Hokie alumnus Chris Colston, formerly of USA Today, recently took the time out of his busy schedule to discuss his forthcoming book, The Hokie Annual.
Colston received his bachelor’s degree in marketing from Virginia Tech in 1980 and has been involved with Tech sports in some form since.
An 11-year veteran of the Virginia Tech athletics department as editor of The Hokie Huddler, Colston has written four books on Tech football. His most recent work is the Virginia Tech Vault: A History of Virginia Tech Football (1999). He also penned The Hokies Handbook (1996); Frank Beamer’s autobiography Turn Up the Wick (2000); and two editions of Tales from the Virginia Tech Sideline (hardcover 2003 and updated paperback 2007).
For nearly three years at USA Today from January 2006 to December 2009, Colston covered the NFL and NBA, winning several writing awards. He did one-on-one interviews with some of the biggest names in sports, including Peyton Manning, Kobe Bryant, and LeBron James. In 2007, he won first place in the Pro Football Writers of America national writing contest (features).
From 1996-2005, he served as a writer and editor for USA Today Sports Weekly, where his work was mentioned in the Best American Sports Writing series.
Look for The Hokie Annual at the University Bookstore after July 4. You can follow Colston’s projects on Twitter: @chriscolston and get Hokie updates @hokieannual.
COLLEGIATE TIMES: How did your idea for The Hokie Annual come to fruition?
CHRIS COLSTON: I’ve been wanting to do this for quite awhile. I’ve done four books on Virginia Tech, I was the editor of the Hokie Huddle from 1985 to 1996, so I have a lot of friends in the athletics department. I’m a Virginia Tech graduate so I have a deep and passionate love of the school and the sports programs.
When I was an undergrad, I used to keep scrapbooks — which I think actually helped me get that Hokie Huddler job (laughs). They knew I loved it.
When I left in 1996 to go to USA Today Sports Weekly, then Baseball Weekly, I maintained season tickets and kept writing books about Virginia Tech just to stay involved. I’ve always loved it. And then, I got laid off from USA Today and I said well, this is an opportunity to do this.
So, really I have to thank USA Today, because I would of never been able to pull it off had I still been working there. It was just a major undertaking because I started a publishing company, James Doctor Press. I had to find a printer, I had to find a designer, I had to find a distributor. I had to do the interviews and everything.
It was a tremendous amount of work. There were many times when I thought it just wasn’t going to happen, but we just forged ahead – you had no choice. This is it. This is my new job. So, I had no choice but to finish it.
CT: How did you manage doing all that work by yourself? From the writing to the business side, did you have any help? Or was it just you?
COLSTON: Mostly. Because I had a vision of this project and to fully execute that vision you have to kind of do it yourself and for the writing part of it, I mean, let’s face it. I had a lot of free time. So, why was I going to hire people to write for me when there was a certain way to write this thing and there was a certain voice I wanted it to have?
I didn’t want it to be a standard type of publication. I didn’t want it to be like what people see, like when they read in Lindy’s (Sports), or Athlon, or Sporting News. I wanted it to have a real voice to it and that was my strength as a writer.