I was born with no legs, no left arm and only a partial right arm. My whole life I’ve been told what I can’t do, but I’m here to tell you what I can do. I’m a professional fisherman competing in the Bassmaster Open Series. And I’m a motivational speaker.
When I’m fishing, I attach lures using his mouth. To cast my line, I wedge my fishing rod between my neck and shoulder. And once I cast the line, it’s just fishing, like anyone else.
As a kid, I always wanted to be a pro athlete. I wasn’t going to let my circumstances define my life and keep me from living. But it was obvious the NFL or Major League Baseball would not be drafting me. I wondered if there was a sport I could take to the top level, so I pursued fishing.
I got into fishing when I was five years old because of my grandfather. He was an outdoors guy who loved hunting and fishing, and he showed me how to do both in spite of my challenges. He had a catfish pond in our small town of Hamilton, Alabama, and we’d fish together for hours.
I never allowed my physical disabilities to be an obstacle. My family was incredibly supportive. Whatever special things I needed to succeed in fishing, they got for me. But more than anything, they were supreme encouragers.
I began competing in fishing tournaments at age 15, and then at the state level in 1997. I was blessed with some fishing success, and qualified for some state championships and got to go to the Southeast Regionals.
I joined the Fishing League Worldwide and fished on that circuit from 2000 to 2010, and then started with BASS in 2012. I’ve had some wonderful supportive mentors who took me under their wing and gave me invaluable tips.
But I’m not just a professional fisherman.
My life took a turn one day when I was 18. God will allow things to come into our lives to get our attention. I woke up with the symptoms of a heart attack. But I didn’t tell anybody. I actually went to a revival that night with a friend, and while there, I started to think of all the bad decisions I had made in my life. I always believed in God, but I had fallen away from the church. I silently confessed those sins to God and asked Him to guide my life. I felt His forgiveness right away and curiously, my heart attack symptoms vanished. I felt this amazing peace, happiness and love envelop me.
And that began my real passion in life: talking about Jesus. Six months later, I had an opportunity to speak to a church. I don’t look like your typical fisherman because of how God made me, so people were interested in hearing my story and how I could possibly fish.
About that time, I was getting a message from God that fishing could be my platform where I could talk about God’s greatness. I became a Christian motivational speaker on overcoming adversity. My motto: If I can, you can.
I would speak at one church, and there would be some other pastors in the room. They’d reach out to other pastors and tell them about me. So I started getting more and more calls to speak. Then ESPN did a feature on me, and things really took off.
God doesn’t make mistakes. God knew when He made me, He wanted me to go out and witness and encourage people to live for Him. To be a fisher of men, so to speak. It was God’s will and plan for this to develop into a ministry. I talk to about 75 churches each year. I got married almost 10 years ago, and my wife stepped away from a career in banking to help me with all the details of a growing ministry.
The biggest lesson that God has taught me is the value of patience, to allow Him to lead, guide and direct me, and for me to follow His lead.
If you live in this world, life is sure to throw you some adversity. Jesus said He will never leave us or forsake us. But He never said it will be easy. And it’s not very easy living with so few limbs.
I don’t think of myself as handicapped. If you have faith in the Lord and you truly listen to the Holy Spirit, I believe you can fulfill His will and accomplish great things for Him. That is my life’s goal.