By Steve Graf
Every sport has legends, men or women who set a high standard for the level of play in their respective sports. In baseball you have Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, Pete Rose, Hank Aaron and Derek Jeter. In football you have Jim Brown, Dick Butkus, Roger Staubach, Emmitt Smith and Joe Montana. In bass fishing you have Bill Dance, Roland Martin, Rick Clunn and Kevin Van Dam. These are people who were champions and Hall of Famers that gave 100% in everything they did. Now most of us do not have the ability to sit down with most of these legendary athletes. But if you look around, you’ll find someone in your “backyard” who would be a great mentor and it’s probably someone you already look up to.
I’ve been blessed to know a few of these people who had an impact on my life. First was Mr. Rayford Jones who lived across the road from where I grew up in Mt. Pleasant, Texas. So many evenings after supper, I would walk over to his house, sit on his front porch and we would talk about baseball, his garden, and how many catfish I had caught out of his ponds or as they say in Texas…. tanks. He would pay me a penny for every fly I would kill with one of his trusty flyswatters. I would also get an update how many of his cows had calves. A few times we talked about his time in the service and WWII. He was so proud to be an American and to have fought for this country. But he was also one of my biggest fans during my playing days in Mt. Pleasant. He kept up with every stat I had in football and baseball. He knew my battling average better than me most of the time. He knew how many yards I gained for every football game. He always said the same thing every time I would leave his porch, I would tell him… “good talking to you” and he would always respond “the pleasure was all mine.” It’s a shame people don’t take the time to sit on the front porch and talk anymore.
From a fishing perspective, a man by the name of David Parker had a huge impact on me as an angler. David was one of those anglers who could have competed at the highest level if he would have had the money to do so. To give you an idea of how talented he was, David won seven boats in one season. He dominated events from this region including Sam Rayburn and Toledo Bend. He was a jig fishing guru who taught me a lot about catching fish on a jig. He told me stories of what bass fishing was like in the early 1960’s and how he used to make his own jigs. As a kid, David would take a black bicycle innertube and use his dad’s straight razor and cut the tube into narrow strips. He would then take his mom’s sewing thread and tie the strands around a lead weight and catch fish after fish. Then one day they started making red bicycle innertubes! Now he was really excited and how he could mix black and red strands together creating the first ever multi-colored jig skirt. All this was before major fishing companies started making jigs.
But the one thing David gave me, was confidence in myself. He always said, “Steve you’re just as good as any angler on the water…you just have to believe it yourself.” He would also say “If the fishing is tough for you, it’s probably tough on a lot of people.” He always made me feel good about my skills and abilities as an angler even though I was nowhere near as good as he was. David oozed in confidence and had what every angler wished they had…a sixth sense. He knew he had a bite even before the fish actually bit his lure…I’m not kidding! He had a gift that very few anglers have.
Always take the time to recognize and appreciate those that came before in whatever sport you’re participating in. These are the people who helped to set the standards that we all strive to achieve. These are our hero’s; these are the people who earned the right to be called a legend. Till next time, good luck, good fishing and don’t forget to set the hook.
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