I wish I had a dollar for every time Don Jellison's name was used in teaching moments across the country. Sometimes it would be a lesson on the importance of a strong voice and opinion in writing columns. Other times it was about the significance of getting box scores with game stories. Yet other times might be about how vital it is to quote coaches.

From North Carolina to California and several places in between, reporters and editors, young and old, heard about Don Jellison.

They were told about how a sports editor in a little town in Indiana did it better than anyone else. And if you doubt that, in a world that seems full of hyperbole, let me simply state that after spending nearly four decades in newspapers large and small, when it comes to sports I have never seen anyone better.

No. One. Better.


Like so many of you, I grew up reading Don Jellison. I kept one of his columns - Basketball Stone Dead in Nob City - for years and years and often showed it to young sports writers.

However, lest anyone think that this is simply a tribute about longevity, please know it is not. It is also not a rose-colored glasses look at the man. Don was like any of us. He had his faults.

But what Don had that I truly never once saw anywhere else - without exception - was a combination of talents.

• As has been so thoroughly documented, he absolutely loved Noblesville and Hamilton County.

• Because of that, he had a passion for telling the story of . . . us. Of the athletes, the coaches, the fans, the people that make Hamilton County such a special place.

• He had a work ethic that bordered on fanaticism.

• He had an encyclopedic knowledge of his craft - not just the ABCs of writing, but of the sports and people he covered.

• He had longevity - which perhaps isn't a talent, but it was a decision. Don could have left Noblesville and easily gone to much larger newspapers. He chose to stay and that says something important.

• Don had strong opinions and the willingness and courage to share those with all of us. He knew his opinions wouldn't always be popular. He knew that some readers - perhaps a lot - would disagree. If he felt something needed to be said, he said it. That took a word you don't hear very often anymore, pluck. Don had a lot of pluck.

• Finally, he had a talent for the written word. Oh, did he have a talent for the written word.

Take it from a guy who's been all over this industry, there are certainly folks who have worked in one spot for a long, long time. There are great writers. There are examples of all those things. No one, and I truly mean no one I've ever known, combined all those traits except Don Jellison.

Don didn't know who I was growing up. He wrote my name a few times on the sports pages of the Ledger, but he really didn't know me. However, I became a journalist in a very large part because of him. I suspect I'm not the only one who felt that way or ventured into newspapers.

And when you think about it, how much of a bigger impact can any of us have? His work was so big and so strong and so good that it influenced kids he didn't even know to follow in his footsteps.

I don't know what honors and memorials are planned. I'm sure the city and county will do something appropriate. But whatever it is they do, it won't be enough. This community and this industry lost an absolute giant when Don died this week. There was only one Don Jellison and there simply won't be another.