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Mississippi Hall of Fame getting a gem

We at the SEC blog want to wish Rick Cleveland the best as he begins a new venture in his life.

One of the best in the business, Cleveland is trading his pen at The Jackson (Miss.) Clarion-Ledger for a much deserved role as executive director of the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame.

I can't think of anybody better qualified in that state to see to it that Mississippi's greatest sports figures are properly honored.

Cleveland has been a sports writer for 33 years at The Clarion-Ledger and Jackson Daily News, and won numerous honors along the way. He's been the lead sports columnist at The Clarion-Ledger for more than 20 years. He's an encyclopedia when it comes to sports in that state, and one of the finest people you're ever going to meet.

What always struck me about Cleveland was how much he cared. He was a proponent for all sports in Mississippi, and took great pride in his Magnolia State heritage. It's no coincidence that he was known as "The Guv." He wasn't afraid to take a stand, and like all columnists in a state with multiple schools who don't necessarily like each other, was accused of hating on one school and being a homer for another.

It comes with the territory, although I can tell you I fielded more than one call from Cleveland where he was expressing genuine concern about the way both Mississippi State and Ole Miss were being treated in certain situations. It was his way of going that extra mile to make sure they weren't slighted simply because they were Mississippi State and Ole Miss -- and not Alabama, Florida, LSU and Georgia.

Those of us in SEC Country will miss not having Cleveland around. His last day at The Clarion-Ledger is April 13.

I don't mind saying that our profession needs more people like Cleveland, with his passion, his integrity, his ability to tell a story, and his keen understanding of the audience for which he's writing.

Our loss will most certainly be the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame's gain.