My first experience with the Houston Chronicle’s Aaron Wilson, who covers the Texans and who is one of the finest beat writers in the nation, was years ago. At the time, I think he was blogging for Pro Football Talk, or maybe it was during his stint writing for the National Football Post. Though he was covering the Ravens then, he was always passing along real news and info from his Twitter account.
That was unusual. So many other beat writers were simply pointing their recorders at the star player, copying it down, and then sending it out there, or maybe tweeting the odd political opinion or pop culture reference. Blah blah blah. Aaron never did that. I mean, everything that he was posting was legit news. It kinda pissed me off, because a lot of it crossed over into the kind of stuff I did (NFL scout comings and goings, agent terminations, personnel trends, that kind of stuff). I guess there was a fair amount of jealousy there, but never on Aaron’s end. From the first time we crossed paths at the Senior Bowl, Aaron was not just cordial but friendly, which is frankly pretty rare from an established person in the print media when it comes to someone like me. It was refreshing.
Last week, I asked Aaron if he’d let my crack intern, Mark, interview him about his experiences. What we got was gold, whether you’re simply a football business fan, an aspiring sports journalist, or simply the kind of person that likes to hear about good guys having success. Today, we’ll start with Aaron’s story of how he broke into the business, and next week, we’ll continue with plenty of other good stuff about his experiences.
From here, I’ll turn it over to Mark and Aaron.
“The way I got into the sports journalism business is I started off playing football as a linebacker at Eastern Carolina University. I injured my shoulder and stopped playing after three seasons. I had surgery on my shoulder and thought sports journalism would be a lot of fun and a safer route for me, so I joined the school newspaper.
“I started covering the football team that I played on, so I had a piece of insight on the team and how the team operated. I started getting stories from the people I knew and who trusted me with what was going on with recruiting, transfers, or anything that was going on with the team. At a young age, I got to cover a Division I football team that was going to bowl games and in came a lot of valuable experience. I covered the football team, the basketball team, the baseball team, and that was my start.
“(From there,) I started doing internships. I interned for a news journal in Florida, where I covered some Florida State football, minor-league ice hockey, and of course high school football, which is big in Florida. My first job was with a small paper called Hernando Today, which is owned by the Tampa Tribune, and covered high schools and local sports there. I also covered the Florida Gators and high school sports.
“The first time I got to cover a NFL game was with this small paper called the St. Augustine Record, where I covered the Jacksonville Jaguars. That was when Tom Coughlin was the coach and they had Fred Taylor at running back and Mark Brunell at quarterback. It was a pretty good team. It was a valuable experience for me to learn how to work a locker room. I had some mentors like Pete Prisco, who now works for CBS Sports. At the time, Pete was a local reporter and asked Coughlin all of the tough questions and never backed down. He was a bulldog. Pete definitely set a good example. I was watching him and asking questions.
“I went on to Baltimore, where I worked for the Carroll County Times and the Baltimore Sun. I covered the Ravens when they won the Super Bowl, and just this last year, I moved to Houston. John McClain from the Houston Chronicle recruited me to come down here and I started covering the Texans. I work for one of the largest and best newspapers in the country and I really enjoy that.”
More from Aaron next week.