Huddle Up with Gus
Huddle Up with Gus

Episode · 2 years ago

Don Yaeger

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

11 x New York Times Bestselling author, Don Yaeger, joins the huddle. His works include books on; Walter Payton, Joe Namath, President George Washington, and many more. See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

With interviews including John Wooden, Michael Jordan, Walter Payton and even snoop Dogg. This eleven time New York Times best selling author of twenty nine books has covered stories across the world, from China to Iraq. He's also an award winning motivational speaker and longtime writer and editor for sports illustrated. Please welcome into the Huddle Donn yeager. Dave today on huddle up with guests, though, we got a great guess. Author, a coach. You know, he speaks all over the place. I mean his bio is tremendous, it's huge. He's been all over this world and and just like he said, he loves to tell stories about people he loves so and he makes a living doing it. Nothing better than that. Yeah, so today in the hull with us is Don yeager. Don thanks for being in the huddle with us and we really appreciate you being on with us. Awesome, Dave. Got Appreciate it very much. So, Dawn, we always start at the same spot. We want to know when you were growing up in Hawaii, what was that influence, what was that spark for your love of sports? Where it was at? Your family members? Was it a coach somebody. Well, I think the sparks starts in your neighborhood, right, and I lived in a cold to sack and we were the only Anglo family on our and our so we were the I was the Howley right, the white kid, a little bigger than a lot of some of the other kids at that stage. But you know, my dad put a hoop up outside and, you know, just a football in the in the in the street. We're not very bright, we just did you know, the neighborhood and you know, kind of came out every day as soon as you could to to play. And then it was every you know, my parents kind of had that every organized game you could play approach. Right, if it's a whatever season it was, I was expected to kind of be in the season and be doing it, which was which was cool. I mean, you know today, by eight years old, kids are special right there and they've they figured out that they're going to be this and that's what they're going to be for forever, and so they stopped playing anything else. And in my house that never ended. And so we were I just I fell in love with sports and the cold, but I fell in love with the Camaraderie of a relationship that come from it. And and so it was. It just became a part of what what what made me feel. You know, Hawaii is a unique place to grow up. Yeah, because there is no there is no majority, right, you know, there's no a and so you look at all my school pictures as a kid and I'm easy to pick out right, I'm the little white kid in the middle of the boat tie on. But you know, to be a couple of Koreans here and a couple of Filipinos there and a couple of tongans there, and you know, I mean it was just so there was no I mean you, community was important, but it was important in a slightly different way because you everyone had to find their spot and for me, sports help me find my spot. What island did you grow up on? So I was born on the Big island of Hawaii and the little town called Hilo, and then I was raised on the main island at Wahoo and a little town called Mauanaala. Well, it's great. My wife and I were married in Maui. Yeah, Valley's world. That was world rich people like you went. Yeah, we weren't rich. I did it. I did A it was after my first year playing and I did a super bowl party for the hotel and they paid for ten days of room and...

...board. And if I went to this party and got to talk to everybody, I'm like yes, and then my buddy got his free airline ticket, so it all worked out pretty good. As John Freeze, John Freeze, yeah, quarterback. So we had it. We had a great, great time over there. There's no that awesome. Yeah, it is a tunique environment, you know. And again, the thing you don't appreciate when you growing up there is how how, how unique it is. And so, but it gave me this really amazing foundation where everyone had value. I did. You know, you don't see color because you can't you see color. You're you're an idiot, right. So you just really it's funny because years later, so if you live there, and I know this wasn't where you're intending to go, if you live there past a certain age, the you you earn a designation within the island as a comma in, which means you're a native Hawaiian. Does not matter you're coloring or ethnic background, you're a native, right, your and so and and the Hawaii Tourism Bureau is constantly reaching back to the comma, is seeking to get them to come back, like you know, for whatever, right. And so when you go on their website, I'm coming back to Hawaii, they line up all kinds of things for you and there's discounts and this and that. So my wife, who is half Filipino, right, and I show up the very first time where they're and and they look at her and they're like welcome home. No, no, no, like, you know, let's go, let's go. Hit's right, she's just this our first visit, right, and I don't don't give her credit because she's got some color in her skin. Right, get out of that. Do you pull out your do you pull out your class photo and say no, this is me right now. I pull up my so security card, which shows shows them where it, because the first three did just tell you where you're born. So anyway, right. So did we? You? Did you a lot of the water sports there as well? Or did you? I did. I did surf, but not. I wasn't exceptional. I would because you, but you did, because everybody did. And the challenge a couple of different times, you know, you get caught in an undertow and you're, you know, an eight year old kid and you're you're sure you've met your maker. It can be pretty hairy and so you kind of it's a yeah, I had a few of I had a few of those experiences and but I was never sports. For me was what happened in the street, in the back yend and the end the driveway. You know, mostly Don looked right your family to why? To begin with, were they in the military? Or my dad was a preacher, a methodist preacher, and and so the church gave him an assignment there and that's where and so he passedor to church and it was a sleft. I mean we moved from there to Okinawa, Japan, when I was eleven. So we I lived in I'd never stepped foot in the cotton on the United States. I was thirteen when we moved to Indianapolis, Indiana, like Hawaii, Japan, Indianapolis, and I don't know if you have any listeners from Indianapolis, but that is not the path most people take. Right it usually people going the other way. Let's get to Hawaii before it's over. So right, yeah, that would be a hard like hey, you're going to go to hold I cool. I'll be in Hawaii. That'd be great. Love to raise my family there. All right. Now we're going to move to Japan, you know, another good island, just amazing things to do, their great food, everything. Now we're going to send you the Indianapolis Indian Ala in Your City, Indianapolis, Indiana. Yeah, so, so is that why you are you a colts fan? I actually, weirdly, I'm not a fan of any specific team. Weird just I have through my work, I have friends on a lot of teams. Yeah,...

...so mostly I'm I root for my friends and try not to root because because I find it if, if I'm spending too much time route for a team, I'm often rooting against a friend on another team. So I've just I root for all my friends to do well and not get hurt. So you get that. That's all right, that's that's a hard root on some Sundays. Yes, well done. What was life like in Japan and did you play sports in Japan and a baseball as a big sport? Yeah, and that are that played. I played baseball and Chapeah, that's what I did. And you know, and I was a catcher because, again, a little white guy, or I was a white guy, you know, thicker than a little been a lot of those kids I was playing against. And so I blocked the plate. Let me tell you, if you wanted to slide in the home, you better be ready. And it was legal. Adapting to do it was legal. Right, exactly. It was pretty Pete Rose, yes, but yeah, we yeah, so I played a you know, on the my my mom, who passed away a few years ago. I didn't realize I'd like saved everything, you know. I mean I kind of think you move several times, all that stuff ultimately has got to be gone, and she actually had like all my kids sports pictures, all my all those other things in one bag. And it's fun. I'd forgotten I was on a bunch of those teams, which is bad, but so you have bad how bad I was and how bad the team likely was. But but it was yeah, again, parental influence was out the door. Play out the door and play. And you know, I growing up in Hawaii. My team was the San Francisco Fort Ers a. They had a wide receiver and in Golden Richard's at the time. I'm a little older than I think both of you but and and we were all into you know, he had played at the University of Hawaii and so we're all like, you know, it was it was pretty cool and we were we were just into the so, I mean first ever like Christmas gift that I can remember was a full set of pads and a helmet and and I throw the ball to my little sister and go out and you know, Naylor didn't last long and parents had to kind of take tone that down. But yeah, it was you do you just find yourself love and everything about the game? Yeah, no, that happened to my daughter as well. My two sons were playing football in the backyard and my daughter, because I think I can play within she goes out in my sent gunner. Gunner just puts a shoulder into a laser out she's crying. She comes in, Dad, there may be me. I said you wanted to play with them. That's part of it's so, yeah, she never played football a game with them. Yeah, but you know, it's interesting that you were in Japan and one of the things about it was is that you talked about your neighborhood and your community. When you move to Japan, then, do you have the same kind of neighborhood and community that goes out and plays and and I mean it's a whole different area of the world. How did I how was that for you? Well, interestingly, my parents again kind of chose a home on a circle, right, you know, and they kind of the in the circle was big enough that, what you could it would serve as our sports field. And so I just played with everybody, and I mean we all played differently and one day it's, you know, baseball, the next day it's football, I next day it's we were just trying. We tried everything and if somebody had it and it involved a ball, we did it and and that's just, you know, again, it's funny. I so I'm now I'm a lat in left dad, and so I have an eleven and a ten and my liven year old son. You know, he's on the autism spectrum, so team sports are a little challenging for him, right, but he could, if he could do the entire his entire life and basically never go...

...outside because he loves, you know, what he can do on video games and things. I'm I'm going Callie. You know, you have no idea what you're missing. Like you gotta do this Andy, but I also get you know, life is you push people that want to be comfortable and and a little outside of their comfort zone is good, too far and they can resent it. So we're you know, it's a difficult thing raising kids right, it really is. And the one thing I think that is missing when you don't go outside and play sports is that when you're with your friends and things and you get knocked down, you just get back up right and you learn failures, you learn, you know, get that kick in the stomach and you get back up and you know you may be crying, but your buddies are there and you just keep playing through that stuff, and I think that's one thing kids missed today. It's not a mean thing. It's not like an organized sports thing where it's a coach saying get up and all this. It's in front of your buddies and you got to learn to just have that will to get back up and and go through that, which when we all played sports when we were young, like you, just go through that. I've done it many, many times. Then you've got older kids, younger kids, all different age groups. Well, you learned to build a manage situations to because you don't have referees and you have to work it out yourself or figure out what to strike zone as you're whiffleball or whatever. You know, I even said it's yeah, it takes some thinking that a lot of people are relying on. Day Dave has a wicked whifftball pitch. So we does it really? It's a yeah, like a twelve, two six. It drops that, my curveball drops, etc. It's ridiculous good and would be envous. I yeah, that's the only game we could play now is whiffleball. Yeah, it's the safest one for us, I know, but every once in a while you pull that bull let muscle back here and you over swing. I know, I can imagine it. Yeah. So then what year, when did you move to Indianapolis? So coming into high school I moved Indianapolis and and so this is, I know, I guess, when you and I were talking, kind of prep and we were thinking about it, like how does your youth and how does the sports and the other things that you've experienced influence you? So I came to move to Indiana and again because I'd spent so much of my career, my life in Hawaii and Japan. A lot of my American peers in Japan and my my friends even in Hawaii were from military backgrounds, right military families, and so I just envisioned myself being a military guy one day. I mean it's kind of that was. Everything kind of seemed to appoint me in that direction. So we're signing up for classes freshman year Indianapolis and as I signed up for OURTC, I'd go do OURTC, learn what it means, become an officer, lead people, become successful. And the night before class started, the councilor called the house and said, Hey, not enough kids signed up, so we canceled our OTC. But don't worry, we we put you on the student newspaper because, oh, there was a slot there and, you know, in a freshman I could put they could put you there and I liked writing. I don't think I had any appreciation that it would become a career, but that route, that random moment in time when something I envisioned wasn't available, something, you know, somebody filling a slot put me in a place. I literally found my passion within weeks. Like I realized how much I enjoyed asking questions, learning things that other people wouldn't. Weren't learning. We're not learning and and then crafting it in a way that other people could consume it. And and, you know, for all the career planning you...

...could try and all the all the other things that sometimes people are busy, you know, taking tests to define. You know, what am I best at? My my career, in its own way, was began on the you know, small stepping stones of because of a because of class asked was was not on it. There weren't enough kids that wanted to be an OURTC. Otherwise I might I might today be a, you know, be a colonel in the United States Army. Who knows? But anyway, yeah, that that's that's what this is all about, because you find your passion at different ages. Dr Whomtsky, last night she was telling us about how she really didn't understand and find her pass and passion until she went and did her psyche rotation at Western sych here in Pittsburgh and she got a mentor that she absolutely thought was brilliant and saw how she changed people's lives and she said that's exactly what I want to do. And there she was, twenty six years old. So we all have a different time when that passion comes to us. But the point of it is is that once you find it, you take hold of it and you really push forward. Yeah, so probably wasn't long. I mean, if you, if you were a freshman writing from the school paper and will point you're probably became editor as a sophomore. You're rising star, probably in that right. Actually, it's funny. I had had a newspaper advisor and all these silly, funny thing, but newspaper advisor who, who would ultimately tell me that she didn't think I was cut out for it and and didn't let me become all of those things. And so, ironically, a few years later and through a series of crazy circumstances, I became the youngest ever nominee for the Pulitzer prize, right like and and pretty soon I got this little package from my high school and it was this advisor who had now inducted me Pothteus, whatever the word is, as if you died right you probamously, I can never say that word. I shouldn't. I should learn not to, not to try words I can't say on pocat happens me all times. But but she had decided that now I was worthy of their induction in their little whatever like journalism society that they had for our high school. And and I thought it was really funny. Like you, when I left, I was neither in that society. Nor was I did she think I? She thought I was okay, but not like they're. This guy's not going to go find himself at any level. And then at nineteen I'm in this crazy place and she's and this package arrives. I'm going really honestly, now you that you want me in. Yeah, I'm okay, I can live without your club at this stage. Yeah, no, no, what was it that you wrote that earned you that honor? So I was then at at Ball State University, right, one of America's finest is well, month, one of Muncie, Indiana's finest institution. And and while they're I had done a series of stories about how the university was investing its money and and the you, and what I discovered was that the university was taking public dollars, millions and millions of public dollars, and, at below market value, investing it in banks that the president of the university in the Chairman of the board of trustees have had outsized investments in so the the president the university trustees were making money off of the university's public money and the grand jury was was in paneled and couple folks were indicted. President lost his job and all this crazy stuff because this little college kid decided to look...

...at how they were investing their money, which was crazy. So did started a lot of did you know how to investigate then, or did you just kind of I had I just again, I think my whole deal was I've always known how to I've always loved asking questions and then following, you know, following threads. Right, if you if you ask a question and and one of the things that drives me crazy when I'm listening to interviews or doing things is if somebody says something that leads to a really obvious you should ask that next question right. Give me just a little deeper so I understand that person. And but they've got a card with their you know, eight questions are supposed to ask in this podcast and so you know they're on to the next question anyway. Long Way saying I don't know that I've ever really figured out how to be I've been a great investigator. What I was was just somebody. I had a high you know, I've heard this phrase recently with a couple of executives I work with. A C Q, a high curiosity quotient. Right. I didn't have a High Iq, evidence by the fact that I chose I was at ball state. I didn't have a High Eq, evidence by the fact that I was a journalist, right, and they're all weird. So I sq worked for me and curiosity became my thing. Well, as Lee Steinberg said, you have to be a good listener. You know, in all his negotiations it's about listening, having a quiet mind and understanding what that coach, that GM, that owner, wants and trying to figure out how to get there. And I'm I'm assuming when, when you have a High Cq, you kind of go about that the same way. Yeah, you're you're asking questions. Sometimes you're listening for answers they're not really giving you right and maybe the answer is maybe an answers a parent but you don't want to assume it. So ask the question. And sometimes, you know, I mean some of the stories. I mean I had a chance of fe years ago to write a book with a running back probably remember, I'm of work done right. Warwick played in Tampa and Atlanta, but he was, you know, an eighteen year old high school senior when his mother, who was a police officer, was shot and killed in a robbery at a bank. And he's eighteen, he's a no father, he raises his five younger brothers and sisters, goes become a first round pick in the NFL, starts a charity buying homes for women like his mom. Crazy. The guy's so incredible. I've been interviewed tenzero times about all the amazing things he's done. But one day he and I were just talking and I yeah, the CQ curiosity question. What for me was, if you're if that guy that killed your mom were to sit and there were to be three of us in a room today, what kind of questions would you ask him? What would you want to know about him? Yeah, Whoa you know? And ultimately, as we began that conversation about what he'd want to learn from the guy that killed his mom, we discovered we could actually go to Louisiana and sit on death row with the guy, and we did. We went, we went there and we spent an hour on death row and which work got to go. I I with the guy that killed his mom right like. That's just an incredible moment. That doesn't put it, but it kind of grew from a question. That's a weird question ask somebody right like. Well, say if you could look in the eye the guy that killed your mom. And so that that willingness to be a little more curious about stories...

...and maybe ask a question that, for all the years of interview, some people might not have answered, has served me, as served me professionally pretty well. Now Point graduation at all state. I'm sure there wasn't a shortage a job offers after just what we've heard. What was your first big job? What did you you know? What was your next? What was your next opportunity that he took? Yeah, I actually went to San Antonio, Texas to work for the big newspaper in San Antonio, which was a pretty incredible like opportunity right out of college. Most people in my profession, you know, you had to like go to work and the we Wi Hitch ka times and you know all those other things, and I got this really cool chance and I'd in turned there the year before and and it was a mixture of sports and news, which was cool that I did both. Even at a big newspaper, I got a chance to do both and so I got to play out my passion. But most sports journalism isn't fueled by high seat. This is going to sound really horrible to all my peers. Hopefully I don't like it crucified here. Most sports journalism isn't fueled by high seat Q people, right, you know, they they want to know what were you feeling or you know, it's just the there's the seven questions you have to ask somebody after a game, after a moment whatever, and so I was kind of finding my space into the mixture of those two places in journalism. Went from San Antonio to Dallas, Dallas Morning News and was, you know, the youngest reporter on their staff the time, and then went down to a smaller paper to have more responsibility in Florida and then got picked up a sports illustrated which, you know, there's only thirty riders for sports illustrade the whole world. So it was a pretty cool time and a pretty cool I mean my peers are the most talented people ever had a chance to work with and every day was an opportunity to learn from them. Yes, so if you have a high seat to me, it's like, all right, I just played this game, I know what I did right and well, okay, I can you know. I threw three interceptions. We lost the game. So when a reporter comes in and they said, well, how did you feel about your game? It's it's when you have a high sq as a reporter, you're going to ask a better question, that's going to many to a better answer, and I think that's what you're going getting at right. I mean, how did you feel? How do you think I felt? Right exactly, with three interceptions and we lost the game. You know, what you really want to ask is you know what? where? Where you want to go? Might be something about you know, gus. I mean you've played your entire life and had three games before. Where you've ever done this right? Is there? Is there something you think about, either your preparation or maybe you're the way you're feeling walking on the field, or is there something they were doing? I mean, you know what, where can you help me understand? How how do you process what happened today? In that sense, right, and you know, it's not just that you threw interception, three interceptions. Maybe, I mean there was a maybe, maybe in that process. You'll share with me that that that morning your daughter had woke up really sick and when you got to the field you didn't want to play, but you realize you're backup was limping. And you know what you your your mind wasn't and you know and you're not making an excuse. But somewhere in here, if I get you to to engage my curiosity and appreciate my curiosity, you're going to give me a better answer. Well, I also feel like that a lot of times the human side is missed in...

...reporting as fair athletes. Right, it's just about what happed you in a three hours that you played that game. Well, you don't understand what happened that. That happens happened to me where the week before the coach and I has been in arguments and we haven't gotten along. And right, it was a really stressful situation. Now, if you went into somebody's regular work day and ask them about why they're stressed out of maybe traffick or whatever. Well, we go through all athletes go through all that stuff too and have good bad days. Right, it's just ours are magnified absolutely because yours get to watch be watched by millions folks. So it's about, you know, it's about trying to find non simple answers to what to to find root causes to the things that might mean. Gosh, you know, did a book with Michael or the kid from the blind side, right, yeah, and as he and I are making our way through all the homes he lived in and all the different places he grew up, and he talked about running from this woman from the Department of Children, of families who kept trying to put who realize that his how bad their mother was and wanted to put them in in foster homes, right, and and they all thought she was the devil, like the devil incarnate. Now is a grown man, he appreciates that she had a job and was really looking after their best interest because she saw what they couldn't see as children. And so then the question all this, Gosh, you know, if you could, if you, if you can, find her, like, what would you say? How would how would you? How would you handle a moment without like a lunch with her? Right, he's like, Oh man, and next thing you know, you know I spend four days find her. She was in her last year, she's ready to retire, and Michael or his walking in to take her to lunch to say thank you. It's like the coolest thing ever. You know, changed her, changed him, made the book better. I mean, you know every bit of it happens because you're trying to figure things out. That could have been like I could have left, let him just talk about her as the devil and it would have been good content for a book. Yeah, or you asked you go just a little deeper. Yeah, and all of that really kind of comes from, I think, growing up around you know, my dad was a preacher, right, so he was constantly trying to explore how to how to get through to people. And so, anyway, dawn and it's at a place like sports illustrated. How are the writing assignments divvied up? Like, how does that work? Is there's only like you said, there's maybe thirty writers and there's a world of topics, and how does that work? Yeah, so there's a handful of beat people, right. I mean you know Peter King right would have been. You're probably the guy that you might have seen most often. Legend. I mean the best nfl writer ever worked around. He had everybody in his phone right though, in anybody that if he wanted to. Peter King, you know, Tim Layden and baseball, Tom Bertie Attend Laden in college football, Tom Brducci, Phil Taylor in the NBA, everyone on them. There's a handful who had like beats, and then there was the rest of us. And and the rest of us just kind of sometimes a story would become a parent, either through a beat writer that needed somebody that that's not on the beat to tell it because you know, you might have might roufle a few feathers, and it's easier for Peter King to go that Danyeger Guy, what a painted about that guy is right, and then keep all of his sources happy.

And sometimes it was just that it just worked better to have some but and then sometimes they were crazy stories that came my way because people out might have been interviewing or other things that and just your mind is constantly thinking what's the story they're not going to get in any other medium and how can I uniquely tell it? And if you're trying to constantly think that way your you just you find yourself in the middle of really cool opportunities. Sitting in southern China with, you know, Chinese mobsters who are counterfeiting US golf clubs because they figured out that it's they can make more money selling counterfeit golf clubs and trying to smuggle drugs in the United States is one of those. It's one of these mobster guys said to me, until they develop, you know, C gun golf club stiffing dogs, we have a market, right, right. And so other shipping, you know, grips and you know, heads and everything else, and and and put them together United States and you're buying them on Ebay thinking what a deal. And the truth is it's all counterfeit. And it was just fascinating to kind of find yourself in the middle of stories that would, in most other environments, never get told. How do you gain access to Chinese mobsters doing that, like, what would be what's a process on that? It's slow, right, you, you literally, kind of you. I mean we found ourselves in China for a bit making relationships with people who were doing certain things, who then would grow to trust you a little bit and next thing you know, you're just getting you know, as in anything in life, right you're you're slowly. If you try to go to aggressive lude too quickly, a you probably don't get the story. Be Bad things could happen, right. So you you keep you keep working. Did you ever have that fear of something bad that could happen to you? Yeah, a few times. I mean I went to I went to Iraq when, a year after we invaded IRACS, I think by having years ago, that was right as Saddam Hussein. I had done a piece about Saddam Hussein's son, who day, who was the chairman of the Iraqi Olympic Committee, and when he was in power the basement of the Iraqi Olympic Committee building was a thirtell torture chamber, where if he sent you to the Olympics and said I you know, Dave, looking at you, buddy, I think you're the the third best shot putter in Asia and when you go to the Asian championships, don't come back finishing any worse than third, right, and if you came back with a fourth you go to the Torture Chamber. And that was his model of leadership, right was that was the way that to inspire the best and to do that story. I went to several countries and track down Iraqi athletes who had who had escaped, and they showed me their scars and they told me their stories. And so a year later, US had invaded Iraq and Saddam was dead, the the sons of the sons were dead and we are Saddam had been captured, but now get killed, but the sons were dead. And I was in because that was the first year two thousand and four that a free Iraqi team was going to go to the Olympics and I was there to travel with them as they were preparing to go participate in an Olympics without threat of torture. And you know, but...

...don't put your INTERAC and there are roadside bombs going off. And you know, though, I was in a compound, there was a rockets being shot by insurgents over the over the walls into the compound. And Yeah, it's just there were moments where you you found yourself thinking this is for a sports story. That's exactly what I was just going to answer, but at the end of the day, you know, it was compelling and interesting and all things I did before I had children. Right. So when was the first time you wrote a book, like you go to San Antonio. What was the what was the first book you wrote and when was that? So first book I wrote I was working for the newspaper here in Florida that and and I had done a I had I had arranged a little bit of opportunity that every so I was I covered politics for the newspaper, but half of every year I would take off to take to tackle some crazy assignment, try something new. In one of those half years I went to Afghanistan and traveled with the Mujahadin when they were fighting the Soviets. Again, I know, sounds crazy. In one of those half years I travel able to look at the best schools in America to find out what they had in common. Right. And one of those half years I took off and investigated the NCAA like they investigate universities. Like I want to understand what was their process, who were the people that were behind their investigations? What were what were their activities like? How did they spend their money? You know, and and so I. Anytime you investigate the investigators, you generally find a pretty good there's always there's always an audience for it, because all the people who hate the NCAA. We're going to read it all right and be that. You know, there are a lot of people who didn't know if they'd hate the NCAA that might be interested in what you're writing. And that series of stories for the newspaper get ultimately opened up my first ever book deal. And you know, company paid me FIVEZERO dollars to write a book and I thought I was rolling in it like it and cash, but it all down the floor and ones and let me roll and and. But it was my first opportunity and it really kind of taught me that I didn't fully appreciate how much harder it is to go long form and maintain people's attention for two hundred eighty pages. It's hard, right, and they're very few stories worthy of that. And so, which I have sense weird because you walk into bookstore and you're going cats crazy. But for every book that's published there are fifty that get turned down. So it's a it's a really neat process. And and now this fall book number twenty nine comes out. For me, just crazy. What was the first book again? So it was called undue process. The NCAA's injustice for all the Tai Looking it tells you where I stood on the issue. Right, I did. They like being investigated. They're usually the ones investigating. I still don't get an invitation to go to the final four, let's just put it that way. Anything. And that was twenty five years ago, right. I mean there's still people there. I think I'm still in dark boards there, which is cool. So you wrote your first book, you're still working in a newspaper. You're doing sports and news. Yeah, and major stories that are happening in our country. All right, that seems pretty interesting. Most people are just in one or the other. You've seen right, kind of combined both. It's because I was so I love politics. I mean I live today in Tallahassee, Florida, in part because I...

...love politics and I you know, I look at politics and sports in a lot of the same ways. Right there, there's a winner and a loser at the end of every at the end of everything, strategy is incredibly important. Creating culture is really dynamic and then and then more and more these days it's all full contact. So you know, basically it's the same thing, right, right. But yeah, so I my passions have always kind of run in both directions. So I've kind of always done everything I can to keep my fingers in both pies. How do you feel about the athlete becoming more involved in politics now? So, look, I mean I think part of what makes America great is the ability for all. I mean, what, what are men and women dying on battlefields for? Right? It's for a freedom of expression, it's for willing scorn, ability to to to agree and disagree right at the key to all of it, in my opinion, is can we can we do it more respectfully of each other? And I think unfortunately at every extreme it's not. It's not as respectful as it once was. I think people are looking for at any and in some ways the best way to show to show we nothing can be just done right. It has to be done and amplified, and the best way to amplify things sometimes just to try to create almost showman like efforts around it and instead of just disagreeing, let's let's or even seeking compromise, let's let's let's try to do what we can to make everybody in some ways even criticize the other side. And I so I'm all for athletes having any using a platform just as much as any other profession writers drunk. But what I what I struggle with, is disrespectful use of the platform and and I and I see that far too often these days. Have you spend time on a campaign trail as a journalist? I did. Yeah, I've done well, and not lately, but yes, I did. And I covered three presidential elections where I one of which I actually traveled with every candidate from both parties like they're in the primary, which was a lot of fun because you get a chance to see Ya. You know I wa very well. I do know I very well. Yes, I've. I've been to many a county fair. There, baby, I've. I've eaten a lot of fried butter, or whatever the help ever fried butter, fried sneakers, right those, you name it, they fry it. Would electioneer was at. So the first one I did was eighty eight. I did ninety two and ninety six. So, yeah, and it was that was enough, right. You said enough, back to sports writing and get away from that politics. Yeah. So so then you've written. You're on your twenty nine book now, which is amazing. I'll tell you. How long does it usually take you to write a book like is it been a big variable or is it pretty similar year? So it's about a year. So, but you know, some come together more quickly because the events, you know, the precipitate of the book like say, do it fast, right, I mean be as deep as you can. When the Duke Lacrosse, you know, scandal occurred. You know I was...

...engaged in the deal. Was Hey, you know, how quickly can you get in there, get people a trust, you get people tell you their stories and and turn something around. So you know, but there was a one little five year winter side I had a maybe one of the most impactful books I had the chance was, you remember Walter Payton. Obviously, Walter was dying and he wanted he wanted to write her to live with him so we could tell his story, and he hired me to live with them and so I live with Walter for the last ten weeks of his life. Well, was there the morning he died and just it was this. It's impacted me in a great right way because I might he was my hero right, grown up like it's the guy that I mean, and and then to like be invited in. He was forty six right when he died, and so I actually couldn't see myself doing that, throwing myself that deeply into another human again for a while. Yeah, and so I didn't do a book for several years and then I got a phone call from representatives of Tim McGraw, the Country Music Singer, and his dad was dying also, is dad was dying of a brain tumor and in there kind of decisions about how to what to do in this one, they reached out to some other folks, including Connie Peyton, and you know, one of the things that came up was that in some way having this writer in their kind of myths have been helpful and conversation, and so I got the opportunity to work with Tim and his father. It was so backtoback books, like I was brought into work with people who already knew they were passing when I got engaged and to really, really impactful opportunities. Did you encounter some resistance from some of the family members because of the privacy issues, or was it we pretty welcome? You know, I think you always encounter issues at the beginning and then if people grow to understand your heart and realize that, you know, I'm only here because someone's asked me to be. I'm and I will be as respectful as as as I can, understanding the circumstances and bringing empathy to everything I do. And Yeah, and ultimately in both cases, I mean I still stay very, very close with Connie and and Brittany and Jarrett, you know, Walter's two children. I still stay for a while. I served on Tim and Tugs Charity Board after tug past. I stay close, you know, just, yeah, you grow after a while. I think if they see your heart right, they realize you're you're there because you care, not just because you're going to profit from it, right, and and then you and then relationships blossom that are pretty cool. And I assume that your CQ takes a while there too, because you don't want to, you know, overstep your bounds and then you have to kind of build that relationship before you really want to pull that thread. Now some of the well, and I think that is I think that's the heart of Q, right a is knowing when to ask the curious question. If you ask it to early, it's not a good question, even if you know could be the best question in the world. Asked the wrong time and it takes you nowhere. So, but it's just amazing to me that, you know, nobody was going to block into...

Walter Payton in a week and say ask any of the questions that you probably were able to ask him because ten weeks spending that time, it just proved to them that you know, we will tell him anything. And for you to spend ten weeks that's amazing. That's like true to meet journalism, reporting and understanding of what it means to tell the story and and you know, it's an honor. I mean I Brittany payting just was asked recently to was asked the question about the book and about the experience and and you know, and she said, Gosh, it's coming up on twenty years since her dad died in this November and and she said, Don this became part of our family and I thought that's like right, choke chefil bed right, pretty cool. No, I agree. So you just wrote a recent book you sent us about Joe. So how was that like? So, you know, joe is just a big, bigger than life figure. That had to be like a totally different way to look at it. And and I'm really interested to see how your brain was working with Joe. Did you know him previous to that did not. I had a mutual friend introduced US and and and so the crazy part was, you know, joe, though he hasn't run from the limelight, kind of after the Susie colber incident on the sideline of ESPN, didn't seek it like he used to, and so he but he also went into Rehab and went and, you know, hasn't touched a drop about all since that night. So he is. But his story of healing himself from me's worked on the concussion front, you know, with he's doing some incredible things with hyperbaric treatment and what it has done for him. I mean I've seen the brain scans, what it's done for him, his belief in that, in that model of treatment. So really what happened was the I started talking to to Joe, had dinner with them a couple times and and his agent and some other people and kind of proposed an idea around. He's iconic, but he had to at some states heal himself and the truth is all of us have to do that at some stage or all of us go through something in life where we have to heal ourselves. Most of us don't do it on a stage like his or with a backdrop like his, and I mean you imagine sitting in an AA meeting with Joe Damon Right, you know? And so it was. It was really he's just an amazing human and the opportunity to get a chance to not tell the story of flash and flamboyants, which is there because you have to write, but tell the story of his journey to heal himself is really what makes the story special and what's making it it's what makes me feel as I do about Joe Right, because that's a hard thing, easy thing to do. Say, man, I am I'm awesome, like I'm so awesome. Everybody should continue to remember I'm awesome and if you don't remember, let me tell you. I'm awesome right. Instead, Joe's like, man, I'm troubled and how how do I find my way? And he his journeys really pretty cool. Yeah, I heard him on Howard Stern and that interview, which was great, and he talked about how he went from drinking alcohol. Is New vice is eating...

...ice cream and he lost weight eating ice cream. It's like, oh, that's the only person I've ever heard of losing weight eating ice cream because o that tells you how much alcohol and how much I was drinking right right there. Yeah, you know, I didn't. You know was great was. You know Howard Stern is going to ask the questions. He probably has a Cq like yours, right, he's going to ask those questions that are hitting at the right time. And Joe was not afraid. Joe Spoken Truth and which was great and I love to hear it. Well, but that's the cool part, right. I mean about being seventy five. Well, we're working on it, or coming up on seventy five, is it? He's hit that place in his life where he can he can say what he needs to say and do it authentically and and not worried about you sitting in judgment of him because he's Joe naming right. So you've had all these best sellers. You've written many, many books. Out of all of your books, where do you rank them? Like, Hey, this is one that I've just I could go back and read again and again. If you're in an island and you'd take one of your yes, you're back in Hawaii, you're going to give it to you know, a little down and say I want you to read this book. Is a great book. So, first off, do you have multiple children? Yes, okay, so if you are on an island he had to pick one, you would do what? I don't know. Well, that's our daughter. Our daughter always shout out at Younor that savors. Then it goes to Gabe. I don't know. So no, but I understand how your say the way, I'm really glad to know you're like the first father I've ever met who had the guts to actually say to start naming him in order. And I hope your children don't watch this anytimes. They know, they know we mess with him all the time. So you're actually people. So so it's tough to do that, but I would tell you because I because I'd always mean. I had a had a someone who I respect greatly, an author friend of mine, who said my favorite book is the one I'm working on today. Just you know, it's Cheesy, right, but it put it better, because if it's not, you're in trouble because it you know, you get to believe that every time you're trying to find something new and get better. But I had an opportunity in number of years ago to work with John Wooden. Yeah, where for every other month for twelve years I flew to California for a day with John Wooden and just to learn from him and my and I and my responsibility was to come prepared with questions, to learn, not to it was not a writing assignment, it was not a you know, it's just it was pure straight up opportunity to learn and and I'm kind of riven by that. You know, love learning, and so coach would gave me that chance and ultimately we wrote a book together, came out on his ninety nine birthday as last boat, last book written by John Wooden, for he died about mentoring. And so to me, if I had to hand my son a book and say here's what I if I could have you read one book could be. It's a book in which John Wouldn't explores the the the seven menors of his life, right, the people who shaped who he would become, and then the seven and seven people whose lives he changed by mentoring them, and the eighth, you know, unset in the book, is me right, and so it was kind of a cool thing to be able to kind of show the power of what mentoring means when we do it right and you mentor now right. You. You go into companies and you help mentor executives and help them understand what it means to be to have leadership and to be a leader, because I think a lot of executives don't really understand what that means. Yeah, now, it's a big and it is a big, big deal to do that. So it's kind of an exciting part of what think. I think they're they're walking in the back of the room there and then. But yeah, I do a lot of men coaching and mentoring even today.

Well, that that is great. Probably use a lot of the stuff you learned from coach wooden in the in those talks. Absolutely and every and every one of them. You know, if you if you want to be a coacher mentored by me, you better be ready to enter to listen to a few John Wooden ISMs right now. That's that's great. So we're definitely going to have to read that book gave Dave because we have to really bring this show it to the next level, increase our CQ. Yes, definitely. So, Don before we go, we do one last little segment. It's called the no huddle and it's a two minute drill and we ask you some questions. You give us quick answers, long answers, doesn't matter. But so we really like to go through these and asks kind of some more fun stuff so that Dave always starts off to day once you start. Okay, Don if you could trade places with anyone in history for a day, who would that be? Anyone in history for a day, whoever served as assistant to Mother Teresa. Like I would be fascinated how anybody can have the heart to do what you did every day and those conditions. That's great. It's really good answer. All right. So what is your biggest pet peet? Biggest pet peeve is, oh my gosh, people who drive slow in the fast line, that gussle. I hear that. I hate that to it's the word war. Or, secondarily, people who were getting off an airplane and decide, at the top of the walkway, but before they've exited into the terminal, to stop and check their phone or do something like hilt and like. Be Aware, be aware that that there's a whole line of US trying to get past you, and I know that's important whatever you're doing, but that facebook post will be there when you get off, when you take eight more steps go. Yeah, we just want to get off this tin can. Let us like, if you could go back in time and tell a young Don yeager one thing, what would that be? Be More patient. I was always in a hurry, like I wanted the next big job, the next big title, the next big assignment at every I mean at every juncture, and and it probably it served me poorly in other importions of my career that today I can take it took me until recently to fully appreciate. I've literally called editors in the last couple of years, you know, with whom I had falling out spenty years ago, to just reckon say hey, I've recognized that. I Apologize Right now that it's dead as wonderful. I've done that with a few coaches and it's hard. Yeah, so you've your you've been a sports writer, you've been to many, many sporting events. What is your favorite sports venue that you've ever been to? The Kentucky Derby. It's the greatest people watching, like if you are if you're able to just, you know, enjoy the sporting into it. But again, the best part is the sports is like two minutes right, right. But and then there's all the time in between those two minutes and just enjoy the people watching and I love to look at folks at ask what they saw in the mirror that morning. That's pretty good that. I love doing it. Are Hats. Yes, I think when you go to busy airport and it just and you're looking at all the different people, you're like, I just you know, this world is me up of like there's not one person. It looked the same in this whole airport and I'm sure the Kentucky Derby's lot. I just got back from the beach and I was asking that too, from some of the stuff you see on the beach. What about the most overhyped thing in sports today? Most overhyped thing in sports today, I...

...think it's the it's the culture we've created that everything has to be analyzed immediately. You know. It's the sense that the second a trade is announced, a winner and loser has to also be announced. Right. We've never seen either either of these players now play with their new franchises. They could be amazing and you have no idea, I mean, but why everything has to be immediately analyzed is to me. Maybe I may not answer your question, but it's one of those things. That drives me crazy. Why we have that need for immediate assessment of everything is is crazy to me. All right, done. If we were going through your cell phone and we said we had to find the most famous person in your cell phone, who would that be? Oh, Gosh, shack, maybe Snoop Dogg. I don't know. If you say, you could call you the one of them right now and they'd say hey, down, what's up, shack? All Right, um on. You've written a series of books with Brian Killmead, and you can you tell us one thing that we may not know about Brian Kill me that might surprise the general public? He is he is the most selfdeprecating human being I've ever worked with. Like I love his ability to laugh at himself and and that's pretty fun. Like, I'm out, like that's a that's a trait I love in people and it's what attracted me to him. That's an important quality that it got. If you just show have he shows a video every once a while when he's speaking to people, in which you know it's a young Brian Kill Mead and he's on he's somewhere and whoever it is, it's in the studio. Says, and we have Brian Kincaid down there at the you know, but like totally calls a and by like the wrong name multiple times. He's trying to and and so you know, Brian Kill me signing off right at the end, but he did. He just left trying to make sure the guy back there gets it. And Anyway, you have to have a little bit of that. They spelled my name wrong in my Pro Bowl Jersey. So you know, it's like everybody's like, why did you get a change? I'm like, it's the day of the game. I see my jersey, it has my name spelled wrong, and what am I gonna do? I can't, like we're in Hawaii, they're not shipping it back. So you do have to laughter yourself and have a great sense of humor. But I hope we kind of gave you an idea a different kind of interview and I hope you had fun today on Huddle up and thank you for being in a huddle with us. I did. Thank you very much for inviting me in.

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