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Senior forward Ryan Hawkins hoists the 2021 NCAA Division II National Championship trophy above his head in the aftermath of Northwest men's basketball's blowout title win over West Texas A&M March 27 at the Ford Center in Evansville, Indiana. Hawkins was named the Elite Eight Tournament's Most Outstanding Player. 

Welcome to the final edition of Walk the Talk, the weekly mailbag column that’s existed for roughly two years with the purpose of answering — or at least trying my best to answer — your questions regarding Northwest Athletics.

Questions won’t be answered this week. In fact, I didn’t even take questions this week, and it’s for what I think is a pretty good reason. The only thing that you need to hear from me now is: Thank you.

I’ve been blessed and fortunate enough to be the sports editor of the Northwest Missourian for the last three years, and the readers — you — have shown nothing but love and support.

It honestly feels like no more than just a few months ago I was talking to Maryville golf coach Brenda Ricks for my first story at this paper, and I never would’ve guessed that I, of all people, would get to watch Northwest men’s basketball go on an unprecedented and historic run of dominance.

I’ll never take for granted covering Maryville football games on a Friday night just to turn around and cover a Northwest football game on Saturday afternoon. I’ll never take for granted being able to explore the Midwest through the countless trips to cover away games. I’ll never take for granted each and every one of the 243 stories I wrote before this de facto farewell.

It’s always funny to think how things happened, and how they never really would’ve if it weren’t for the smallest occurrences.

I was just a freshman and working for KNWT Channel 8 — the campus TV station — when I got the opportunity to make the trek to the Elite Eight in Evansville, Indiana. I had to ride with Andrew Wegley, Tucker Franklin and Joe Andrews.

Wegley, then-sports editor of the Missourian, told me that it was his, along with Franklin’s, plan to convince me to write for the paper the last couple of weeks and eventually apply for the following semester.

It didn’t take more than a couple of minutes for me to cave in, and the rest is history.

To the coaches, athletes, fans and parents who allowed me to tell your stories: Thank you, too.

From Northwest football’s Edwyn Brown sharing his story surrounding a mysterious illness to Northwest men’s basketball legend Trevor Hudgins letting me tell the story about how a kid from Kansas became the greatest hooper to grace Bearcat Arena, I’ve been able to interact with and talk to and cover some of the coolest people I’ve met.

I wasn’t on campus when the late Scott Bostwick made it known that “the big time is where you’re at,” but I’ve continuously heard that echoed throughout Maryville. This small town in the northwest corner of Missouri proved that true.

I’m not exactly sure what’s next in my journey, though I’m hoping that changes soon. But whatever lies ahead, I’ll forever be thankful for my brief stop in Titletown, USA.

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