An unexpected path to a dream come true

Back in 2010, country music superstar Kenny Chesney put together a magnificent video for the song he had recorded about his love of football called “The Boys of Fall.”

Near the end of video, former NFL star Brett Favre gives some great advice to young kids who have just started playing the game.

“It’s OK to work at your dreams and do whatever you can,” Favre said. “There’s nothing wrong with dreaming big, but just have fun.”

What I think Favre meant was that it’s OK to believe when you’re five years old that you’ll be playing in the NFL someday. But when the realization comes that you won’t be, you shouldn’t let it take the joy out of life.

Sometimes a stop sign is just a good excuse to take a rest before moving on to what you were really meant to do.

Believe me, I’ve seen my share of stop signs.

The first one came during the daily weigh-ins for the 1992 Bassmaster Classic on Logan Martin Lake.

Seeing what Robert Hamilton had to do to win that tournament, catching nearly 20 pounds of bass per day in temperatures pushing toward 100 degrees, made me wonder if my dreams of someday fishing professionally weren’t a little misguided. Reading that week about everything the anglers had to go through just to qualify for the Classic convinced me of it.

But as my dreams of being a professional angler died there in front of 18,000 people inside the Birmingham-Jefferson Civic Center, a new dream was born – a dream bolstered by the realization that there are careers in fishing that don’t actually require you to catch fish.

Ray Scott’s booming voice had barely stopped ringing in my ears when I decided to become an outdoors writer, and it turned out to be the right choice for me.

After some part-time work with The Birmingham News during the mid- to late 1990s, I moved on to The Columbus (Ga.) Ledger-Enquirer where I started the paper’s first weekly outdoors page and covered the fishing tournament-crazy world that is the Chattahoochee Valley. Success there earned me a job as outdoors writer with The Memphis Commercial Appeal where my predecessors had included industry giants like Nash Buckingham, Henry Reynolds and Larry Rea.

I made the most of my time in Memphis, being named Best Outdoors Writer four times by the Tennessee Sports Writers Association. In between outdoors assignments, I also managed to meet my wife, Kim, who gave me the most beautiful twin girls ever born, Avery and Ainsley, and two stepdaughters, Taylor and Macy, who are both smarter than I am.

Then came another stop sign.

With the newspaper business in turmoil, The Commercial Appeal made the decision in October to go without an outdoors writer for the first time in almost 120 years. The news of my position being eliminated came exactly two weeks before my twins’ first birthday.

It was rough, but here’s another great example of why you should remember what I said earlier about stop signs:

On Oct. 8, I was an unemployed father of four with no idea what I’d be doing next.

On Dec. 8, I started as senior editor at B.A.S.S., writing for and all of the publications, including the same Bassmaster Magazine I read religiously as a kid.

God closed a door and opened a window – a great, big bay window with a bird’s-eye view of the world I’ve dreamed about since I was a teenager still believing I could compete with the Denny Brauers, George Cochrans and Kevin VanDams of the world.

Some editors strike the word “literally” and the phrase “dream come true” from stories and columns automatically because they rarely ever fit.

But in this case, trust me, they do.

This job is my entry fee into the Elite Series, my berth into the Classic and the Angler of the Year trophy all rolled into one. It is literally my dream come true.

Speaking of dreams, don’t be afraid to chase yours. This is absolutely not a column aimed at discouraging young anglers from shooting for the stars.

If you want to be a pro angler, go for it. If you make it, I’ll be there at the weigh-in stand to interview you someday.

But if you don’t, remember this column – and remember that a stop sign is nothing but a good place to rest and regroup on the road you were meant to follow.