Winston-Salem State: Baseball & Football | LB/TE/LS
Pro Athlete: NASCAR Pit Crew | Jackman | Daytona 500 Champion
Twitter: @bald_eagle116 | Instagram: @bald_eagle116
Q: How did 2020 and the pandemic affect your professional opportunities?
A: For us in NASCAR, we ended up having a month and a half off during the height of Covid-19 which was March and half of April. Upon return to work we have had to implement numerous protocols that allow for contact tracing and so on. Masks, seating charts on our charter flights every weekend, our own hotel rooms, only so many people per rental vehicle, that kind of thing.
Q: How did 2020 and the pandemic adjust your preparation for future opportunities?
A: I don’t know that it affects future opportunities. It’s one of those things where you roll with it and hope things go back to normal so you can focus more on performance and relaxing rather than having to be so conscious of the protocols put in place.
Q: How did you get involved in NASCAR?
A: I was a volunteer with the Athletic Trainers and Strength and Conditioning program at Winston-Salem State University to gain experience and remain involved after my years of NCAA eligibility had expired. Scott Bowen at Roush Fenway contacted WSSU to ask if any graduating seniors in the football program met whatever specifications he was looking for in a Jackman. Ian Mushinski was the head Athletic Trainer at WSSU and a good friend and he threw my name out and told me Scott may be calling. He did call, and it escalated from there.
Leaders lead from the front, and good leaders don’t let others shortcomings affect their character. Do to others as you would have them do to you. So many people do to others the same that was done to them but that doesn’t work. Treat people the way you want to be treated.
Q: What was the process to join NASCAR like?
A: When Scott called, I told him I had never watched NASCAR, really had no interest in NASCAR, and did not know anything about NASCAR but that I was willing to come check it out because I don’t like to turn down opportunities without knowing what is involved. Cameron Cobb who is now Head of Pit Operations at Roush Fenway, is also the Jackman coach. He said he would give me an hour every Wednesday if I was willing to come and train and we could evaluate after a little bit and see where we were. My intent post college was the military special forces so I was pretty set on that. After 3 months of training with Cameron I told them I was going to have to prepare to ship out. Scott asked “what can we do to get you to consider staying?” I told him if they could match what I would make in the military and provide full benefits then I would stay. He made me the offer the next day and that started the journey. I practiced with a developmental pit group at Roush Fenway for several months, pitted my first late model race at Hickory Motor Speedway, then the Snowball Derby in Florida, and then was placed on a Truck Series team for the 2018 season. After 5 races I made it onto the Roush Fenway #16 Xfinity car. I was also pitting the #96 Cup car which was running part time, but half-way through the season it gained sponsorship and ran the entire back half of the season so I was able to do all 3 series in my first year.
Q: What were your reasonings to attend the National Scouting Combine?
A: At the time of my attendance at the BSN National Scouting Combine I was like everyone else, seeking a professional spot to play football for someone. I wanted to be picked up by anyone just so I could get film and progress up the ranks to eventually make it into the NFL.
Q: Did participating in the National Scouting Combine help you prepare for NASCAR opportunity?
A: I don’t know that it especially helped with NASCAR but I don’t think it hurt that’s for sure. Anytime you get the opportunity to perform in front of someone who has the potential to alter your career path, it allows the opportunity to hone the skill of performing under pressure.
Q: What was an important fact that you learned about yourself during this process?
A: There are parts of the process that as I mentioned before, hone the ability to perform under pressure. I would say the most valuable part of the whole process was understanding the end goal, understanding potential hurdles to get over, and navigating them gracefully and calmly. Not making the moment bigger than it has to be.
Q: How can athletes interested in NASCAR pursue that type of opportunity?
A: It’s one of those things where if you want the opportunity you walk into a race shop and ask about that process. It’s not something many people get accepted into but they take high level athletes that mesh with the other guys. Being accepted by your peers is a big part of it so being slow to speak and quick to listen goes a long way when coupled with hard work ethic and attention to detail. Be coachable, take criticism, adapt and continue to grow.
Q: What are your sports or personal goals for 2021?
A: From a statistics standpoint I want to be ranked in the top 5 jackmen on pit road. Also another one of my personal goals is to just consistently top tier in my performance without having dips or major highs and lows. I am striving to be at the top and to remain there.
Q: Rank the top five priorities in your life.
A: Priority 1) That is definitely my relationship with God. We have to understand where we came from, why we are here, how to differentiate between right and wrong, and what happens when we die. Those 4 things are paramount to understand your place and purpose in life and all 4 answers have to correspond to one another in a coherent way. I found that when I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior and He is my ultimate priority.
Priority 2) My wife. She is an incredible woman and our marriage is absolutely one of the best things to ever happen to me. She is an amazing School Psychologist in the Charlotte Mecklenburg School System.
Priority 3) My career. I am an avid worker. If I am not working toward something then I’m not truly fulfilled. I love working at my craft and honing my skill as an athlete to perform to the best of my ability on Friday, Saturday, and especially Sunday.
Priority 4) Friends. I love sharing experiences and good times with friends. I’m a very social person, I enjoy hanging out and cultivating good strong friendships.
Priority 5) Hobbies. I run a bowfishing charter out of Concord NC with one of my best friends. We started it a little over a year ago and it has grown exponentially. Bowfishing is one of my favorite pass times. The other is hitting the slopes snowboarding.
Q: What is some advice you would give to the athletes who are planning to participate in the upcoming National Scouting Combine?
A: Best advice I can give is to relax and be confident that what you’re about to do at the combine is not different from what you normally do except this time it’s just a different crowd. Don’t think about the combine like you have to do something extraordinary outside of what you normally do. The combine is to showcase what you already can do consistently, it’s not a time for you to have a career highlight day.
Q: What were your reasonings to attend the National Scouting Combine?
A: To hopefully attract a Scout looking to sign me.
Q: What has kept you motivated in life to continue to work hard and keep pushing forward?
A: Motivation is personal, it has to be something that only pushes you. Someone else cannot motivate you, only you can motivate you. I’m a little bit of a perfectionist but very competitive and I thrive as an athlete. I pick a goal and I attack it and for as long as I can remember I am motivated by being the best at whatever it is that I choose to do.
Q: How have all your past sports experiences prepared you to become a better player and/or teammate?
A: Through other sports experiences you learn how to perform under pressure, how to handle the moment, and how to take criticism and apply it. Oftentimes we have to hear the message, not the delivery. I’m also very sensitive to what others are feeling and why they might be feeling that way and that helps me be a good team-mate so I know what my guys need and when they need it.
Q: What’s the best piece of advice you have received?
A: Leaders lead from the front, and good leaders don’t let others shortcomings affect their character. Do to others as you would have them do to you. So many people do to others the same that was done to them but that doesn’t work. Treat people the way you want to be treated.