A group of remarkable Texan outdoorsmen and women who stand together and tell their stories about the place that has given so much. We hope they will inspire Texans to get involved.
JT Van Zandt
JT Van Zandt is the oldest son of singer-songwriter Townes Van Zandt. In the aftermath of his father’s death, numerous competing interests vied to define his legacy, but for JT, the best way to honor his father’s spirit is by finding and protecting harmony in nature. As a longtime fly-fishing guide who specializes in red fishing on the Texas coast, JT is dedicated to protecting natural resources so that his children can experience the same magic he did as a young man.
Matt Morris grew up in the Chihuahuan Desert, where the landscape inspired a love for hiking and trail running. Now a yoga teacher, he enjoys leading students through both challenging and restorative practices that explore the mind-body connection, breath awareness and the extension of yogic principles from the mat and into the world. Having struggled with a debilitating disease for many years, Matt credits yoga, trail running, and time in the Franklin Mountains for his recovery.
Thomas Flemons is a lifelong outdoorsman with a passion for kayaking Texas rivers. Once a mortgage loan officer constrained to a world of ties and cubicles, Thomas began selling kayaks as an independent rep in 2006. Eventually, he and college friend Jay Korbell started working on a way to improve the 4,000-year-old Inuit technology still found in today’s kayaks, and Diablo Paddlesports was born.
Jorge Avalos served in the US Army for 23 years, retiring in 2015. During his deployment to Iraq, an IED hit Jorge’s vehicle and he was later diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder. In 2011, while still on active duty, an injury during a skydiving demonstration caused a partial amputation to his left leg and left him paralyzed from the waist down. During his recovery, Jorge picked up cycling as a part of his rehabilitation. Despite being hit by a truck while cycling in 2012, Jorge continues to be an avid bike enthusiast.
For El Paso native Xochitl Rodriguez, art is “about creating a moment in somebody’s life instead of a thing for someone.” A multitalented performer, she was Bhutan’s first-ever invited artist in residence. Having since returned to El Paso, Xochitl co-founded the Caldo Collective, a nonprofit aimed at creating experiences that allow community and artists to come together. She now enjoys a life driven by family, community organizing, triathlon training, and a relentless desire to show her daughter just how big and breathtaking the world can be.
Chuck Naiser is widely regarded as one of the most accomplished and revered fly-fishing guides in Texas. Former vice-president of the Gulf Coast Conservation Association (now known as CCA) and avid proponent of coastal conservation, Chuck was inducted in the Perry R. Bass Memorial Sports Fishing Wall of Fame in 2011.
Jordan Shipley’s career has taken him from the Friday night lights to the pre-dawn light of a South Texas deer blind. A high school and later college football star, Jordan’s NFL career was cut short due to injury. Now he is taking full advantage of his love of the outdoors as a spokesman for YETI, co-host of “The Bucks of Tecomate” on the Outdoor Channel and a member of the Dullnig Ranches team.
Leon McNeil is a teacher and nonprofit leader from San Antonio who has dedicated his life’s work to making a difference in the lives of young people who need all the help they can get. A native son of San Antonio’s urban core, Leon had a rough childhood. When he left town thanks to a football scholarship to Abilene Christian University, some teammates introduced him to the world of hunting and fishing. Today, Leon and his wife run City Kids Adventures, a San Antonio nonprofit that introduces urban kids to outdoor experiences.
Adrian Sabom is a South Texas native who spent her childhood on a working cattle ranch on the Nueces Strip. As an adult, Adrian has spent three decades volunteering her time and resources in support of applied wildlife research in South Texas with the Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute. Adrian is a lifelong quail hunter and proud mother of two.