During the 2013 Bassmaster Classic at Grand Lake, Okla., Georgian Kendall Newson was called to the Bass Pro Shops/Nitro exhibit at the Tulsa Convention Center.
He wasn’t sure what to expect.
In front a crowd of cheering fans, he was introduced as the newest member of the Bass Pro Shops pro staff.
It was a heady experience for Newson.
“I felt like I was a rookie again being drafted by the NFL.”
Newson, a former professional football player, is striving to qualify for the Elite Series through the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Open tournaments.
His dream stems from a lifelong love of fishing.
Newson's earliest memories are of family fishing outings with his father, Lewis; mother, Lunell; and six brothers and sisters. His three sisters arrived first, followed by an older brother. Two younger brothers completed the Newson bunch.
The Newsons fished from the bank at Georgia ponds and lakes. West Point Lake was one of their favorite destinations. Crappies were high on the agenda, but they also fished for catfish and bass.
Newson's father taught him how to catch bass by casting a Texas-rigged worm parallel to the bank and crawling it through cover along the shoreline.
“I'll never forget the first time a bass hit that worm,” Newson says. “I was doing just what my dad was telling me.”
Close family ties and a passion for fishing are as essential to Newson's existence as the air he breathes. He has fished as often as possible throughout his life.
That has been challenging at times, due to his athletic career.
While attending Columbia High School in Decatur, Ga., Newson was an all-star on the football, basketball and track teams. When he matriculated to Middle Tennessee State University, Newson set receiving records for the Blue Raiders football team.
Even then, Newson's fishing addiction was common knowledge among his friends and fans. A school newspaper published a photo of him wearing a Blue Raiders jersey and battling a jumping football with a rod and reel as though the ball were a bass.
After graduating from Middle Tennessee in 2001, Newson embarked on a roller-coaster professional football career. It took him from the Jacksonville Jaguars to the Tennessee Titans, European Football League, Miami Dolphins and through two stints with arena football teams.
While he was with the Dolphins, Newson met the late Billy Bob Crosno at the Bass Pro Shops store in Dania Beach, Fla. Crosno, a legendary south Florida bass guide and Bass Pro Shops staff member, competed in local bass tournaments.
Crosno introduced Newson to tournament bass fishing. They often teamed up and participated in nearby tournaments. Given Newson's competitive nature and his love of fishing, he was, and continues to be, hopelessly hooked on the sport.