A New Chapter, A Look Back


A personal note on reaching a milestone and sharing thanks to a lot of people who helped make it possible. 

Alicia asks me if I’m excited yet. She’s been asking about twice a week for the past two months. I must seem awfully chill.

I’d like to tell you that I am calm but I’d be lying. If my body was a high-rise apartment building, several floors below is a band thumping out an infectious groove of jubilation, nerve-jangling fear, and eager anticipation like the down and dirty funk of D.C. Go-Go.

The slap of the bass line booms just loud enough to induce a little body rocking but not enough to bust a move. I’m days away from fulfilling a long-term career goal: Rolling out of bed and walking down my hallway as my commute to work and a new chapter of my life.

Fourteen years ago, I began a commitment to writing. It took nearly as long to make the decision. Although there were encouraging signs in the form of paid gigs and praise from editors, I was afraid.

Sometimes confidence is gained when there’s nothing else to lose. In many ways–emotionally, financially, and spiritually–that’s where I was when I realized that the prospect of becoming a writer wasn’t remotely as scary as the life I was leading.

It’s not like committing to a writing career in your mid-thirties is without its challenges. I left one career to take a 60 percent pay cut in another so I could have more time to grow my freelance writing business. I was strategic enough with my finances to make the transition work, but not without several moments along the way where I had to find a writing job or choose between groceries and utilities.

Although magazine journalism and ad writing were an important part of my early work, the most important project was by far the most difficult and the least lucrative, the Rookie Scouting Portfolio. Committing to the RSP was a belief in an idea and seeing a market that didn’t exist yet.

The reactions I got from friends, colleagues, and websites offering me work when I shared the RSP during those early years was a mix of disbelief, bemusement, and even a little pity. I remember telling former Rotoworld staffer Gregg Rosenthal about my burgeoning project when the site approached me about writing the Gut Check as part of its agreement with FOX sports.

His response was a natural one, “You could write for our draft magazine.”

I still remember how difficult it was to turn down Rotoworld at the time. It was even more difficult when NBC bought them and Rosenthal became a household name while I was managing a university mail facility, scrounging for freelance work, and living in a house with a desk, a chair, and a mattress.

It was hard not to wonder if I had made the wrong choice. But the few RSP customers I had were loyal, raving fans and I knew from the beginning that developing an audience for a publication was a marathon, not a sprint. This is especially true for draft analysis that’s derived from processes different from NFL scouting and written by a guy who never played or coached the game at a high level.

What helped is that many of the RSP’s raving fans are fantasy writers, NFL writers, and even players and scouts. When I heard from an NFL scout for the first time in 2012, he told me he had been an RSP customer for five years! (And to you I cannot mention by name, thank you for reaching out, it was timely and I appreciate our routine conversations)

It was the first of several players, coaches, managers, and consultants who have let me know they are fans of RSP approach to the game and have been steadfast readers of the blog and the publication.

Fast-forward to the present, and I’m a week away from that 50-foot commute and the beginning of a new chapter in my life. I will be leaving the University of Georgia Terry College of Business after nearly a decade as a magazine features writer and associate editor of the Terry publication and focusing on football analysis.

The purpose of this transition is not necessarily to spend more time studying film each year. I’m sure that will be a by-product of the change. The true purpose is to do what I’ve always been doing: make the RSP a little better every year–the book, the website, and the YouTube channel.

And me.

If I want to make the RSP better I have to be better physically, mentally, and emotionally. The past 12 years have been a wild ride, the past 3 make the first 9 look bush league.

I’ll sleep when I’m dead is a bad-ass statement but after years of all-nighters and a sleep routine similar that could be called a starvation diet, I am at the place where squeezing every hour from a day is now short-sighted. If I’m truly serious about spending more time studying film, I have to think about maximizing whatever number of years I have left, not hours.

Fortunately, I’m now in the position to take care of all facets of the RSP. And there are a lot of people to thank. I’m an introverted guy by nature and this feels hokey to do–like I’m taking a victory lap when there’s a lot more ahead. But there’s something to be said about celebrating milestones and I’ve worked a dozen years for this.

First and foremost, I want to thank all my RSP readers. Whether you’ve been a raving fan or keeping it a secret from your competition, your annual patronage has been a big part of the proof that I’ve been on the right track.

The feedback you give between December and June every year–especially around April 1–is as emotionally gratifying as anything I’ve experienced. My goal has and will always be to make you feel like you’re getting more than you bargained for and you’ve let me know that I’ve succeeded.

Mike MacGregor, thanks for seeing what you did when we were negotiating trades by email in our first fantasy league together. As the first person to create a draft application for fantasy owners and the inventor of the first daily fantasy game, you have quietly been one of the most innovative people in fantasy football.  Thank you for your support behind the scenes as a colleague in those vital early days where it all could have ended faster than it began. I’m blessed to have your friendship.

Cecil Lammey, your enthusiasm about the RSP has always shown. From my days as a guest on The Audible to joining you as a permanent fixture on the weekly show, you’ve gone above and beyond for me, including inviting me to join you at the Senior Bowl and recommending me to Footballguys and Football Outsiders. You know better than anyone what it takes to create a career from a most unlikely origin and I have a ton of admiration and respect for you and your talent. Thank you for your friendship, your generosity, and your willingness to let me be a clown on one of your shows every week. Much love, brother.

Sigmund Bloom, it’s great to have someone to jam with. When it comes to football, you’re like a pianist who can push a soloist to great heights, trade choruses with the best of them and still delivers your own flights of virtuosity. You have an ingenious way  of wrapping your mind around things and making it accessible to many who wouldn’t otherwise see its value. Thank you for using your talents and your pulpit to spread the word about the RSP. I love competing and collaborating with you. It’s a special thing.

Doug Farrar, how fantastic it is to read you at Sports Illustrated. You obviously know what work is and I have mad respect for the quality of work  you crank out. Thank you for supporting this blog from its early days through the present. It has never gone unnoticed.

Chris Brown, you set the bar high. Your work has inspired me and your occasional notes of encouragement and constructive feedback about the game have been generous. Thank you.

Chad Reuter, for sharing your experience and technical advice as a tape grinder. Talking with you years ago about this career was an enormous help. You’re good people and it was nice to catch up recently.

Mike Dempsey, Ross Tucker, DLF, Rivers McCown, Arif Hasan, Josh Norris, Matt Harmon, Elise Woodward, Paul Charchian and the rest of you who’ve hosted radio segments and podcasts I’ve done over the years, thank you.

Chase Stuart, Jason Wood, Clayton Gray, Bob Henry, John Norton, Keith Overton and Doug Drinen, I have massive respect for the work you do. You made Footballguys the place I wanted to be.

Bryan Perez, Aaron Aloysius, and the entire staff of DraftBreakdown.com. My goal has always been to have film resources regardless of what’s on the Internet, but thank you for making it so I can use much of my library as a backup. You’ve made my life, and the life of so many analysts, easier with your efforts. Bryan, thanks for your generosity and your friendship. I hope there will be enough people to read this and discover that you possess the truest spirit of community in this corner of the draft world.

Evan Silva, Matt Williamson, Emory Hunt, Danny Kelly, Turron Davenport, Mike Tanier, Dan Hatman, Russ Lande, Mark Schofield and the fellas at Inside the Pylon, I see you…and I thank you. You’re also a big part of an excellent community.

David Dodds and Joe Bryant, you’ve created a business and a family that I love being a part of. I’ve long-admired how you cultivated your audience and it’s a joy to be a Footballguy. Thank you for a great fantasy football website, believing in the quality of the RSP, and giving me opportunities to put my work in front of your audience. I look forward to doing a lot more.

Ryan Riddle, I’ve always been a fan of genuine people and you’re one of the most purely genuine people I’ve ever met. I’m also a fan of your willingness to write with honesty and craft about your experiences in the league. Thank you for encouraging me about sharing my work on social media, the fun that ensues when we watch film together, and your friendship. I wish there was more time in a week.

All my RSP Film Room guests. There are too many of you to mention but it’s a blast to learn from you.

Past and present RSP blog contributors:

Eric Stoner, you’re family. Don’t forget that.

Chad Spann, thanks for your generosity of time and knowledge. I look forward to seeing what’s ahead for you.

David Igono, I look forward to continuing our work together. Thank you for seeing what you do with this blog and contributing fine work to it.

Bob Harris, you were a source of inspiration when I was a fantasy owner reading your work in the 1990s and you’re still a source of inspiration as a friend of mine today. Being featured in the print publications that you edit made me the toast (and the butt of jokes) of my local draft for a few years.  When you look in that mirror, I hope you see a good man. If you don’t, I can give you an attitude adjustment.

Steve Volk, I’m so grateful that you looked at my magazine pieces and decided the RSP was worth your craft as an editor.  Your generosity is far greater than you let on. I’ve enjoyed my introduction to your writing and our growing friendship even if I’m confounded that I’ve befriended yet another Steelers fan.

Martha Dennis, thank you for understanding how to work with creative people.  Your flexibility helped me accomplish a lot more during the past nine years than what I could have done otherwise. I hope my work was good enough in return.

I don’t know a single person in this space who has ever had a bad thing to say about Jene Bramel. He’s a fine writer, an astute analyst, and a skilled fantasy owner with a broad knowledge of the game and its dustier corners. Most would say he’s a great guy.

They’re wrong, though. None of the above adequately conveys how special Jene is.

As a colleague, Jene’s work is must-read material and it goes way beyond his medical training. He possesses excellent insights about the game that leave people wanting more whenever he’s a guest.

He’s also one of the few who is equally strong as a host and a guest. Sadly, there’s not enough time in the day for him to be all the things he can be as a football analyst.If there were, he’d have his pick of at least four different roles that many would kill for.

He doesn’t see the fuss I’m making about him, either. He’s probably reading this and thinking that it’s hyperbolic.

Folks, I promise you, it’s not. One of the best traits about Jene is that he’s confident enough in what he can do to hang with the best but he doesn’t want to entertain any thoughts as to why that is.

We’re all fortunate to work with you, Jene. Thank you for finding the time in your schedule to team with Steve Volk on the bulk of the RSP editing.

Thank you for the intelligence, humor, and honesty that you bring to every conversation. The type of friend that you are far exceeds anything that I wrote about you as a professional colleague.

Kent Hannon, when I met you, I was a disenchanted, 21-year-old transfer student who still clung to the hope of becoming a jazz musician. You were a former Sports Illustrated staff writer and AJC bureau chief teaching magazine class at UGA and critiquing the student newspaper for a little extra dough. The afternoon you met with me about my writing was everything I hoped to hear as a music student and I wasn’t ready to handle it.

I’m so thankful there was a second opportunity to have you as a mentor that extended beyond the job. Before we worked together, I was having lunch with a recently divorced boss who pointed out three couples at the restaurant whose marriages appeared as lifeless as his. Fifteen minutes later, you and Sharron showed up, sat down and were completely engrossed in conversation.

“That’s what I want if I ever get married,” I said to my boss. He didn’t know that I knew you.

I’m grateful that you saw my path as a “should” (it’s the first time I ever personally heard and felt that word used with a positive intent). Thank you for your deft guidance with my writing and all that I learned from watching you work. I hope to pay it forward at least half as well as I received it.

I’m equally fortunate to call you a friend. I hope your semi-retirement affords you the best of both worlds for as long as you want to inhabit them.

Alicia, you must be thinking that I enjoy making you wait. You say that patience isn’t one of your virtues. That’s debatable.

What those of you reading this should know is that without her, I would not be here today.

Alicia, you were the first person to suggest that I start a blog and develop an active presence on Twitter. You’re the first person I seek for advice. And when I don’t initially agree, you get the last laugh when I come around to your thinking.

When we met, you saw that I spent full-time hours on three jobs and part-time hours on two more. I told you I was just getting started with most of these ventures and it might take 6-7 years to figure out which projects have staying power.

I told you that spending time with me might feel more like a series of appointments for several years. And, I told you that life was only going to get crazier the closer I reached that 7-year point.

You never flinched. You had your own successful start-up. You, more than most I have ever met, know what real toil and sacrifice means. You believed in me from the beginning and you were an active part of making it work.

You also understood when I needed down time, often before I did. You knew how to be flexible with my schedule and, if I wanted any hope of projecting an outward image of sanity to my friends and family, you knew when I better become more flexible with mine. I may grumble about it but I’m so thankful for those sanity checks when this unending carnival ride scrambled my sense of time.

More than anything, you’ve possessed a ton of something you don’t believe you have: patience. With me. With our plan.

You created our plan.   Thank for working so hard.  Thank you for putting many of your own dreams on hold–some you may never get back (although I want to try). Thank you for loving me. And thank you for believing in me.

I love you, Alicia. I knew it from our first conversation. You deserve the same congratulations for the end of this chapter. Your time is coming.

I can’t wait to return the favor.

12 responses to “A New Chapter, A Look Back”

  1. Although I could also go on and on (not exactly like you, but still), I will instead try to keep it simple: Thank you, Matt, for being a great friend and being the person you are. Respect.

    And Alicia is cool. You forgot that part.

  2. Congrats to you and your loved ones, Matt. Much respect for how you wield your pen and your influence in this corner of the world.

  3. Congrats Matt. It’s nice to see good things happen for those who remain conscientious of their goals no matter how difficult the road may be. Look forward to seeing the “new and improved” RSP next year.

  4. Thanks Matt. I appreciate all the fantastic work that you do. I’m excited every year when the RSP comes out. I’d enjoy reading it and applying it to the NFL season even if I didn’t play fantasy football! I wish you the best in the times ahead.

  5. Matt leaving Georgia has him also taking on a bigger role at Footballguys. We could not be happier. Matt is elite in every way possible. This post just confirms all of that. Thank you Matt for all of the dedication to FBG and the RSP over the years and I am anxious to see what a “dedicated football Matt” brings to the table. Matt’s work to date is the reason scientists continue to work so hard at cloning.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.