Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Interview with a Panther


In his rookie season, Carolina Panthers’ Tre’von Boston proved he is one of the best Safeties in the NFL. Taking over the starting slot halfway through the season, Tre made several big plays including an interception returned for a touchdown against the Atlanta Falcons, and another game clinching interception the following week against the Arizona Cardinals in postseason play. 

I was making arrangements to interview Tre, a Ft Myers native and avid angler, when we began talking about kayaks. “Man, I’d like to try out one of those Hobies you are always riding in” Tre confessed. In a couple of minutes, the conversation turned to planning a demo day for Tre and his mom, the beautiful Iris De Hoyos. A quick call to Jim VanPelt and our local Hobie dealer, Estero River Outfitters, and we had a date.

Tre, was this your first time fishing from a kayak?

It was, it was. I really enjoyed myself. I respect people who come out here and do this, it was way more of a workout than I thought it would ever be. 

Yeah, it was a little tough today. What did you think of the mirage drive?

Oh, yeah, when we finally put the drive in, thats when I knew we were in my comfort zone right there. When I got up this morning I didn't know I was going to have a workout. Then you throw the peddles in there and I'm doing some cardio and legs

Well, we have to keep you healthy!

(laughing) I appreciate it! Haha!

You grew up here in Southwest Florida and you like to fish. What kind of fish do you normally target?

Lets see, largemouth bass, trout, reds are usually what we look for. When we get bored I don't mind jacks and catfish on a light rod! really anything that swims!

So, whats the biggest fish you have ever caught?

Well, let me think. I caught a shark, I think it was a nurse shark about 4 feet, that was pretty big. I’ll take that anytime. It was right off the shore on Ft Myers Beach. 

Interviewing a Carolina Panther

Now we were trying out kayaks today and you had the chance to peddle, paddle and fish. What did you think of the fishability factor of the kayak?

When I am home my mom and I go fishing a lot. We don't usually fish on boats, just sticking to shore. Sometimes there are fish just out from where we are, so yeah, I think this is cool. It was fun getting out there, and to get the workout with it was, you know, an added bonus. To actually get to work out and have fun fishing at the same time was amazing!

Did you notice that Jim VanPelt didn't catch any fish today?

(laughing) Wellll, I don't know if I really noticed that, I was pretty far away from him. I heard he may have caught one, I’m not sure. Or maybe he was just snagged. But I’m telling you now, the way I was bringing them in today was ridiculous! 

Jim VanPelt: (laughing) I have video of you catching nothing and I’m going public!!

You were raised in Ft Myers and went to North Ft Myers High School. As you were growing up here, what did you enjoy most about living here in Southwest Florida?

Weather! Living up north, well as far north as North Carolina, you really miss the weather down here. It’s never really winter down here. This morning I came out wearing a hoodie and right away I took it off. Up in North Carolina I would have been wearing it all day. 

Tre Boston in a Hobie Revo

Yeah, I lived in Carolina for years and I know how cold it gets up there. While you were at UNC, you played a Safety position, something you carried on in the pros with the Panthers. Do you have any interest in playing any other position, either offense or defense?

You know, I can do it all, in high school I played all positions. I don't have any ambitions of switching up in the league, but if they ever wanted to put me on offense as a receiver, I wouldn't mind. You know, just throwing a hint out there. Haha.

Most Pro Football players have a driving force shaping their early careers, someone who inspires them. Is there someone who helps to keep you going?

Uh, that has to be Roman Harper. He's going into his 10th year this year and he has just been so much fun to be around. He has been a veteran leader for me to talk to every day and just be around teaching me and helping me out. Roman Harper has just been a savior for me.

While playing the Atlanta Falcons, you made an amazing interception, returning it for a touchdown. Afterwards I read that you actually predicted it was going to happen. Is that true?

That was kinda crazy, we had a lot of time to rest and sleep in that day, I think till like noon. Coach let us sleep and I was just dreaming away. I dreamed I would get a pick 6, Roman Harper too. I got on the last bus that morning, we usually get on the last bus together, and I just told him, “Hey, I’m really feeling this for us”. Of course you’ll go out on a limb and say stuff like that to get fired up, but to go out and do it! It was kinda funny because there were a couple people around when I said it so it just took off.

Tre with a "pick 6"

Does the NFL have any orientation programs for guys new to the League coming from college to help ease the transition?

Oh yeah, we have the Rookie Symposium that we all go to after the draft. All the drafted players go to it, and they have this thing with ex-pro players who kinda tell us what to look out for and what we are about to go through. Hopefully you hook up with a mentor or a guide to help you along as well.

The NFL from time to time comes under fire for the behavior of some of the players. Do you think there is a real problem or do these incidents become big news because of the high profile of the athletes?

Well, I guess the high profile thing has a lot to do with it. Nobody sees Joe Blow slapping someone at the club you know, nobody is going to look at that. But if it’s an NFL player, it’s in the news. It’s someone you can put on the news and get your ratings up, know what I mean? It seems like it happens a lot, so is it a problem? That’s something for the NFL to decide.

You played for the University of North Carolina and now the Carolina Panthers. What do you like  most about living in North Carolina?

Man, you got beautiful scenery for one thing. You gotta love the people. North Carolinians are nice people, loving, good people. I don't think I have ever run across a rude person there. They are good folks and everyone is good to each other. They are also the world’s greatest fans! 

Now, I happen to know your biggest fan. Your mom is obviously your greatest fan, how much of an influence was she in shaping you for your future NFL career?

She was a huge influence. When I was growing up, she pretty much forced me to play football. I really wanted to be a basketball player. I wanted to be Michael Jordan, but my mom chose a different path for me and I am glad she did. I played football and became really good at it. Now I’m on my way so I guess she was a really good influence and I am thankful for everything she's gone through as well. 

Tre's biggest fan, Iris De Hoyos

Well, (laughing) my mom forced me to eat brussel sprouts and it didn't do a thing for me. Speaking of moms, your mom, Iris De Hoyos, is right here. Lets ask her a question. When Tre was growing up was he ever a problem child?

(Iris) He was a social butterfly which was great, but it was really interesting. I would get called into his school a lot. I didn't mind at all because there is a lot of other worse things he could have been. Being very social is one of the things that lead him to be who he is today, a leader and a team player. Thats what I love most about him. He’s a motivator.

At what age did you realize he was potentially a pro football player?

(Iris) I knew he was going to be a pro athlete when he was 6 years old. Actually, I knew he was athletic at 6 months because he was walking! That was scary for me. The doctor thought I was crazy because I kept taking him back in because having an infant walking is scary! He was jumping all the time, he still does and has a great vertical leap. So I guess I always knew and its just great to finally see it happen. 

Ok Tre, I just have one more quick question. What did you think of that last play call during the Superbowl?

Haha! I mean if you have Marshawn Lynch, you have to run him. He only had to run a few feet! Haha!

My new fishing buddy!

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Osceola National Forest, Florida's Gateway Gem

The Osceola National Forest is located just North of Lake City Florida. Established in 1931, the forest is made up of approximately 200,000 acres of pine flatwoods and cypress hardwood swamps. There are a wide range of opportunities for outdoor adventures such as camping, hiking, swimming, fishing, hunting, wildlife viewing and much more. 

Morning mist in the pine flatlands

I have spent a lot of time hiking and driving through this forest and still have not seen it all. A 23 mile section of the Florida National Scenic Trail meanders its way through the area as well as sections of the Great Florida Birding Trail. Many miles of sandy roads criss-cross the forest offering access to anyone.

A redheaded woodpecker observes observers

A red cockaded woodpecker nesting tree

This is one of the best areas to view the endangered Red-Cockaded Woodpecker and their unique nesting habits. These rare birds prefer old growth long leaf pine with an open understory to construct their nests. They find trees which are hollow but retain a healthy outer layer. Over the course of a few months to several years, they excavate a nesting hole and bore small holes around the entrance. This causes the tree to excrete sap, creating a white, waxy and sticky barrier that keeps predators like snakes from entering the nest. They are facing extinction due to loss of habitat and there may be less than 10,000 left in the wild.

Lone sentinel at Ocean Pond

Fishing in the forest

In addition to Ocean Pond, a 1760-acre natural lake, the Osceola Forest is dotted with small ponds and borrow-pits throughout. These offer great fishing locations as well as local swimming holes. Camping is allowed anywhere in the forest except during hunting season. There is a designated campground on Ocean Pond that offers waterfront sites allowing guests to enjoy the water or fish right from their campsite. A beach area, boat ramp, drinking water, hot showers and restrooms are located in the campground.

Olustee canon

The forest is also home to the Olustee Battlefield Historic State Park. The Battle of Olustee was fought on the afternoon of February 20th, 1864 and was the largest battle fought in Florida during the Civil War. 5,500 Union and 5,000 Confederate troops met in a vicious contest that claimed over  2,000 lives, making this the second bloodiest battle of the War for the Union. The battle was historically significant because the Union losses caused Northern authorities to question the necessity of further Union involvement in the state of Florida.

Olustee Battlefield

The Osceola National Forest is truly a gem in the National Forest system. To get to the area, travel East from Lake City on Highway 90 to the Ocean Pond and Olustee Battlefield area, or North on 441 and take one of the many access roads to the East.

Fishing afar

Mirror image

Seeing the forest for the trees