In the late 1960s in Ruston, Louisiana, two Bulldog quarterbacks’ life paths diverged sharply. You might have heard of Terry Bradshaw, who went on to attain the top pick in the 1970 NFL Draft, a lengthy career with the Pittsburgh Steelers, four Super Bowl victories, a spot in the Hall of Fame and a second career in front of the camera. You might not have heard of Phil Robertson, who was ahead of Bradshaw on Louisiana Tech’s depth chart but gave up football with one year of eligibility remaining because the game and any future in it interfered with his heart’s dearest passion: duck-hunting season.
“At the time, no one quite understood what exactly was my problem because I didn’t put football as the ultimate goal, being this stud hoss football player, but what they didn’t see then, they get it now,” Robertson said. “Because as it turns out, what am I talking about now?”
Robertson was referring to the duck call business he started out of his home, which became the Duck Commander regime and led some 40 years later to the creation of Duck Dynasty, which premiered Wednesday on A&E. This is one of those times where a one-sentence pitch will tell you immediately whether a show is for you: “Duck Dynasty follows a backwoods millionaire family running a duck call empire on the Louisiana bayou.” (Being inveterate hilljacks, we are immediately drawn to this premise, even though it’s not a shot-by-shot remake of Dynasty cast with waterfowl. We checked.)
Coming out of Vivian, Louisiana’s North Caddo High School, Robertson said he fielded offers to join the football programs at LSU, Ole Miss, Baylor and Rice, but chose Louisiana Tech to remain close to home. After redshirting his freshman year, he was joined by some soon-to-be famous company on the depth chart.