Words cannot express how excited I am to have this incredible opportunity to write my very first column ever and to do it with Status Fitness Magazine is just amazing. The most common question people ask me is “Dan what does BTO stand for in your company name BTO Performance”? Well, this is a long story but I will do my best and keep it short but in the process hope to inspire many people in this column.
What most people don’t know about me is that I not only played professional football on and off for 10 years in the Canadian Football League ( CFL ) and the National Football League ( NFL ) but I beat all odds to get there. You see I never played a down of university football and without that, the odds of making a professional football team is about 1 out of a million.
After high school, I didn’t know what to do with my life I didn’t have a direct path to choose I was an athlete my whole life I excelled at soccer, hockey and football. I spent my first 2 years after high school at a local college taking different courses but honestly, none of them appealed to me. During this time, I knew one thing that I still loved to do and that was kicking the football.
In my 3rd year of college, I met a professor who knew me from high-school football and introduced himself to me he was shocked I wasn’t going to University to kick somewhere. I told him straight out I didn’t have the marks so I guess the dream was over before it could start. He very quickly said to me that he could have me at a free agent tryout next week in Toronto in the CFL. Of course, without hesitation I said I’m in! The following week I found myself among 25 of the best kickers in college football along with a former CFL kicker all looking for the opportunity to get into camp with the Argonauts. You see at the time if you had $60 anyone could try out for any CFL team but if you are lucky 1 out of 500 guys will get picked to go camping. On this day, I went 22 of 22 in field goals I was the most accurate kicker of the 25 kickers that day. Right after our workout the head Canadian scout came to me and said how impressed he was with me he told me he would call me the next day and give me all the details. He had one question for me though where did I play my college football. I told him high-school football sir that’s it. His face dropped. Well, the next day came and went so did the next 2 weeks so I finally made the decision to call him. It was simple with no college experience or video of game action no team will sign you.
Knowing this now I made the decision I needed an alternate route. I decided to play minor League football to get game film and experience. After every season I would make a highlight tape along with a resume and send it to every CFL team, every NFL team, every arena football league team and even the World League. From there I would travel all over Canada and the United States and went to as many free agent camps as I could. I repeated this process for 9 years I dedicated my 20’s to chasing my dream. I worked part-time in a grocery store to pay my phone bills, sending out my VHF tapes and gas money to travel. In my 9 years chasing my dream I went to 131 free agent camps. In those 131 free agent camps I went number 1 130 times but no college experience no opportunity.
Finally, in 1998, I signed with a CFL team the Saskatchewan Roughriders. The story went everywhere all local papers grabbed my interview the dream was finally here or was it? On my travelling day leaving for Saskatchewan my girlfriend ( now my wife Christina) drove me to the airport to see me off. I remember sitting on the plane and over the intercom, a stewardess called for passenger Dan Giancola to go back out to boarding. I walked off the plane and the stewardess informed me that the Saskatchewan Roughriders no longer needed my service their kicker has returned to the team. I was devastated.
I returned home the next day that night I went back out with my minor League team to practice as always and the looks my teammates gave me just buried me looking at me as if to say ” ya ok buddy you signed with a pro team “! I drove home devastated. The next day I made the decision to go back to college but instead of going to class, I went to train in the gym. I was there for hours 5 to be exact my mind was spinning just questioning do I really have a chance at this dream or not? I remember walking down the stairs going down to take a shower and it was then I saw the gym coordinator putting a poster up on the billboard in the hallway for some reason it caught my attention. After my shower, I decided I wanted to see this poster so I walked over to it. The poster was a picture of an athlete doing a layup in basketball and the writing on it was and I quote 1 and 100,000 student-athletes with ever play a professional sport so stay in school. To say this poster crushed me is an understatement I needed to have it though. I tore it off the wall rolled it up put it in my gym bag and brought it home.
When I got home I went straight into the bedroom and took the poster out of my bag and put it up on my wall beside another poster I had at the end of my bed. The other poster was a football poster of a player getting tackled by another player and was entitled DETERMINATION “It’s not whether you get knocked down but whether you get back up again”! I loved this poster it kept me going every single time a team said no to me over 9 years chasing my dream. I would always say I’m entitled to feel the way I want to today but tomorrow is a new day.
That other poster got to me though when the odds were presented in front of me it got real. 1 and 100,000 student-athletes so what are my odds I’m not even a student-athlete. My first thought was maybe they are all right maybe it’s just a stupid dream that only happens for special people. I went back and forth from poster to poster and for some reason, I walked to my desk in my room and I pulled out my sharpie I walked up to the basketball poster and I remember repeating to myself ” Why does it always have to be someone else why not me ?” Over and over I said that and finally I walked up to the poster with my sharpie and I put a big X through 1 and 100,000 and I wrote: ” BE THAT ONE “!!! I made the decision right there I was going to BE THAT 1 in 100,000 and wasn’t going to stop until I got the opportunity! Bto Performance the Bto is BE THAT ONE now you know!
Fast forward to next year, I signed with the Toronto Argonauts I was nominated for rookie of the year special teams player of the year and Canadian player of the year I tied the league in scoring for most field goal attempts and fell 5 points shy of breaking the rookie scoring record. Following year I signed with the Buffalo Bills in the NFL and won 2 Grey Cups over my career. Not bad for a guy with no college experience.
I chose this story as my first column not to brag about myself but in hopes to inspire people to chase their dreams no matter how big or small they may be. Believe in yourself have a passion and love for what you do and believe me you nobody will ever tell this guy or you that dreams don’t come true I not only lived it on the football field but now again right here with you incredible readers an opportunity to have a column and to share with you all with Status Fitness Magazine.
I’ll leave this with you all “Why does it always have to be someone else why not you?” BE THAT ONE!!!