Writing for The Washington Post — the same newspaper I grew up reading as a wide-eyed kid in Northern Virginia — had always been more of a dream than a goal for me. After all, these were the same pages graced by the bylines of Michael Wilbon, Tony Kornheiser, David Aldridge, Rachel Nichols and many others who continue to make great waves in sports journalism.

So when ESPN elected to fold its RISE high school magazine and website in 2012, setting me on a vast search for a new gig, I was both grateful and pleasantly surprised when The Post's sports editor, Matt Vita, responded to my email inquiry with interest. Now nearly four years later, as I leave The Post to serve as communications manager for the NFL Players Association, I'm beyond blessed to have lived that childhood dream.

Though the narrative surrounding the newspaper industry is often dire, covering high schools in the DMV sports hotbed proved refreshing and invigorating. The tight deadlines breathing down my neck were eased by the tremendous athletes and level of play unfolding before my eyes on the court and playing fields — whether it was a deep dagger from former O'Connell sharpshooter Melo Trimble, a helmet-rattling tackle by Good Counsel's Keandre Jones or a screaming strike by Battlefield pitcher Jake Agnos.

But for as great as the action was, it's the interaction with players and coaches that I most cherished. The numerous hours spent chatting with and soaking up wisdom from coaches in their offices; the countless connections made with student-athletes eager to share their stories; and the many others willing to help in my efforts to objectively report the accomplishments and truth that make up the lively local prep sports scene. To all of you, I say thank you!

The people were just as great inside the newsroom. Sharing a department with some of the best sportswriters in the country was a humbling experience, and to know that each one of them was willing to help me in any way they could speaks to why The Post sports shop is arguably the most respected out there.

Though I can't name everyone who had an immense impact on my time at The Post (and you know who you are), a special thanks goes to Matt Vita and Camille Kilgore for providing me the opportunity to join the sports staff; high school sports editor Matt Brooks for challenging me on a daily basis to grow and represent our UNC J-school credentials well; #allmets alumni Roman Stubbs and Chelsea Janes for perspective, humor and a shoulder to lean on; and former Post gurus Michael Lee and Jason Reid for showing me the ropes.

With Brooks at the helm and dogged reporters like Mark Giannotto still on board, AllMetSports remains in great hands. I'm incredibly excited for my next chapter, and with the NFLPA offices just a few blocks away from The Post, I won't be going too far. You can still find me on Twitter (@brandoncparker) and, more than likely, at a game or two — forever a fan of DMV high school sports.