After 15 years at the Dispatch, sports reporter Mike Duprez handed in his press pass, hung up his camera and retired on Dec. 31.
He said although he still has fond memories, it is time for him to take a knee and run out the clock on his career covering local sports in Davidson County.
“I just want to have a life at a little bit slower pace,” said Duprez. “In this kind of work, you are facing multiple deadlines every day and if you do it long enough you can get exhausted. I'm just ready to relax a little bit.”
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Duprez, 62, was born in California into a military family. He attended eight different schools in his 12 years of school, including high schools in Virginia and Hawaii. He graduated in 1977 in Alameda, California.
He attended two years of community college at Coastal Carolina Community College in Jacksonville and graduated from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill with a bachelor’s degree in political science in 1981.
His first writing job was right out of college working as a stringer for the Jacksonville Daily News, where he decided sport writing was what he wanted to do.
"I was always a sports fan. I enjoyed watching my favorite teams play, so I thought it would be cool to write about it for a living. It is also the photography aspect, too. I probably enjoyed getting a good photo as much as I did writing a story because photos tell such a succinct story,” said Duprez.
Next Duprez went to work for The Times and Democrat in Orangeburg, S.C., as a copy editor and then became a sportswriter and editor. After several years at that newspaper, he went to the Island Packet in Hilton Head for a year and a half, before taking a state government job working in health and wellness.
After 12 years he returned to writing, working for the Thomasville Times in 2001. Four years later, Duprez worked for various newspapers, including the High Point Enterprise and the Daily Record in Dunn before joining the Dispatch in Lexington in 2006.
Duprez said he has had many memorable moments throughout his career, but the one that hits closest to home was covering the North Davidson High School Girls' Softball 4A championship in 2017. It was the last game for legendary coach Mike Lambros, who Duprez had covered for many years, four months before he died.
“He was dying of pancreatic cancer and yet he just kept going,” Duprez said. “It’s like he willed that team to victory. He was an amazing person, dealing with everything, dealing with cancer and he’s still out there coaching those girls. It was an incredibly inspiring story.”
Another one of his brushes with greatness was when he was shooting photos on the sidelines at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte and almost got run over by Panthers quarterback Cam Newton during his first professional football game.
“He's a big boy; like 6-foot-6 and 250 pounds; and he comes barreling down the field right at me,” said Duprez.
Being in a job like sports writing can be challenging, and Duprez said he has run the gambit in his years of reporting, especially when it comes to the fans.
“One of the difficulties in this job is trying to be neutral,” said Duprez. “You’re out there just trying to cover the game; you don't want to come off as you're supporting one side over the other. But you get (accused of) that no matter what, it comes with the job.”
He said some of his favorite memories are covering multiple state championships by local schools including back-to-back wins for Thomasville High School in football in the early 2000s.
“I think back over the past 15 years; all the traveling and the late nights and although it was tough at times, I enjoyed it. Of course, we used to have a larger staff and we had a really good team. At one point we had a 2 a.m. deadline, so we kind of became a crew. I appreciate every one of them,” said Duprez.
After retirement, Duprez is moving to North Myrtle Beach where he said he plans on picking up some freelance work doing sports writing. He also plans on doing some traveling at some point, but for now, he is happy just to enjoy not having a daily deadline.
“It’s been quite a ride,” said Duprez. “When you have a good subject, you can really tell a good story, and I enjoyed that. I have those memories to carry with me, the relationships with different coaches and players over the years. There are kids I wrote about 20 years ago who have kids of their own playing sports.”
Duprez said he is thankful for all the co-workers, editors, photographers and others who he had worked with over the years. He also appreciates the cooperation of local coaches, players and other school staff who helped provide him with information.
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When looking back over his career, Duprez said he is just thankful he had a job that allowed him to do what he loved for so long.
"There were times when I was like, 'Am I getting paid to do this?” said Duprez. "It's kind of cool to do what you enjoy for so many years."
General news reporter Sharon Myers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @LexDispatchSM.
This article originally appeared on The Dispatch: Sport reporter Mike Duprez retires after 15 years of hitting it out of the park