Hello! I'm the new whippersnapper in the office and I'm happy to be back writing for the newspaper that first gave me an internship several years ago. I didn't have a column back then, so this newfound journalistic freedom may be more than I can handle. If you are reading this, then I've succeeded getting it past the editors!

In all seriousness, I feel very privileged to be able to share my point of view with you all and I take choosing my words very seriously. I hope you enjoy my bi-weekly columns from here on out.

I'm currently in my sophomore year at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities and I have since decided to take a leave of absence in order to serve a mission for my church. There are a number of things I'll miss about the U until I return and most of them have to do with the marching band.

I've been a member of the "Pride of Minnesota" for almost two years now, and through my involvement I have gained an inexpressible amount of love and joy for the band, the U, the state, and all things maroon and gold. If you ever met me, chances are you would catch me wearing my school's colors. If you ever received an email or letter from me, chances are you would read "Hats off to thee" right above my signature. Yes, I have school spirit and an undying adoration of the mascot Goldy Gopher (best mascot in the nation!), but underlying that pride is also a great appreciation for the state I was born and raised in.

At the end of every rehearsal and performance, the marching band gathers around the conductor's ladder, arm in arm, and sings the alma mater "Hail Minnesota." It means a lot to us as a band and university, but what a lot of people don't know is that it is the state song as well. When I first joined the band, I felt like I was just going along with tradition whenever we sang, but now, and especially when we play "Hail Minnesota" at football games and other athletic events, I feel more connected to the state and to the people of Minnesota.

I considered it a great honor to represent the state of Minnesota whenever we traveled; a small part of the band traveled to Nebraska for a game and the entire band went to Houston this year for the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas. In fact, down in Nebraska I met a man at a fan social, Ron Haugen, who said he was from Harmony!

I think that anyone who is a Minnesotan has the potential to be a great Golden Gopher fan, and I say that with no bias at all. I write this with a lot of hope because I have seen the best of Gopher fans such as when TCF Bank Stadium was sold out and packed for the night game against Syracuse this past season. However, I have also seen the worst of Gopher fans and it was more than depressing. Consider this a rally call! I urge all of you Minnesotans to boldly stand up and cheer for the state's team without reserve.

We live very close to Iowa, so being a Minnesota fan takes even more courage and more enthusiasm. There are also a lot of colleges and universities in Minnesota, which tend to draw many peoples' allegiances. I understand and encourage you to keep supporting your school. But when it comes down to it, there is only one school that has the largest impact in reflecting what the state of Minnesota is all about, and that is the University of Minnesota.

I know many people who bleed maroon and gold, even though they did not graduate from there. They all have one thing in common though: they are Minnesotan, through and through.

There are many things we can all point to and complain about the state of Minnesota, but I don't think that's the image we want to create for the state or the attitude we want to hold on to. I know that's not the case.

Sports are the great unifier. Through wins and losses, we can grow closer to each other, especially on a level that transcends the game. I've seen it every day as a member of the "Pride of Minnesota" and I want to let you all know that you too can be proud of Minnesota. Hats off to thee.