A Dream Come True: Oregon's Ronika Stone

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As I sit here writing my very first blog post, I can’t help but smile. One, because writing for fun was never anything I would ever consider doing before and two, because I am finally able to sit down and reflect on a day that I can honestly say changed my life.

Last week started off as a typical week for me. That changed when l I received a text from the Assistant Athletic Director for Student-Athlete Development, Katie Harbert. She asked me if I was interested in job shadowing Maria Taylor, an ESPN and SEC network analyst and host, for College GameDay! I couldn't believe that she thought of me and I didn't care what my earlier plans were--I was not going to miss out on an opportunity of a lifetime.

College GameDay is a big deal in the sports world. When I found I was going to be a part of it I was thrilled. I couldn’t hide my excitement. I let everyone know I was going to shadow Maria Taylor from College GameDay.

I thought I was going to be following Maria around all day and asking questions along the way. I was wrong. I received an email from Corinne Milien, the Executive Director of The Winning Edge Leadership Academy (look her up, she's legit), that told me to be prepared to run Maria's social media and have knowledge on our [Oregon] football team and the opposing team. I was nervous, but ready.

College GameDay is no joke. I woke up at 4:30 a.m. for the first time since birth. The sun wasn't even up, but the day was just getting started. I was impressed with every little thing Maria did. She took time to take pictures with multiple fans and remembered every person's name. And she did it all while keeping a smile.

The majority of what Maria taught me, she did without answering my questions. She was just doing what she always does. Her job didn't seem like a job at all. What I found most comforting was that she didn't have to change who she was when the lights came on. The on-camera laughs were my favorite because it was unscripted. Maria and her colleagues Gene Wojciechowski, Desmond Howard, and David Pollack taught me that there is a way to joke around a have fun while still getting the job done.

The best moment was being on the sidelines the whole game. The crowd is so much louder on the field than it is in the stands; so much that I thought I was going to lose my sense of hearing after the game. Maria must be really good at reading lips because I'm not sure how she can still hear after doing this every weekend.

In conclusion: Any question that came to my mind, I felt comfortable asking. I wanted to know how Maria’s brain works and how I could somehow make mine be more like hers. When the game ended it was chaos. Maria and I sprinted onto the field, dodging massive football players as they rushed onto the field to celebrate. Through it all Maria remained her funny, laidback self. She seemed unfazed by the score and was prepared for any situation. It was an honor to be by her side and I'm excited to follow the rest of her career.

Thank you, Maria Taylor.