Back in college, I became a huge fan of the show Duck Commander. I had a great Duck Commander hat that I wore often but within the first week of my rookie year with the Braves in 2004, I lost it. I googled the show to find some way of contacting them to ask how to get a replacement for the hat and, expecting to speak to a receptionist or administrator, I was surprised to find myself talking to Jase Robertson himself!
Apparently, it was poker night at Phil’s house when I called. When Jase picked up, we started talking and I described the hat I had lost and asked if I could buy another. He told me they didn’t make that style anymore but he thought he might have one in the back of his shed that he could send me. He then asked me who I was and I told him, “My name is Adam LaRoche, I play for the Atlanta Braves,” to which he replied, “We’re all Braves fans here and we’ve never heard of you.” I laughed and told him no one had heard of me, it was my first week. He then put the phone down, asked around to confirm his statement and came back to say, “Yep, no one’s heard of you.”
A few weeks later Jase and his family ended up driving to Atlanta and stayed with me and my family for a few days. We really hit it off and within the next year, I was introduced to Willie who soon had the idea for Buck Commander.
Being on a show like this is not something I ever thought I would find myself doing. Willie and I didn’t know that Buck Commander would become big, we simply thought, “Man, if this gets our hunts paid for, great!” We just wanted to have fun doing what we love to do. Twelve years later, not only are we shooting Duck Commander and Buck Commander episodes, but also Strut Commander (hunting turkeys) and Fin Commander (Fishing). I myself am most involved with Buck Commander, which now has six owners—Ryan Langerhans and Tom Martin (former MLB players), Willie Robertson, and Luke Bryan and Jason Aldean (country music artists).
This is an awesome group of guys. We’ve seen God use this show as way more than a recreational hobby for us, instead, this has become more and more of a thriving ministry. I don’t even know how many guys we’ve seen give their lives to the Lord and be baptized in deer camp over the years! When we’re able to engage in life-changing Bible studies and watch men surrender to the Lord and turn their lives around, we understand what we’re here for and what our mission is.
I believe that you need to earn the right to share the weight of the Gospel with others. I’ve seen it done before—and have done it before myself—where it seems like Christians are trying to meet their quota for the day of how many people they need to talk to about Jesus but that’s not the way Jesus did His ministry! Instead, we need to show people that we genuinely care about them and that takes time. Anytime you get a group of amazing, godly men together like the Buck Commanders, more and more men are going to want to come around to be a part of it.
We see this all the time with our cameramen or employees, the best way to share the Gospel with people is by showing them instead of telling them. Because when you show them Christ’s love, they will soon come up and say, “Man, what’s different about you?” It’s then that I am able to say, “That ain’t me. Trust me, the real Adam wants to throw his helmet on the ground after a strikeout, snap after he misses a deer, or get impatient with people. That’s the human side of me, but I’ve got this thing called the Holy Spirit inside of me that is alive and it’s able to take over and empower me to do the right thing. It’s an extremely freeing and awesome gift!”
What many people may not know is that before Duck Commander was started, Phil was a total alcoholic. He owned a bar in Arkansas which he was eventually thrown out of because of misconduct, leading him to flee to Louisiana. There he met a guy who led him to the Lord and immediately, his life was turned upside down. Today, a lot of our employees are ex-addicts. Phil often brings guys in from right off the streets to share the Gospel and his own story with them. In a way, he’s turned this into a mini-rehab facility and as a result, these men have become long-term Duck and Buck Commander employees.
The Robertson family has a long history of taking in people who are down and out—the people who don’t have anybody that cares about them. They take guys and girls who are walking through life helpless and they pull them in to invest in them. Experiencing this type of selfless love has created the same passion in me to serve others. I’ve seen how effective and meaningful this can be and it’s contagious.
A few years ago we were looking to hire for a certain position for Buck Commander. I remember we had somewhere between 500-700 applicants and we ended up hiring one kid who you would have thought, when looking at his resume, he should have been one of the last 10 candidates chosen. He had just come out of prison, he was living in a halfway house, and his resume was empty, but he was hired. You would have thought this decision was just plain stupid but this man ended up turning his life around, surrendering to the Lord, and is now a motivational speaker in addition to his job at Buck Commander. His story is incredible; he can reach people who are in the same spot that he was once in himself. He shares Christ with others by leading a life that points back to Him.
“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for captives and release from darkness for the prisoners.” —Isaiah 61:1
That’s our mission with this ministry: to help the helpless and point people towards Christ.
Adam LaRoche is a former MLB player and a regular contributor to The Increase, providing monthly articles and opinions.