A fork in the educational path of Mark Brock led him to a career in sports journalism that was totally unexpected.
After two years at Ole Miss in engineering, he dropped out of school to work in various jobs involving retail and manufacturing. Then in early 1986, an old friend, David Helms who was the editor of the Pontotoc Progress, suggested him to become the sports editor at his hometown newspaper, a job that put him on the path to where he is now.
That path led him to a demanding but rewarding career as the Athletics Specialist for Media Relations in the DeKalb County (Georgia) School District, which is where he has been since December 2002.
"Working with a small-town newspaper company is very different than a daily because you don't have information coming out every day. Most of the information is a week old," Brock said. "The main thing for me was getting as many kids recognition in the paper as possible. That was important.”
Due to layoffs by the newspaper company, Brock realized this was his opportunity to return to college and to get a degree in journalism. In 1987 he returned to school.
Brock took his previous experience with the newspaper and applied it toward getting a degree in journalism. Longtime Pontotoc friend Bill Seawright introduced Brock to Ole Miss athletics director Warner Alford, who then sent him to meet sports information director Langston Rogers. So while he was pursuing his degree, Brock worked in the sports information office of the Ole Miss athletics department. This job gave Brock many exciting opportunities to work with players, coaches, sports and media celebrities during those years.
Brock interviewed former Ole Miss and NFL quarterback Archie Manning for his College Football Hall of Fame induction, and later he reported on former Rebel player and NFL star Wesley Walls, who is from Brock’s hometown of Pontotoc. He also spent time with and interviewed some Ole Miss sports legends who are no longer alive, including head football coach John Vaught and assistant football coach J.W. “Wobble” Davidson.
Brock was working as a student during the 1989 grand opening of Oxford-University baseball stadium. That weekend he spent time with Tim Brando from ESPN as well Tug McGraw, who was also a part of the broadcast team. McGraw was a former professional baseball player and the father of country singer Tim McGraw, who was in Oxford that weekend with his dad.
"I have met a lot of people over the years," Brock said. “This job, from those college years and since, has allowed me that opportunity.”
Now 33 seasons later, Brock continues to work with Ole Miss Athletics as the lead statistician in the press box for all the Rebels’ home football games.
"I started working with the crew then and I have been there ever since," Brock said. “It’s something I really enjoy doing and it’s kept me around Ole Miss sports even after I moved to Georgia.”
Brock drives from Atlanta to Oxford to work every home game. Usually his wife, Janette, also makes the trip.
"I would still be going to the games anyway," Brock said. “Getting to work the games and be a part of the game day at Ole Miss is an added bonus.”
While he was still living in Mississippi, his career in journalism consisted of working for The Pontotoc Progress weekly newspaper again, an Oxford Publisher (three service industry magazines) and a sports magazine called All Sports. Brock also turned a one-page sports section at the Progress paper into four or five pages.
"I made a lot of new friends covering everything from football to American Legion Baseball," Brock said. "Many of the guys and girls I wrote about back then are coaching now or have their own kids participating in athletics. I have many fond memories of those times spent with so many."
Then in 2002 it was time for another step in his professional life. An Ole Miss friend offered him a place to stay in Atlanta, if he found a job there. Brock worked with a weekly newspaper for five months and then he landed the job with the DeKalb County School District.
He took a job that was mainly statistics related for a district of 19 high schools and developed it into a sports information office. With the aid of the IT department they developed a page for each sport along with middle school sports. He attends the games, reports about them, takes photos, tweets, and runs the website.
"It's a busy time during the game when I am trying to tweet and take notes of the game, while also taking photos," he said.
Brock works with more than 30 media outlets to help promote the student-athletes of the DeKalb County School District
DeKalb County athletics is known for performing well on the state level, which gives Brock an even bigger platform to promote teams, coaches, and players.
At least one team in the district won a state basketball championship (Miller Grove Wolverines won 6 consecutive and 7 overall) from 2004 to 2016, 13 seasons total. The Cedar Grove Saints football team has won three state championships in the last four years. The Chamblee Lady Bulldogs tennis team was going for its fourth state championship in a row had the season not been cut short this spring.
"The better our teams do, the more fun I have," Brock said. “It’s always good to see the athletes in our county do well, and it’s rewarding helping those kids get the recognition, while promoting them to move on to their next goal.”
The statistics compiled throughout each sports season are used to help the media guide for each sport. Athletics Specialist Chris Chilton puts together the media guides that includes history of the various athletics programs with information on current players, coaches, and teams. The finished products are sent to the media and to colleges while also being uploaded online.
"The most positive part about my job is that the work I'm doing is helping the high school athletes get motivated for future goals and scholarships, if that's what they want," Brock said. “That is very satisfying as a media relations person to see them succeed in whatever it is they want to do be it sports or a profession.”