Ryan McGeea senior writer at ESPN.com and co-host for SEC Network’s Marty and McGee (Saturdays, 9 a.m. ET), he hit a milestone this week by visiting his 50th state.
Known for his stories that are a little off the beaten path, this GameDay College And the advantage of ESPN.com, McGee’s move landed amid what he calls “Best college football competition you didn’t know: North Dakota State and South Dakota. The 113th meeting between the two teams was scheduled for Saturday (3:30 p.m., ESPN+), and McGee took a moment before covering another long-running college football competition — Alabama at his alma mater in Tennessee — to reflect on that achievement and some of his favorite stories.
What surprised you most about this rivalry while writing your story?
The Dakota Marker is easily one of the coolest competition awards in college football. They’ve been playing this game since 1903, but got this trophy less than two decades ago because it didn’t come until they both moved to FCS in 2004. Then the actual Dakota folks had no idea what the mark was based on the traces of quartzite that were used to split North Dakota over South Dakota, until this rivalry taught them. I’ve always wanted to be a history professor, so I’m so proud to be educating people on this subject!
Having grown up amid college football and witnessing some of the greatest competitions in the sport, what makes this game so special?
It’s passion. If you go to a game at Fargo (ND) or Brookings (SD), the crowd may not be as big as what you’ll see at LSU or at the Rose Bowl, but their love of the game and their passion for their teams, not to mention their true dislike of their close neighbors, that’s what college football means to me. Mine.
Also, this is how the team prepares for Fargodome…a little louder. pic.twitter.com/r5m5kE364Y
— Ryan McGee (@ESPNMcGee) 14 October 2022
I have now traveled to all 50 states. Have you had a favorite moment or memory?
I was very fortunate that my parents were great at travellers. I came out of a lot of states when I was a kid because we used to travel with my dad when he was on business trips. We’d drive cross-country to California from North Carolina, or drive through the Northeast.
I learned at a young age that the world is much smaller than you might realize; You have to get in the car and see it. I also learned how important it is to have an armrest divider in the back seat of a family sedan because that’s the one thing that kept me and my little brother from killing each other on those road trips.
Looking at the stories I’ve written across 50 states, what are the five states and stories that distinguish you from them?
North Carolina: First, in my home state of North Carolina, I’ll never forget the ride in a pickup truck with Junior Johnson, a NASCAR legend, where we went and visited what was at the time a closed racetrack, North Wilkesboro Highway, and then drove back to his house, and it served me real buzz. I never recovered.
Texas: In Texas, I was working on a story in Baylor and decided to find Branch Davidians. Some very angry dogs chased after me. They weren’t as angry as my wife when I came home and told her what I had done.
Washington: in Washington State, I was told I had 15 minutes to meet Mike Leach in Pullman, and I ended up staying for three days. The trip ended with me having to tell the coach he had to get out of my car or I would miss my flight. I realized how late/early it was because we had been sitting in his driveway for so long that the newspaper delivery man walked into the car and handed Leach his paper and said, “Good morning, Coach.”
Illinois: In Illinois, I met a former NASCAR driver named Aaron Viek at the Perkins breakfast joint in Galesburg. He had been suspended after being arrested for drugs, and the conversation was supposed to be just a review of what he was doing. He proceeded to admit he had a heroin race, and that story changed NASCAR’s drug policy.
Nevada: I spent a day in the Vegas suburbs with [famed Notre Dame football walkon] Rudi Ruetiger, from breakfast until the time you go home. The idea was to define once and for all what is right in Rudy’s life and what it consists of. Years later, I’m still not sure what.
You are going back to your university this weekend and You will share your wisdom with Tennessee students. What would Ryan tell today about Ryan at that time?
Keep your head elevated and your eyes open. We didn’t have smartphones back then, but we still had plenty of distractions. (Shouting at Sega Genesis that almost made me lose my freshman year.) The truth is that everything we do in this business is based on the powers of observation. And you can’t watch if you have your head down. The stories are out there, not in whatever you hold in your hand.
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