Jon Roe completed his lengthy academic pursuits at St. Cloud State in 1967 and talked himself into a job in the Minneapolis Tribune's sports department. He was covering the Gophers and got to know Ken Murphy, both a Gophers reporter and the morning sports editor at the St. Paul newspapers.

Murphy was lamenting the need to hire a sports reporter and Roe, previously a colleague at the St. Cloud Times, put in a plug for me. I was hired to cover high schools and started at the Pioneer Press and Dispatch on Labor Day in 1968.

The St. Paul sports department did its hiring regionally and, over the next two years, eight more sportswriters came to the department:

Gregg Wong (directly from the U), Mike Augustin (St. Cloud Times), Carl Peterson (Winona Daily News), Pat Thompson (Associated Press), Jim Wells (a Faribault boy who had worked in Phoenix), Gary Olson (Albert Lea Tribune), Charley Hallman (AP freelancer) and Chuck Dixon (Mankato Free Press).

That was nine sports reporters, close to the same age, hired in a two-year period. After working in Duluth and St. Cloud, I didn't think the money was that bad, but it must have been with that many openings.

We brought in memorable reinforcements in the next few years, such as Charley (Shooter) Walters, but that crew of nine stayed together for over a decade … putting out editions with fewer resources but surely more fun than the competition.

We worked together. We made last call together at Luigi's across the street. And, a couple of us went through treatment — so far, so good — at roughly the same time.

In 1997, we buried Augie, the bachelor friend to all, and in 2003, it was Olson, the proud curmudgeon, and this past week, there was a memorial service for Buck Hallman, the character among characters.

I was 22 when hired and just turned 25 when the group of nine was assembled. There were different personalities, for sure, but these were my guys for the best of reasons:

When push came to shove, we had one another's back.