I got my first taste of paintball, literally, in 1990 at Sgt. Slaughter’s in Western Oklahoma. I was instantly hooked and immediately bought my first marker–a Gray Ghost–out of the back of his trunk. Over the next few years, I played as often as I could while attending college. The most incredible experience during that era was playing at an old, abandoned copper smelting plant that was affectionately nicknamed “Li’l Baghdad.” We even appeared in Paintball Sports magazine.
After college, the need for a steady paycheck took me far, far south, to a region where paintball was a foreign concept. Several years later, I once again found myself chasing a paycheck all the way across the country–this time to the Great White North of Chicago. One day I overheard some friends mention playing paintball in the woods behind the church, and, just like that, I was back in the game. I ran down to Dick's Sporting Goods and picked up a Tippmann 98-Custom. I grabbed my old JT XFire mask, threw on some old fatigues, and met them in the parking lot. It only took one game to familiarize myself with the small field. The second game I dropped down into a small creek, flanked around everyone else, and lit up the ones guarding the flag from behind. Before the rest could figure out what had happened, I had already slipped back back around with the flag and the victory. I had also earned my call sign "Grendel."
It didn't take long before I started dragging my friends to local fields. The first thing I discovered was that mainstream paintball was played by kids dressed in bright-colored, baggy clothes chasing each other around open arenas littered with inflatable wienies!?! “Old school” players such as myself who wore camouflage and preferred to sneak around in the brush were now referred to as “woodsballers.” Whatever it was called, the sport had gone mainstream during my long hiatus. Now, some fields even organized massive events that could attract hundreds of woodsballers to fight it out in "big-game scenarios". After our first big game across the border in Wiscosin, we agreed on modified BDUs as a uniform and adopted a flaming skull logo. The Hellions were born.
The following year several members moved away. I started recruiting online and at local fields. Within no time, I had formed a new crop of Hellions. We quickly coalesced and started winning awards such as Most Valuable Team and Most Valuable Player at regional scenario events, eventually securing a field sponsorship with CPX Sports—then known as Challenge Park Xtreme. CPX introduced the team to big-name corporate sponsorships such as Tippmann Sports. Within a couple of seasons, the Hellions were seen in numerous magazine advertisements, television programs and even painted on the side of the Tippmann semi trailer.
I stepped down in 2012 as the Team Captain due to the fact that my increasingly inflexible work schedule left little room to effectively manage team business. Since that time, the Hellions have continued to grow and expand and gain recognition at events around the country. Although I rarely have the opportunity to play, I still sometimes see my (masked) face in magazines, social media ads, and even on the side of the Tippmann trailer.