You don’t have to be a good athlete to be a good angler, but if you look around the Bassmaster Elite Series, you will find a number of guys who participated in sports during their school days.
I played football, basketball, baseball and ran track but always thought if I would have picked one sport and focused on it, I could have been better. However, my dad grew up a tough-as-nails country boy and made us play several sports when we were younger.
I wasn’t a great athlete but basketball was my favorite. I always felt if I could have focused solely on that, I could have been pretty good at it.
But my dad wanted me to play football so I became a backup quarterback for a top-notch high school team. The regular quarterback was bigger and faster than me and eventually got a scholarship to play at the University of Texas.
I was the better passer. When we got into a passing situation, the coach sent me in.
One of my not-so-memorable moments came in the regional championship game. We were undefeated and playing another undefeated team loaded with future NFL players.
We were behind 14-7 and driving downfield – but running out of time before the end of the first half. We were at the 20-yard line and the coach put me in on third down to throw a pass to get us a first down at the 5 yard line.
When I called the play in the huddle, the left end informed me he thought he broke his foot on the previous play and wasn’t sure he could run. I should have called timeout and changed the play or gone to an alternate receiver – but didn’t.
Now, keep in mind that I drove the coach crazy by making up plays or changing the ones he called. I would even draw a play in the dirt, and it would work about 90 percent of the time. But this time I didn’t. I switched the ends, putting the regular right end on the left side and ran the same play.
But, my pass was intercepted and run back for a 95-yard touchdown.
We eventually lost the game.
To this day, I have the longest touchdown pass in the school’s history. Unfortunately, it went to the wrong team.
I felt like I had disappointed the whole world – my team, dad – everyone. I have carried that with me forever.
But I also learned a lesson. I still believe that had I given up everything but basketball I would have had better results. I was small and couldn’t jump, but I was a good shooter and had good court awareness.
The importance of focusing on one endeavor came back to me when I decided to quit my good job with Exxon to pursue a fulltime career as an angler.
I was fully committed, and while my dad told me he was “OK” with it, he predicted I would starve to death.
I nearly did.
Yet, when I won my first Classic I’ve never seen anyone more proud than he was. That meant a lot to me.
I was determined to not make the same mistake I made in high school; if I were to achieve at the highest level, I had to put all of my energy in fishing.
I did and have enjoyed a good career ever since.
Fishing, of course, doesn’t require you to run the 100 yard dash in 9 seconds, be the strongest guy, be black or white or male or female.
But you do have to be focused, committed and allow your brain to dominate. That’s when good things can happen.