–> I am often not one to reflect, but my Mom always tells me to stop and smell the roses sometimes, so I thought the Monday after graduating from the University of Minnesota would be a great place to start.
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When I graduated from Rogers High School in 2019, I initially began my college journey at Iowa State University. I was a very introverted kid that came to school in a jersey of one of my favorite athletes (way too often) and I would talk to a few friends about fantasy football and look through recruiting websites, I never took school very seriously. I never talked to girls and I would rarely go to parties or hang out with friends — I didn’t enjoy talking or interacting with people, I would stay in a very tight circle and mind my own business. I would always talk to my mom about how I hate society and people, in general, I was essentially a senile old man before I was 18.
I knew I was passionate about sports and writing, so I thought journalism would be a fun degree to pursue. With a relatively low GPA and an average ACT score, I never applied to the University of Minnesota because I didn’t think I would get in, Iowa State seemed like a fun school to go to. Like most sane human beings, I was incredibly overwhelmed when my parents dropped me off in Ames in the summer of 2019. I was three hours from home, no longer living with two of my best friends and I was living with a random stranger that I just met in person that day. With no high school sports to play, no childhood friends to talk to and no job, I really had no choice, but to take school seriously, mostly out of sheer boredom. I proceeded to get on the school’s Dean’s List for both semesters of my freshman year, which was easily the most successful year of school I had ever had. While I learned a lot about myself I also learned that I would probably enjoy myself a lot more at one of my childhood dream schools, the University of Minnesota. After touring the campus (for the first time) over winter break, I decided to transfer, which instantly felt like a burden coming off my back.
Like most people my age, the COVID-19 pandemic played a large impact on multiple major developmental years of my life. Going back home for Spring Break and never coming back was obviously something nobody could’ve seen coming. I moved back in with my older brother, sister, Mom and Dad for the first time since I was in middle school. While I finished the second semester of my freshman year online, I did a lot of reflecting and realized life was too short to be picky and senile, especially when you’re in your 20s. Instead of sitting at home and questioning everything, I decided it would be good for me to get out of my comfort zone. Doing the entirety of my sophomore year online, made leaving my comfort zone a little tricky in the short term. But instead of questioning why people like to have fun on the weekends, I decided to just do and ask questions later. Moving into a house in Dinkytown with 12 other people for my junior year with only three other people I really knew (from high school) was an incredibly scary decision for me. I had no idea what to expect, but it felt exciting.
Having professional opportunities with the great people of Gopherhole, the MN Daily and being able to host my own podcast were things I had no idea would happen when I chose journalism as my major. The pandemic popularized the platform Zoom, which made it 100x easier for me to interview athletes, something my introverted self in high school would’ve never done in a million years. While the first few interviews were certainly… something, everyone has to start somewhere. This eventually led to me interviewing Tanner Morgan twice, Tommy Olson from KFan and some of my favorite Gophers athletes as a kid like Trevor Mbakwe and David Cobb. If you told me I would’ve done that when I was 18 years old I would’ve said you were lying. I was too scared to talk to my Math teacher about an assignment or even talk to my football coach and now I was interviewing the quarterback of my favorite college football team.
With all of the connections I began to make, I began to grow my personal brand on Twitter. When I was in middle/high school I was rarely on social media, I thought it was all a waste of time and I would rarely spend time on my phone in general. While all of that is definitely still true, Twitter has been a catalyst for a lot of personal real-life connections I would’ve never made otherwise. I never really set out a plan to get a lot of followers on Twitter, it just kinda happened, I simply had fun doing it. Fast forward to the last two years, I have been recognized around campus close to 100 times, which is still something that catches me off guard every time. I never thought anything less than 10,000 followers was a lot, so the first time someone asked me if I was Tony Liebert it stopped me in my tracks. Random Gopher fans at the bar and players from the basketball team were consistently recognizing me from Twitter. This was never something I was anticipating, I just liked sitting behind my keyboard and throwing out some hot takes. While writing this I am still flummoxed that I went to a school with nearly 50,000 other people and random people would recognize me at a bar.
While all this was happening, I was developing serious social skills that I didn’t even know I had. Instead of questioning every little thing, I stopped saying no and instead just said, “Sure, why not?” Flashback to my freshman year of school at Iowa State, I could count the number of people at school that I even knew on just one hand. Now the last two years of school, I would acknowledge someone on the way back and forth walking from class almost every day. I still might’ve not loved the constant socializing, but it made me realize you don’t need to know exactly how something is going to go before you do it, it’s okay to just jump in.
Looking back on my four years of college, I entered with very few expectations and left with lifelong friends and lifelong stories. While I might go back to being a relatively introverted person who likes sitting at home in front of a TV, my advice to anyone would be to just do and ask questions later. I think I self-consciously had a little of being scared to fail in my decision-making in high school, but I have now learned that it is a heck of a lot harder to develop and improve as a person without failure. It is nearly impossible to be happy in life while being scared to fail. I think a lot of people dramatize important milestones in life, like your 18th birthday, graduating high school, or getting your driver’s license, but today I feel like I am officially an adult and no longer a child. I just wanted to say that college is as fun as everyone says it is and I am incredibly excited to start the next journey of my life.
*FYI I hope to still cover Gophers athletics (at Gopherhole for now) for as long as a can.