Category: Gamecock Guide 2018

Gamecock Guide 2018: What to do when there’s nothing to do

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The Chief Ladiga Trail runs through Jacksonville and provides an excellent spot for running, biking, walking a pet, or just admiring nature. (Matt Reynolds/JSU)

Daniel Mayes, Editor-in-Chief


College is a serious learning environment, and you’re here to get an education and in no way take part in any extra-curricular shenanigans that will detract from that.

(At least that’s what you’ve been telling your parents).

College is, after all, about the education, but you’ll have your fair share of down time between classes and on weekends, and, although Jacksonville is not a huge, sprawling metropolis by college town standards, there’s still plenty to do to keep you busy, or full, or entertained, or even fit when you aren’t in the classroom.

If you’re like me, your primary form of entertainment is eating, so check out page ? for a full breakdown of the dining choices in on and off campus in Jacksonville and the surrounding areas.

When all those calories have you feeling guilty, or you’re a health nut, or you want to get some #bucketz, there are several fitness options around town to keep you going. Stephenson Hall is JSU’s on-campus gymnasium, and it’s got a full-on weight room, basketball courts, treadmills and other cardio equipment, and much more.

Jacksonville is also home to a portion of the Chief Ladiga Trail, which runs from the Georgia-Alabama state line all the way through Jacksonville before reaching its end just outside of Weaver. The trail is paved and relatively flat, making it great for biking or your morning run.

There’s plenty of nature to be seen in Jacksonville and the surrounding areas, including Chimney Peak, which is more commonly known as “The Mountain” by JSU students. “The Mountain” can be reached by following Mountain Street (convenient), and it offers some incredible views. It’s evolved into sort of a rite of passage for JSU students to make the trip to see the views at sunset.

The Anniston Museum of Natural History is also located just a short distance away and contains information and dioramas that tell you all you’d ever want to know about the natural world.

When your favorite movie is finally released or you need a failsafe first date destination, you’re out of luck, Jacksonville does not have a movie theater. There are theaters located about 30 minutes in either direction in Oxford and Gadsden.

Each theater is located at a mall as well, giving you plenty of shopping options (or shoptions, as the cool kids* call it). For your less exciting but more essential shopping needs, there’s a Walmart and Johnson’s in Jacksonville for you to stock up on Ramen Noodles or frozen meals for when you just don’t want to leave the comfy confines of your freshman dorm.

Whether you are involved in an organization that requires you to complete service projects, or you just feel in a giving mood, there’s a Jacksonville Boys and Girls Club that’s always looking for volunteers, and the First United Methodist Church has a “Serving Table” once a month where they give out free meals to the needy.

Jacksonville may not appear to have too much to do at first glance, but you’ll find there’s plenty to keep you relaxed when you’re not in the classroom.

*In this scenario, I am considered the “cool kids”

Gamecock Guide 2018: A golden age of JSU Athletics

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Jamall Gregory dunks during the OVC Basketball Tournament (Matt Reynolds/JSU)

Daniel Mayes, Editor-in-Chief


When JSU’s freshman class of 2022 arrives on campus this fall, it will be doing so during one of the most successful periods for Gamecock athletics.

Jacksonville State’s sports teams compete at the highest level of collegiate sports, NCAA’s Division I, with the football team competing in the Football Championship Subdivision of Division I.

Football is perhaps the king of all sports in the southeast, and that’s no different at Jacksonville State.

While Alabama and Auburn are busy laying claim to the SEC at the NCAA’s highest level, JSU has carved out its own sector of dominance in the FCS.

JSU won its only national championship in football in 1992 at the Division II level, but since bumping up to Division I, the Gamecocks have brought the programs to new heights under John Grass.

The Gamecocks come into 2018 in the midst of arguably the most successful stretches in program history. JSU is the winner of four-straight Ohio Valley Conference victories and hold the nation’s longest active Division I win streak for conference victories, having won a league-record 32 straight OVC contests. In 2015, the Gamecocks made a run all the way to the National Championship game behind quarterback Eli Jenkins, eventually falling 37-10 to current NFL star Carson Wentz and North Dakota State.

The Gamecocks don’t show any signs of being ready to lose their dominant form yet, and will enter 2018 as favorites to win the OVC yet again. A solid returning core combined with newcomers such as former Clemson quarterback Zerrick Cooper and Auburn’s Tre Threat look to help keep JSU on track and lead the Gamecocks back to another title.

Football is not the only program at JSU in the middle of one of the best stretches in program history.

Led by coach Jana McGinnis, the Gamecock softball team has taken home at least a share of the OVC crown in nine of the last eleven seasons. JSU finished out 2018 with yet another title and an impressive run to the Tallahassee regional finals, eliminating perennial SEC power Auburn before bowing out to host Florida State.

JSU’s baseball program, which also won national titles at the Division II level, taking home the big trophy in both 1990 and 1991, has seen some success in recent years under coach Jim Case.

The Gamecocks are scheduled to finally move back into Rudy Abbott Field, which has been undergoing renovations for the last two seasons, for the 2019 slate.

JSU’s basketball teams are also on the rise after years struggling to adjust to competition at the Division I level.

Ray Harper is the head man for the Gamecock men’s program, and he made an immediate impact on JSU after setting foot on campus in Jacksonville. Harper led the turnaround from what was an 8-23 finish in 2015-16 to a 20-15 mark in his first season, and the Gamecocks took home the school’s first ever OVC title and appearance in the Big Dance itself, March Madness, the NCAA Tournament.

After another great season last year, in which the Gamecocks finished with a Division I school-record 23-13 mark and made it to the semifinal rounds of both the OVC and the College Basketball Invitational Tournaments, Harper has JSU basketball formed into a winning environment that looks to compete for the conference crown for years to come.

The JSU Women’s basketball program, led by coach Rick Pietri, also has enjoyed some success in recent years. Last season the Gamecocks joined the men in the OVC tourney semifinals, bowing out to eventual champ and nationally ranked Belmont to finish a great turnaround season.

JSU’s other sporting teams, such as volleyball, soccer, tennis, golf, cross country and rifle, field competitive teams year in and year out, and the Gamecocks newest program, beach volleyball, is already gaining ground quickly after just two seasons of play.

Overall, there’s never been a better time to be a Gamecock.

Gamecock Guide 2018: A dining guide from a food-obsessed editor

Editor-in-Chief Daniel Mayes shares his take on the Jacksonville dining scene—including his love for Cookout. (photo courtesy of Cookout).

Daniel Mayes, Editor-in-Chief


You’re about to be spending a large portion of your time in a new city, so, understandably, you want to know more about the food options you’ll have to choose from. I fancy myself as sort of a foodie, so here is my take on the dining situation in Jacksonville and the surrounding areas.

Jacksonville contains many of the most popular national fast food chains—your McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, Sonic, etc.—but it’s also home to Cookout.

If you’ve never eaten at Cookout, it’s a must for one of the first things to do once getting to campus. It’s basically the college student’s paradise. Their “Cookout Tray” is basically the Wendy’s “4 for $4” on steroids, with an entrée, two sides (with choices like a quesadilla, chicken nuggets, or a full size chicken wrap), and a drink all for $5. It’s as great as it sounds. Cookout is even open til 3 a.m. on Friday and Saturday and 2 a.m. the rest of the week, so it’s great for a late night food run.

Jacksonville has no shortage of options for my favorite food, which is chicken wings. Struts and Jefferson’s have some of the best, and they have great deals on their wings on Wednesdays (Wingsday). Both locations also have some other great food on the menu, but if you’re like me, you won’t be able to get something other than wings when you are there.

WiseGuys on the square has wings that are almost as tasty as their pizza. WoW’s are especially delicious when it’s 11:30 and your body decides to get the craving for wings and none of the other options are open (not an uncommon occurrence for yours truly).

Jacksonville has a wide variety of sandwich shops, with two Subways, a Momma Goldberg’s, and a Jimmy Johns, which just opened in April and definitely lives up to it’s Freaky Fast ® promise.

There’s a coffee shop in Jacksonville called Java Jolt, and it has a broad selection of coffees, pastries, and more, and it’s great for a study session with friends (or those mornings when you don’t want to talk to anyone until you have some caffeine in your system).

The best dessert treat in Jacksonville is definitely Mad Hatter Cupcakes. They have lots of different flavors of cupcakes (my favorite is the Pucker Up, a lemon cake with lemon meringue icing). I made up a slogan for the cupcake shop, but something tells me they wouldn’t like it: Come to Mad Hatter and you’ll get a tad fatter!

When you are feeling a little fancy, Jacksonville is also home to Effina’s, an Italian restaurant located just off campus, and Yamato Steak House of Japan. Effina’s has a great pesto sauce that I affectionately refer to as “besto”, and Yamato has a wide selection of Sushi and other Japanese flavors.

Just down the road in either direction you’ll find some of the larger chain restaurants, like Red Lobster, Olive Garden, and the like, in Gadsden and Oxford.

Gadsden is also home to my single favorite restaurant, Tre Ragazzi’s Italian Café. It’s worth at least one trip during your college career. Try the Limone Parmigiano & Potatoes. You won’t be disappointed. Trust me.

But back to campus. Jack Hopper Dining Hall and Gamecock Diner are good enough options and have a wide variety of pretty good selections. The Theron Montgomery Building (TMB) has Chick-fil-a(!) and Freshëns Fresh Food Studio, which has customizable salads and rice bowls.

My salad order, chicken with croutons, bacon, tomatoes, gorgonzola cheese, and Roadhouse Barbecue Ranch dressing is particularly good. I refer to it as the Daniel Special, but the employees at Freshëns don’t know it as that name (with your help, we can change that)…

Gamecock Guide 2018: Where I went

Hollie Ivey, JSU Graduate


It was a Wednesday. I was both excited and overwhelmed. Eager and completely mortified. I was a freshman. And for my very first class that day, on my very first day as a student, I had my introduction class for my major.

I made a decision during my drive to campus that day. “This is your fresh start. This is where you will become the person you want to be – new faces, new friends, new classes, new you.”

I walked into that class of 70 students, sat down, listened to the syllabus being read, and left once class was dismissed. I did this for my other classes that day, too. And every other day for that semester.

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Recent JSU graduate Hollie Ivey shares her college experiences and gives incoming freshmen one piece of advice: don’t take your time at JSU for granted. (LPT Designs Photography)

I barely talked. I spent time alone studying on the quad under one of the many large trees, or in a remote corner of the library enjoying a cup of coffee from Java Jolt. I would walk around campus taking in the beauty of JSU during my four-hour break because I was a commuter and didn’t want to make the trek home between classes. I ran on the Ladiga Trail and pushed myself into the best health I had been in years.

I wasn’t involved in clubs or campus groups. I didn’t make any new friends. But I absolutely loved that semester and I wouldn’t change a single thing about it. That semester I found joy in who I was. I grew closer to myself and stronger in my walk with Christ.

Fast forward to the next year and the years after, and things changed. I made friends. My department was small, so I was able to be in the same classes, with the same people, semester after semester, up until graduation. Professors learned my name, my cat’s name, my dreams and my passions and my aspirations. They learned who I was, and not just my student number.

I was involved in multiple organizations, in some of which I eventually took on leadership rolls. I organized study groups. I looked forward to campus events. And I loved it, too.

What changed? Nothing really. Both of those people were and still are me. I just took my college career into my own hands and enjoyed it as I wanted.

During freshman orientation they advised being as involved as possible. Which is great for some. For me, it wasn’t at that time. Later on, however, I would be following that very same advice.

I am thankful for my time at Jacksonville. I’m thankful for the classes, career preparation, networking and skills gained. I’m more thankful for the friendships it gave me, the experiences it offered me, the memories that were made during that time and the family that was gained (looking at you Communication and Spanish Departments).

Did I go about those four years in the typical way? Probably not. But that’s because there isn’t a typical way. College is about you and what you make it. Want to be involved from day one and become one of the very familiar faces on campus? Do it. Want to enjoy a small group of friends and bask in the sun in between class under one of the few remaining trees on campus? Do it.

But whatever your decision is – enjoy it. I always thought those years as a student would feel like forever and that I would have plenty of time to appreciate the joys of Jacksonville. But here I sit, typing this, my diploma on a shelf in my room, a graduate of the Spring of 2018. And what I wouldn’t give to be back in my freshman or sophomore year. Not to redo it, but to enjoy it all over again.

So to JSU, thank you. To incoming freshman, don’t take it for granted.