Josh Lemons can call a football or basketball game on the radio, interview future Hall of Fame athletes and cover NBA games. Oh, and he can prepare and plate a 4-Star meal as if it’s second nature.
The non-traditional student, a Memphis native, decided to enroll as a communications major at UT Martin after an early career in the food industry as a sous chef, restaurant owner, kitchen manager and waiter. Along the way, he pursued several entrepreneurial ventures.
Naming a few of the establishments where he has worked, Lemons said, “I opened a restaurant in 1998 named K.A. Karma's (in the historic Evergreen District of Midtown Memphis), … worked at a four-star restaurant in Ft. Lauderdale and simultaneously worked at a Tiki bar in Ft. Lauderdale.” Upon returning to Memphis, he opened an in-town courier service that is still inbusiness today. Most recently, he worked as a kitchen manager at King's Palace Cafe on historic Beale Street.
The one thing that made his Memphis restaurant stand apart was the fact that he only used fresh local ingredients, buying produce from the local markets, meat from the neighborhood butchers and bread from the bakery across the street. “That not only allowed me to give the customer a fresh product, it cut out the middle man allowing me to pass the cost savings on to the customer. Karma's was a lot of fun, but at age 20, I was naive to the amount of hours that it took to be a successful owner.” He said 120 hours a week was an average week in the beginning.
Lemons said the money was good, but the long hours throughout his years in the restaurant business started to take a toll on him. “I was 29 years old without a college degree and just one day realized that was not what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.” He added, “I was inspired by Geoff Calkins, the sports editorial writer for the Commercial Appeal in Memphis. He has a degree from Harvard Law and one day decided that, money aside, he wanted to make a career in sports writing, not law.”
Lemons has always followed sports and decided to move to Martin, enroll at UT Martin and “give it a try.” His mother, Dr. Mary Lemons is a UT Martin professor of management, and “she told me that she would help me go back to college anytime before my 30th birthday. So at 29, I made the move up here, and it was hands down the best decision I ever made.”
As a senior this fall, Lemons said his college coursework has been supplemented with good career experiences that are almost too numerous to mention. He has called a game at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, an OVC softball tournament, a championship game in women's basketball and an OVC baseball tournament at Pringle's Park in Jackson. He also had the opportunity to report for The Pacer at LP Field, home of the Tennessee Titans.
He added, “I crossed a bucket list item off when I was able to cover the Skyhawks versus the Memphis Tigers at The Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium in Memphis. I grew up going to games there with my grandfather and dreamed of sitting in the press box high atop the stadium. UT Martin made that possible.”
Lemons also got to cover Lester Hudson when he made his professional return to Memphis as a member of the NBA team, the Boston Celtics, in Fed Ex Forum. “I got to interview future hall of fame players and coaches from the Celtics.” Lemons also recently interviewed Jerry Reese, the vice president and general manager of the NY Giants, when he was spring commencement speaker. “I really don't think that there are too many college students across the country that can say that they have had the opportunity to interview a GM of a NFL franchise.”
The summer months found him interning at WHBQ, Sports56, AM 560, in Memphis, the longest-running all-sports talk radio station in the city. He hopes the internship will turn into a permanent position upon graduation.
During this final year, Lemons is continuing to be thesports and remotes director at WUTM, UT Martin’s award-winning radio station. He also is the executive editor of The Pacer, the campus student newspaper.
“Eventually, I would like to be the voice of a college program. My experiences at UT Martin have shown me that college athletics appeal to me more than the professionals,” he said.
Back to his first love, Lemons said, “I love to cook now that I do not do it for a living. I probably started cooking early on in both of my grandmothers’ kitchens. Both of my grandmothers still influence my cooking today.” He added, “I cook almost daily, everything from country cooking (country fried steak and gravy is a staple in my house, although mine is never as good as my aunt's) to finer cuisine. My shrimp, crab and lobster fettuccine Alfredo is always a crowd pleaser.”
As far as go-to ingredients, Lemons thinks a good cheese can always accent a meal – like his Cajun shrimp and smoked Gouda grits. As the old phrase goes, "Cheddah makes everything bettah!" he said.
Allison Jones of Columbia and Josh Lemons of Martin, broadcast sports for WUTM-FM, named 2010 “Best College Radio Station in the South.”