MURRELL COLUMN: Class of 2018, continue to make an impact

Published 4:36 pm Saturday, June 2, 2018

Dear, class of 2018:

Suppose you stepped on the basketball court after your team at one point was down by 10 points. You took matters into your own hands, right?

The first half no longer mattered. You still had 16 minutes to play. You willed your team. You won a state championship, the first one in school history.

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Maybe you were called to catch a pass from the backfield in the final seconds to score the two-point conversion against your archrival, like there was really no time for overtime. Your teammate had the hot hand with three touchdown passes, but this was your moment to seal the deal. You did.

Junior year might have been pretty awesome. Let’s say your left-handed fastball confused a lot of batters and you helped your team win its first state title. Or you made Gold Glove-type stops at third base to get your team to the next round.

Even though you didn’t reach the pinnacle this time, you’ve been there. No one can deny that.

Oh, and coming off 1,403 receiving yards in football to score 40 goals in soccer and win the regional high jump after that? Or coming off the state basketball title to win the area long jump and sign with two classmates to the same junior college basketball team so all your friends can see you three watch? Can you even imagine that?

Just maybe, you love the game of basketball so much, you appeared to single-handedly carry your team every night. What was it, about 29 points per game? That led an entire state in one classification.

Student-athletes among you did that. In fact, I’m telling your own story.

It’s representative of a special class of young men and women — you and your classmates.

The legacy your class — 2018 — left is greater than any championship won, and there were a bunch of championships, team and individual. Yet you will be remembered for so much more in a year like none other.

Your impact transcended sports and lifted up a community under water and in need of hope just as you were about to start your last year of high school. The values your parents — some of them student-athletes, too — instilled in you came to life when our community needed it the most.

When you graduates look through your yearbooks, be reminded of the good that came from Tropical Storm Harvey — as well as what God was telling us through the storm.

No, really, some good came from it. The impact you made.

Many of you gutted homes that were destroyed and helped remove damaged furniture, not knowing what the fate of the school year — let alone your athletic seasons — would be. Many of you assisted people of all ages in temporary shelters or helped evacuees fly to safety across the state from the airport.

When your seasons finally began, you might have competed between the lines, but the impact of that alone was the healing of an area that needed a sense of normalcy and a reason to celebrate. You were key players in a school year like none other.

Memorial’s state championship in boys basketball meant so much more to an entire city. Port Arthur is still saying, “Thank you, Titans.”

Rest assured, Nederland, winning the Bum Phillips Bowl doesn’t get any more golden in a longstanding rivalry. No one will ever forget the Port Neches-Groves baseball team that won it all a year ago — and they won’t forget how Nederland resurged on the diamond this year.

And let’s not forget about a relay team that was good enough be considered potential Newsmakers of the Year in all of Southeast Texas. A 2017 graduate from that very Memorial team is out chasing a national championship running the first leg in the 4×100 relay.

See, athletics are a key prong in the triangular educational process. Academics are a priority on the top angle, arts enrich our lives and our self-awareness, and athletics test our bodies and add to a community’s identity.

Whether you were taking an exam, acting in the senior play or hitting a home run, the community you represented looked up to you for greatness. You are the future, you know?

Your greatness, however, is not limited to what you did in school. There’s greatness to chase in the real world.

In a business where I predict outcomes on the scoreboard, anticipating the lives you will lead is much easier. I’ve seen the character you’ve displayed, and it’s the most priceless thing that will stick with you as you transform into men and women.

Life itself won’t get any easier, no, but your character will shine through in every decision you make, from home to the workplace, from the playing ground to the praying room. Your greatness will exude through your character.

You have the power to make social media a greater force for love, peace and unity rather than a sounding board for trash talk, negative politics and racism. It’s a tough world out there, and Heaven knows we don’t live in Candy Land. We’re just here to make someone’s day a little sweeter.

The blessings from your positivity are much more valuable than what’s in your checkbook, so don’t overspend. Just build good credit and save. (And treat yourself to a nice dinner and movie on occasion.)

Some of you will run for public office because you’re tired of the status quo. Many of you will see the value in voting the person, not the party.

Some of you will give your last dollar to the person in front of you who’s in greater need. Many of you will pass a good deed forward when you don’t have a last dollar. Your time to someone’s need is priceless.

Some of you will be the grade-school teacher who encourages your pupils to hug each classmate. The same love and kindness will be the foundation for making an older generation’s days better when the crowns of our heads are full of gray hairs.

Many of you will be parents encouraging your children to be better than you were, because your parents encouraged you to be better than they were.

Whatever lives you get to impact — just as you impacted ours — those are the lives God entrusts you to leave a priceless legacy with, a light to shine in the face of darkness.

I’ve seen a lot of things in the 20 years since I finished Dollarway High School in southeast Arkansas. I learned there that every day, no matter what resources I have or lack, is a day we must grit and grind for success, and like many of you, I did my fair share of it in the weight room.

But you, 2018 graduates in Southeast Texas … you are much better prepared for success. Consider the technology and under-40 advice at your disposal.

Look at your diplomas and remember home. Remember the community that invested in you.

We’ll be happy for you to come back home, but don’t feel pressured to. Wherever you go, just make a good home and represent your family well. Just remember graduation or the first job out of school is only a result of your hard-earned success, not the end of a long journey.

Don’t forget the grit and grind that got you prepared. Your hard work will turn into valuable sweat equity, no matter what you’re trying to build.

And don’t forget the light you shined on this community. It’s powerful. Share it with others.

Go in brotherly and sisterly love, seniors. — ICM

I.C. Murrell can be reached at 721-2435 or at On Twitter: @ICMurrellPANews


About I.C. Murrell

I.C. Murrell was promoted to editor of The News, effective Oct. 14, 2019. He previously served as sports editor since August 2015 and has won or shared eight first-place awards from state newspaper associations and corporations. He was born in Memphis, Tennessee, grew up mostly in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and graduated from the University of Arkansas at Monticello.

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