I'd like to start off by saying thank you guys for reading me (and commenting, thus starting great discussions) over the better part of the past year. I'll be more specific toward the end, but let me first say that you've been a great audience, even though not all of us had the same opinions on everything. No matter how provocative some of my posts were, and no matter how vociferously some of y'all disagreed with me, I truly enjoyed every minute of it. SB Nation has a well earned reputation of having classy members, top to bottom, from site managers, to writers to frequent commenters to the occasional commenters, and everywhere in between, and I got a close up view of that rep writing here since January. This goes for Gators, Dawgs, and Noles alike. Unfortunately, my time here has come to a close.
I am leaving in order to start my own website, inallkindsofweather.com, which has always been my long term goal as a writer, and at age 19, I have to say, it happened a lot quicker than I could have ever dreamed. Some of you here may remember that I previously wrote for the original inallkindsofweather.com, and a few of you actually followed me here to Alligator Army from IAKOW. FlaGators even linked one of my pieces from the old IAKOW in one of his Chomping at Bits segments a couple of years ago. And so I am happy to announce that it will soon be re-launched, under (mostly) old management, albeit with a slightly different spin.
The original IAKOW was the successor to firesteveaddazio.com. Once Addazio was (mercifully) out of Gainesville, Ryan Moyer, the site's creator, saw no purpose to continue running a site intended to drum up enough interest in driving somebody out of town who had already left. So he created IAKOW to continue expressing his thoughts on Gator sports in general. Ryan was great, and as his co-admin, I really enjoyed reading his stuff. But there was no special feature to it that we could claim, other than good, quality, honest writing. And over time, viruses consumed the site and he got a new (real) job, so he had less time to continue writing and even less time to deal with the nasty malware that attached itself to IAKOW. So he left, and I went to Bleacher Report for a little while before landing the best writing I'd job I've ever had here at AA.
Last Thursday night, one of my friends (also named Ryan, but a different guy) contacted me about launching our own site. This Ryan is a semi-booster (not an actual booster, but his family is and he makes friends with a lot of recruits) and thus, he just about always accurately predicts who's coming to Florida before they actually commit based on his conversations with the recruits, who, remember, are (for the most part- let's stress that) his friends. He correctly predicted the DeMarcus Robinson and Alex Anzalone flips before they happened, along with literally dozens of others, but those are the two I remember off the top of my head.
Unfortunately for him, he had to always keep silent on all this stuff, and only tell people he trusted not to spill it publicly. The recruits, more often than not, want to break the news publicly themselves, or at least do it through a bigger outlet than telling a friend and having him spread it. Ryan never had a platform to do this on- until now. And he wants a writer alongside him, to make it a real, complete website as opposed to a small forum. So in addition to me blogging out my thoughts as I've done since 2010 and the ability for any member to write FanPosts (but we'll change that name so we don't blatantly rip off SBN), IAKOW will hopefully feature breaking news of commitments, and other sorts of news broken to outlets such as ESPN, CBS and Yahoo. Because now, I'm working with somebody whose job is to make friends with these kids (and he does a damned good job of it). Of course, we need to first establish the reputation as a legitimate site, but with time and good writing, we hope we can get there soon.
From the get-go, I have to issue the standard warning that I cannot guarantee 100% accuracy on this kind of stuff simply because of the nature of 17-18 year old brains. They love attention, and if they commit to Florida through a text to me (or Ryan), there's no guaranteeing that they won't turn around three days later and do the same thing to, say, a Clemson writer with whom they made friends with on their visit there just to get attention. But I hereby issue a promise that Ryan and I will strive to be as close to 100% accurate as possible. If we get played by an attention-loving kid, then all we can do is just prove that we're going by what he told us, and nothing more. I'm not claiming to have a crystal ball or a time machine, and neither is Ryan; we're just seeing texts or hearing words from a kid saying he's committing to Florida.
I also can't guarantee that we're going to be the source for recruiting news and commitments, because that's silly. If a third of the kids who commit to Florida do it through us at IAKOW, I will be utterly shocked. I'm aiming to get three or four a year, but even that might be asking for too much. Ryan can't befriend every single recruit, and besides, some of them like to play out the drama and wait until National Signing Day anyway. All I'm saying is that this is what our objective will be at IAKOW.
In addition to that, IAKOW will also attempt to serve as a gigantic video vault- I have access to some classic Florida games dating as far back as the 1984 thumping of Georgia, condensed to 15 minutes, and Ryan is incredible at making pump up videos. As far as I know, this is the first Gator site that has a section specifically set aside for videos. Alligator Army, with the video analysis, comes the closest.
Finally, IAKOW will look to feature conversations with current and former players, just like I did here with Adam Allen and Brandon James. I can't say exactly who just yet, but I'm working on getting a really big name to talk to me to jump start IAKOW. Again, no guarantees; I'd say there's a 50/50 chance it goes through. But I thought James was a 50/50 chance of working, and that turned out pretty well, didn't it?
Alligator Army has really grown on me since I started reading in middle school; I remember the days when mlmintampa used to run it, and I have to say, the quality didn't drop off even the slightest bit when Andy took over. It sounds a little cheesy, I know, but this place will always be home to me.
In all seriousness, even though I bumped heads with some of you rival fans on various topics, you all seem like good people, and I wish each and every one of you nothing but the best going forward. Even Bud Elliott, with whom I probably fought the most, you are a very talented writer and I look forward to reading more of your stuff. I truly do wish you the best in life going forward. Same goes to the Noles who "trolled" me (kidding): Tampa Nole, FSU @UNF, and the countless others whose usernames I can't recall at the moment: I may not agree with the team you cheer for, but that doesn't mean you're not good guys, and despite our rather heated battles, I do wish all of you guys the best in everything you do.
To the other Gator fans who've read me: I realize some of my posts were extremely provocative, and some of you did not hold back in your criticism, but again, I thoroughly enjoyed talking Gator sports with every single one of you. Of course, I liked it a little more when we were in agreement, but nonetheless the entire experience here was incredible. The community here at AA is amazing, and I'd like to individually thank each and every Gator fan who has ever commented on anything I've ever written here. From skigator to FlaGators to davidkennedy to gatorhippy to ECFIVESTER to catscradle G8rJB8r to RaptureVeteran... and all the others I forgot off the top of my head... THANK YOU GUYS. It's been so much fun. Regardless of how much some of you criticized me, it was a pleasure coming up with responses to them. And the same goes for y'all as the Nole fans: I wish each and every one of you the best of luck in everything you do.
Lastly, I want to thank my boss, and editor, Andy Hutchins. You've been great Andy, and I mean that with as much sincerity as I have to offer. I'll always be grateful to you for taking a chance on a then 18 year old kid and bringing me on as a writer back in January, as it gave me a level of exposure I'd never had before. You, just like some other Gator fans in here, had some strong contrasting opinions from me. We certainly had our share of disagreements as well. But through it all, you were a fantastic editor. Some of my pieces would have been really good on their own, but you turned really good work into really great work every time, no matter how strongly you disagreed with what I was saying. I'm specifically recalling my history of the Florida-Georgia and Florida-FSU rivalry pieces, my eulogy of the 2013 baseball season and my Tennessee game recap. You made those pieces look incredible when truthfully, I thought I had done a good, but not great job on them. I always felt comfortable turning in a solid piece, knowing you would turn it into gold.
I look forward to stopping by Alligator Army from time to time to read Andy's and Fla's various takes and comment on them, and of course, to interact with all the great people I've mentioned before. In addition, I hope you guys will take the journey with me as IAKOW 2.0 prepares for liftoff. I have nothing but good things to say about AA, so all I'm asking is that you check out IAKOW in addition to AA, not in place of. Ryan Moyer (I can't thank him enough either- he's the one who gave me my start, so I have to give him a public shout out) is the one doing all the behind the scenes stuff- he owns the domain, he's rebuilding it, so it's technically his website- and he will contribute occasionally if he finds the time, but for all intensive purposes, this is my site, along with the other Ryan. I look forward to continuing to interact with you there as well.
Once more, from the bottom of my heart, thank you guys for everything. It's truly been a pleasure to write for Alligator Army.
Sincerely, Neil Shulman