Meridian Star

December 2, 2013

You can call me Big John

John Blackledge
The Meridian Star

MERIDIAN —     Well, I come to you all from the “Free State of Jones County” just down the road on I-59 from a small town called Sandersville. My first day here at The Meridian Star was this past Wednesday, and I have to be honest with you all — I'm glad to be here. I've been involved in the sports scene since I could carry a ball whether it was swinging a bat in little league baseball or knocking folks around in youth league football.

    I'm a graduate of Northeast Jones High School, a school very familiar to folks around these parts. From there I graduated from Jones County Junior College, and I went on to get my undergraduate degree from William Carey University. After getting my degree from Carey, I went to work with the North American Mission Board. I also got to study some at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Wa.

     I was unable to compete in athletics past high school due to some foot problems, so I decided I would do the next best thing. I would write about it. As far as my background in journalism goes, I've been writing since I graduated from NEJ. My first full time sports writer job came to me at the old Laurel Leader-Call.

    I've had the pleasure of being able to cover and see some amazing things in the sports world. I had the chance to watch my brother ,Royce, win the Liberty Bowl at Mississippi State back in 2007 against UCF.  My sister ,Kristin, won the Mississippi High School Activities Association 4A Girls Basketball Championship back in 2004 against Bay High.

    I was able to cover would be none other than Ole Miss' 2009 AT&T Cotton Bowl Classic featuring the Rebels, and the Texas Tech Red Raiders. The Rebels won the game 47-34, but what I remember most about the game was the amount of NFL talent on both squads.

    For Ole Miss you had guys like Mike Wallace, Brandon Bolden and Dexter McCluster. The Red Raiders had a guy by the name of Michael Crabtree. It was a great ending to the game held at Cotton Bowl Stadium.

    Another exciting game I had the chance to cover was the 2011 Gator Bowl down in Jacksonville, Fl. Mississippi State beat the Michigan Wolverines 52-14. The Bulldogs had current Indianapolis Colts running back Vick Ballard, as well as Chris Relf.

    The Bulldogs had it going on in all phases of the game. The most odd part of the game was the press conference featuring Wolverine head coach Rich Rodriguez ,who now coaches at Arizona, but that's another story in itself.

    Besides all the bowl games I'm very familiar with the teams in the surrounding area. One of the most storied programs in the state, whether it be football or basketball is none other than the Meridian Wildcats. My brother helped build the new field house at Ray Stadium, which is one of the best stadiums in the state.

    I can't leave out baseball and West's coaching legend in Jerry Boatner. I also know girls basketball is a big deal at Northeast. Two up and coming head coaches in the area would be Jackie Williamson, Newton County, and Steve Bynum, Quitman. Quitman has two of the best basketball coaches in the area in Gina Skelton and Chris Coleman. The Panthers also have one of the best athletic directors in the state, Steve Hampton.

    Overall, I'm excited about getting started here at The Meridian Star. I'd like to thank Tony for giving me the chance to get back at doing what I love. That's covering local sports from youth league soccer to JUCO athletics.

    I look forward to getting to know the area, and getting to know the local athletes and coaches. My name is “Big John,” and its a pleasure to meet your acquaintance!