May 3, 2016

Whitney N. Yarber, Communications Specialist

Gabriel "Gabe" Burns Wins Jim Murray Memorial Foundation Sports Writing Contest

Pictured is Gabriel "Gabe" Burns.

VALDOSTA – Gabriel “Gabe” Burns won first place in Valdosta State University’s 2016 Jim Murray Sports Writing Contest and will go on to compete for a national prize against students from 32 other journalism schools.

“I’m very excited,” the senior journalism major shared. “Jim Murray is the golden standard of sports journalism. His work is a daily inspiration to me.”

The Murray Scholar Scholarship Program, funded by the Jim Murray Memorial Foundation, awards five $5,000 scholarships annually to outstanding print journalism students, with emphasis on sports journalism, through a nationwide essay competition.

Burns’s winning article focuses on the late Wright Bazemore, former head coach of the Valdosta High School football program who won 268 games, 14 state titles, and three national titles throughout his career as a Valdosta Wildcat before retiring in 1971.

“This August would have been Wright Bazemore’s 100th birthday,” said Burns, who was born and raised in Valdosta. “Not every city is blessed with an individual as unique as Coach Bazemore, and I felt this would be the perfect opportunity to acknowledge a man that made Valdosta the football kingdom it is. I would like to thank Jack Rudolph, Marsha Rudolph, and Coach Bazemore’s widow, Bettie, for being a tremendous help in putting this together.”

The article will now compete against the winning entry from 32 of the top journalism schools in the United States. A team of professional sports journalists will judge the entries for the $5,000 prizes and a possible trip to Los Angeles, Calif.

As a student at VSU, Burns serves as editor-in-chief of The Spectator, Valdosta State University's independent student newspaper; a contributing sports reporter for The Valdosta Daily Times; and a volunteer baseball coach for the Valdosta Miracle League, where he works with special needs children. He previously served as the sports editor for The Spectator for one year.

He is the recipient of the 2016-2017 Georgia Press Educational Foundation Inc.’s William C. Rogers Scholarship.

Burns contributes to a number of online sports platforms, including Draft Breakdown and Pro Football Spot. His work has also been featured on a variety of media outlets, including PhinManiacs, On The Clock Football, the Thomasville Times-Enterprise, and more.

In his spare time, Burns enjoys spending time with friends and family, playing the saxophone, and reading or watching anything Marvel-related.

After graduation, Burns hopes to continue working in the field he loves, possibly covering professional sports in Southern California, preferably Major League Baseball.

 “Like Jim Murray, I want to work for the Los Angeles Times,” he said.

Contact Dr. Ted Geltner, editorial advisor for The Spectator and an associate professor in the Department of English, at or (229) 333-7343 for more information.

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Valdosta State University’s 2013-2019 Strategic Plan represents a renewal of energy and commitment to the foundational principles for comprehensive institutions.

Implementation of the plan’s five goals, along with their accompanying objectives and strategies, supports VSU’s institutional mission and the University System of Georgia’s mission for comprehensive universities.

The story above demonstrates VSU's commitment to meeting the following goals:

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