When Greg Hackney stepped to the microphone last night to accept the 2014 B.A.S.S. Angler of the Year Award, he used the limelight to honor the crowd of anglers against whom he fishes.
"Honestly, for me, what a humbling experience," Hackney began. "I've dreamed of this my whole childhood. I just had no idea I could ever stand in front of this bunch of fishermen. It is the most-humbling thing ever."
He went on to discuss the challenges of the pro circuit as only Hackney can.
"Fishing has always been fun to me, and then I got to fish against this bunch," he said, his trademark smirk slipping onto his face. "And they have a tendency to take the fun out of it, to some extent.
"You know, people go fishing ever day, and they're like, 'Man, I had a great day fishing.' Until they fish against this bunch."
Hackney, who lives in Gonzales and serves as the host of Sportsman TV, is fishing his 12th Bassmaster Classic this week at Lake Hartwell along the Georgia/South Carolina border.
He said the Bassmaster Elite Series anglers with whom he travels the country are role models to him.
"This whole group up here, these are my heros," he said. "You know, I've watched these people my whole life, and to have the opportunity to stand up here and say, 'Hey, man, last year, I was that guy.' I don't really know what to say.
"I'm in awe."
Of course, he did poke fun at some of his fellow pros.
"I sit at the table with Kevin VanDam — (who) I was impressed with before I fished professionally, but after fishing professionally and seeing what people go through to do this, I'm like, 'The dude is not human," Hackney said to rolling laughter. "I mean Aaron Martens who won last year, I mean, this whole room — Skeet Reese, (Michael) Iaconelli's sitting right there, looking like a young Abe Lincoln."
But he quickly turned serious again, telling how watching Rick Clunn win the 1984 Bassmaster Classic spawned his determination to fish for a living.
"It's a dream come true, and to have the opportunity to stand up in front of you — it's a dream come true," Hackney said. "I, I, it's like a dream come true. I don't know what to say. I really don't.
"I am, without a doubt, living the American dream. I get to fish for a living. Only in America can you do that."
He closed out by again honoring his competitors.
"I honestly think y'all are the greatest group of people that ever walked the planet," Hackney said. "I watch all sports ... and we are, without a doubt, we are professionals. We do things that nobody else can do. We deal with weather — we're going to do it this week — that nobody else has to deal with. Hours of it. Not three hours — we don't play a three-hour game. We play a four-day game or a three-day game; we spend eight hours out there in the weather.
"I just have the utmost respect for the people in this room. We are the American dream."
Click here to watch the full speech.