The UNC athletics community, and especially TarHeelIllustrated.com, was hit hard by the sudden and tragic death of our beloved colleague Eddy Landreth in November of this past year.
Eddy and his family have been on my mind a lot over the past several weeks, and especially during the recent Holiday season.
I've also been thinking a great deal about the long-term future of THI and our path going forward following Eddy's untimely death.
In the days immediately after Eddy's passing, I came to a gut feeling that has held strong with me in the ensuing weeks.
It was going to be impossible to find a single individual among the current UNC athletics media that we could hire to fill Eddy's unique role within our organization.
There's no one single individual out there that could combine over a quarter century covering ACC sports and bring Eddy's name recognition that would also be able to juggle multiple other work responsibilities while giving our loyal readers what they come to this website for---the latest in UNC team and recruiting news---the same way Eddy delivered it.
Knowing that, and also knowing that Eddy would be the first to tell me and everybody else that the show must go on, I undertook an effort to find two individuals hungry to get into this business, with the drive and willingness to prove to me and the readers of THI that they have what it takes to grind and be successful in this 24-hour news cycle we work and live in.
I was looking for individuals that weren't so blinded by UNC loyalism that they couldn't objectively cover the teams---so caught up in being Tar Heel fans that they couldn't be ethical and responsible speaking with and reporting on recruits.
My goal was to find two people who demonstrated a certain passion for covering North Carolina, a certain willingness to get involved covering a team on more than a surface level, and individuals that would be willing to go the extra mile for the good of the site.
Fortunately, I think I've found two individuals who meet that criteria, and I'm proud to officially welcome Patrick O'Brien and Alex Conway as the two newest members of the Tar Heel Illustrated reporting staff.
I'm excited to give each of them an opportunity to cut their teeth in this business and have a door opened for them, just as I've had doors opened for me and anyone who's ever accomplished anything in the world has had a door opened at some point for them by someone.
Patrick O'Brien proved he was willing to go the extra mile with me in late November, just a couple weeks after Eddy's death, when he traveled with me to Bloomington (Ind.) to supplement THI's coverage of the UNC-Indiana game in Assembly Hall.
Patrick has already covered multiple UNC hoops games for THI this fall and winter, and he'll be continuing to do so throughout the Atlantic Coast Conference regular season.
O'Brien has been following Carolina athletics for over 15 years. He grew up in Greensboro, where he attended Greensboro Day School. He then moved to Greenville (N.C.) to attend East Carolina University, graduating with a sports studies degree. He now lives in Raleigh.
Patrick is going to be doing a little bit of everything for us over time, but for now, he is going to be a helping us on a regular basis with our UNC basketball team coverage while we get him up to speed on recruiting.
Once basketball season ends, look for O'Brien to be hitting the football combine and AAU basketball circuit hard for THI.
Alex Conway graduated from East Carolina University in 2011 with a degree in journalism. Conway has spent the majority of his life living in North Carolina but spent a brief period living in Baltimore, Maryland.
No matter where he has gone Conway has intensely followed the ACC sports landscape and the Tar Heels. A newcomer to the sports writing industry, Conway brings with him a fresh set of eyes when covering UNC athletics. He's already covered a few Tar Heel games this season for THI, and will be covering more games as the season winds on.
Along with assisting in UNC team coverage, during the month of January we're going to quickly get Alex knowledgeable about North Carolina football recruiting.
Soon he's going to be cranking out football recruiting stories along with regularly covering UNC press conferences, games, and other events.
Look for Patrick and Alex to join our other regular staff covering everything from spring football practices to the Greater N.C. Pro Am next summer.
While the tragedy of Eddy Landreth's passing and the sadness in our hearts over it won't go away quickly, I personally think Eddy would be happy seeing two passionate young sportwriters like Patrick and Alex stepping into the mix to replace him, each eager to make their own marks and simply needing somebody to give them a chance.
There was once a day when somebody gave Eddy a chance, and I'm truly thankful that Rivals.com gave me a chance nearly seven years ago.
And now I'm thrilled and excited to make Patrick and Alex's transition into the network and specifically Tar Heel Illustrated as seamless as possible.
Please access the link below for our freshly-updated 'Meet the Staff' page, which will get everyone better acquainted with Patrick and Alex, as well as the rest of the THI staff.
If anyone has any questions about these hires or anything else related to the website, please feel free to contact me directly via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks to everyone for reading Tar Heel Illustrated, and best wishes for a blessed weekend and a prosperous 2013.
All the Best,
Publisher, Tar Heel Illustrated