Former Alabama wide receiver Joey Jones tells a great story about being recruited by several colleges during his senior year of high school.
The Mobile, Ala., native grew up an Alabama fan and wanted badly to play for legendary coach Paul “Bear” Bryant in Tuscaloosa. But since the Crimson Tide ran the wishbone offense back then and rarely threw a pass, he knew they only had room for so many receivers.
Jones also knew the Tide was recruiting another talented receiver named Jesse Bendross — and he was determined to go somewhere Bendross didn’t.
With assurances that Bendross was going elsewhere, Jones signed with Alabama. Then Bendross was one of the first people he encountered when he arrived in Tuscaloosa.
That kind of thing simply couldn’t happen today.
When a high school football player so much as receives a letter from a college, he posts a picture of it on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. When he signs his letter of intent, you can bet the whole thing will be streamed live somewhere.
It’s a growing phenomenon that I never thought would spread to professional fishing.
But it has during the past few months — and it’s been really fun to watch.
One by one, anglers have announced their intentions to fish the 2019 Bassmaster Elite Series, using a variety of social media outlets.
The one who caused the most stir was Minnesota angler Seth Feider, who posted a hilarious video that featured his cartoon head on someone else’s body. Other caricatures in the crowd included B.A.S.S. mainstays Dave Mercer and Mark Zona.
It wasn’t totally suitable for your desk at work. But it was priceless, nonetheless.
There was Nevada pro Chris Zaldain who posted his explanation on Facebook with a picture of an Elite Series jersey with his name on the back. Then there was Florida angler Drew Benton who made his announcement on Facebook with a picture of himself holding the Elite Series trophy he won this year at Lake Travis.
South Carolina’s Patrick Walters posted an action shot of himself on Instagram with the Bassmaster Elite Series logo in the top left corner. In the description, he detailed his rise from the college ranks through the Bassmaster Opens all the way to the Elites.
Arkansas pro Harvey Horne announced his intention to fish the Elite Series on Facebook Live with fans chiming in all the while to voice congratulations and support.
Then there was my personal favorite from veteran Kentucky pro Mark Menendez.
He posted a simple picture of himself holding two fish with the following words:
“As I embark on my 28th season as a professional angler, home is where the heart is! The Bassmaster Elite Series is my tour! B.A.S.S. stood behind a young man as he worked his way into a career. B.A.S.S. stood with me during my illness in 2005. B.A.S.S. supported my family as my wife battled cancer. B.A.S.S welcomed me back to the fold in 2015 after I lost her. I am forever grateful for the best angling platform a fisherman could ever imagine. Proud to be a Bassmaster Angler!”
As someone who’s covered high school and college athletics for almost 30 years, I was a little worried when I started seeing these types of announcements. In case you haven’t noticed, the ones done by high school athletes aren’t always the most dignified productions.
Sometimes they fumble through a table filled with college hats, throwing them in the floor until they reveal their choice by finally putting one on their head. Sometimes they come to a press conference wearing one college’s jersey, only to rip it off revealing the T-shirt of another.
It always wreaks of a kid who doesn’t know any better who’s trying a little too hard.
The Elite Series pros haven’t done it that way.
They’ve handled their announcements with dignity and class. They’ve told which organization they intend to fish and avoided trashing the others.
All of social media should follow their lead.