the next stage of my life at Coastal Carolina. However, I will always be indebted to the wonderful people at Grizzly Athletics who gave me my start. Please know I hold all of you in very high regard. THANK YOU. Don’t Blink.

Brent’s Best of the Zoo

Every newspaper in every city seems to do it. They poll its readers on what is best in that certain city regarding everything under the sun from food to nightlife to retail to tanning salons to coffee places to celebrities to attorneys to etc. etc. etc. Some publications get a little too carried away and really overstep its bounds by creating way too many categories. For some reason, something tells me that some of the especially obscure categories probably have winners that only receive two or three votes…but who knows.

For tonight’s post I wanted to take this idea and add a little twist to it in conjunction with the lovely town I live in. The twist of course is that there is no democracy here nor are there 2,000 crazy categories that nobody cares about. Instead, this esteemed blogger is the only one making the judgments and the category count has been trimmed down to only include the most important (thus dealing mostly with food).

I give to you Brent’s Best of the Zoo*. There were categories that I wanted to include but knew I had to hold off on due in part to conflicts of interest in relation to my job. With those categories off the table, I made the best compilation that I possibly could. Enjoy!

Best Missoula Influencer: Aaron Traylor, 107.5 ZOO FM.

Aaron is a DJ for 107.5 Zoo FM in Missoula but his voice is just not heard only over the airwaves. With the largest social media following in the city and with his hands in about as many different pies as you can imagine, his influence blankets across Missoula. Everyone knows Aaron and that is a good thing because his number one goal is to help the community.

Aaron and I during Halloween 2011.

Best Missoula Experience: Any event/festival in Caras Park

Initially I wanted to choose Griz football in Washington Grizzly Stadium but I am trying my best not to be biased so I have to go with Caras Park! Whether it is Downtown Tonight, Brewfest, the Great Griz Encounter, Celtic Fest, or any of the other events held at this Missoula gathering place, there is no better spot in town to relax, people watch, socialize, eat, and drink. Events at Caras Park oozes Missoula and seems to instill the Zoo spirit into everyone in attendance.

It is always a great time at Caras Park. This was taken at Brewfest 2012.

Best Missoula Restaurant: HuHot

Okay, so I know HuHot is a franchise with locations in seventeen states but I just can’t overlook how good this restaurant is. Always offering fresh and creative ingredients in a cool atmosphere, I find myself craving HuHot a lot. I have dined at a lot of Mongolian grills in my time and nothing comes close to HuHot. If I get to choose where we go to eat and if I have a large appetite, we are driving to the end of Brooks to eat at HuHot.

Best Missoula Burrito Joint: Taco Del Sol

I start to salivate a little bit when I think of Taco Del Sol. Much in the same way that HuHot stands out to me as the best of its kind not just in Missoula  but everywhere, so does Taco Del Sol. When it comes to burrito shops, I think Taco Del Sol is #1. When I think of this place one word comes to my mind: flavor. There is a distinct flavor that is Taco Del Sol that I can’t get enough of. Also, it is cheap and they sell cold beer. I am a huge fan.

Best Missoula Breakfast: Montana Club

Whenever my parents come to town, it is a requirement that we go to the Montana Club for breakfast. With a breakfast menu as big as its portion sizes, you will definitely get a great start to your day. Everything about the food is high quality. I always struggle about whether to get the pancakes, the ham and cheese omelet, or the larger than life biscuits and gravy plate. Although the decision is always tough, I always leave satisfied.

Best Missoula Restaurant Server: Adam, Iron Horse

If you don’t know who Adam is right off hand, you will after I briefly describe him to you: He is the guy with the long hair set in a ponytail who is always working at the Iron Horse busting his ass off. Accurate, accommodating,  and entertaining, Adam is one of those people at the top of his trade. He epitomizes the title of his job, “server”, because that is what he does…he serves.  He is polite in that classy way that is not overbearing but respectful and charming. He always remembers me and I have had nothing but top-notch service from him the numerous times I have been lucky enough to sit at one of his tables. I can only imagine the tips that guy brings in on a nightly basis.

Best Missoula Brewery: Bayern

With a couple friends who are brewery-obsessed, it seems like I have developed a pretty good taste for all the fabulous breweries in Missoula. For me, one especially stands out and that is Bayern. The first selling point for me is the beer. I love pretty much all of the Bayern beers with Dragon’s Breath and Dump Truck earning special places in my heart. I also just connect the best with Bayern’s atmosphere. I like the two story set up and the actual bar location. If an out of towner comes and they want to experience a Missoula brewery, I am taking them to Bayern.

Best Missoula Blogger: Saskia Boogman, “According to Sauce”

Although Saskia recently penned her last post for “According to Sauce”, there is no way I was not going to choose it as Missoula’s best blog. From 2009-2012, she blogged about her experiences and adventures while working at the Missoula Hooters. Saskia took her readers behind the scenes and into the world of a Hooters girl. It was must read material. It brought her great notoriety and opportunity on a national level. On a much more local level, her blog was one of my influences in starting Don’t Blink. The combination of honesty and humor she used in writing her blog made it such a success. I already miss it greatly!

Best Missoula Writer: Joel Carlson, Grizzly Athletics

Now I said I wanted to stay away from any possible conflicts of interest but there is just no escaping this one. Joel Carlson is the best writer in Missoula period. Joel is our assistant sports information director in the athletic department at The University of Montana and the wonders he does with the written language is incredible. No one from any publication or other outfit in the city can hold a candle to him. Joel blows everyone out of the water. Early this summer he earned some well-deserved recognition as he won several national story awards, including national story of the year. Do yourself a favor right now and surf over to www.gogriz.com to view some of Joel’s work.

Best Missoula Mentor on Campus: Keith Graham, Professor – School of Journalism

You won’t meet a cooler guy. Energetic, outgoing, good looking, athletic, and very positive, Keith Graham is a person who everyone loves at The University of Montana. The number of cool things he has done and the number of important people he has met is pretty impressive. What is more impressive though is how nice and respectful he is to everyone. I never took a class with Keith, heck, I never even took a class in the journalism school (if you have read this blog you can figure that out) but that didn’t stop him from reaching out to me and giving me the time of day. The UM is very lucky to have Keith.

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There you have it, the 2012 edition of Brent’s Best of the Zoo. To all the winners of my prestigious list, I regret to inform you that you will not be receiving a framed certificate or an invitation to a special recognition party. Maybe in my 2013 installment I might have something in the budget to more appropriately recognize the people and businesses who top my list. Until then, please contact me if you if you want to call BS on any of my selections or if you would like me to weigh in on any other categories that I did not include.  Congrats to the best of Missoula! Don’t Blink.

* The term “Zoo” is a nickname for Missoula.