Why Phil Robertson of ‘Duck Dynasty’ Rejected the NFL: ‘Playing Football Was a Game; Hunting Was My Lifestyle’

You may know Phil Robertson from the TV show Duck Dynasty, but did you know he was an aspiring football star in his younger days? You haven’t heard of Robertson’s NFL career because it never happened. But why did he opt-out of a potentially lucrative football career? (He even played with Terry Bradshaw in college.) Let’s look at his playing days and why he called it quits.

Where did Phil Robertson play college football? 

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Robertson played for Louisiana Tech in the ’60s at a time when LSU was the biggest name in the state for college football. While Tech’s football program may not be a household name, they had another notable alum around the same time: future Steelers quarterback and Hall of Famer, Terry Bradshaw. Robertson was also a quarterback and reportedly had a rocket for an arm. 

According to Sports Illustrated, Robertson was ahead of the legendary QB on the depth chart. Robertson departed with a year of eligibility left. He said that many people were mystified at his decision to leave based on the fact that he was clearly very talented: 

“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…Because as it turns out, what am I talking about now?”

So why did Robertson leave? 

Why did Robertson opt-out of playing football? 

Phil Robertson
Reality TV star Phil Robertson | Jerry Markland/Getty Images for Texas Motor Speedway

Bradshaw later wrote in his autobiography that while Robertson was in fact ahead of him, he quit playing football because the sport interfered with his greatest passion: hunting season. Sports Illustrated details Bradshaw’s thoughts:

“The quarterback playing ahead of me, Phil Robertson, loved hunting more than he loved football … He’d come to practice directly from the woods, squirrel tails hanging out of his pockets, duck feathers on his clothes. Clearly, he was a fine shot, so no one complained too much.”

In this day and age, playing pro sports seems like it’d be the pinnacle of achievement for most young people. Even for the time, potential stardom on the gridiron seems like it would be difficult to pass up. So did Robertson make the right call? 

What did Robertson do instead of playing football? 

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Robertson pursued duck hunting and eventually invented a duck caller called the Duck Commander. He then became the star of the hit reality TV show Duck Dynasty. While the life of a superstar athlete seems hard to pass up, Robertson’s logic makes sense. He told ESPN that it was a stress issue: 

“The choice came down to me in the woods hunting ducks, or getting in a situation — a lifestyle — whereby large, violent men are paid huge sums of money to do one thing, and that’s stomp me in the dirt. I said, you know, I just think it would be less stressful to go after ducks.”

It’s difficult to argue with his reasoning. Robertson also seems like he made the right move financially. FanBuzz reports that Bradshaw has a net worth of $20 million while Robertson’s net worth is reportedly around $15 million. But think of it in these terms: What are the odds Robertson would’ve an NFL career like Bradshaw?

No matter how talented a player is, it takes a tremendous amount of luck (not to mention skill, hard work, and dedication) to make it at an elite level. It takes even more to make the Hall of Fame. There is no question Robertson made the correct call by pursuing what he really loved.