FORT WORTH — “A friend’s birthday party in 6th Grade is how I got my start and then just kind of fell in love with the game ever since.”
TJ Danner’s paintball discovery story sounds like most kids. They go to a party of some kind, play some paintball, then that’s the end of it. For TJ and 160 other pro paintballers, though, it was just the beginning, and the common theme is they can’t believe they’re doing this for a living.
“Never. Seriously, never,” said Russian Legion player Kirill Prihidni. “When I first joined it I was just very impressed by the goggles, by the markers that people were shooting each other. I had no idea it could happen like that.”
It just kind of took off, and I’m so happy it did,” added Edmonton Impact player Justin Cornell.
Some may be wondering what exactly is a pro paintballer.
“You can actually travel,” explained AC Dallas player Matthew “Fuzzy” Jackson. “Not necessarily make a living with it, but it’s a whole lot of fun.”
Yes, these guys aren’t just painting some pasture here locally. They’re painting the planet. We’re talking North and South America, Europe, Malaysia, Iceland, and others.
This weekend it was the biggest paintball tournament Texas has ever seen — 185 teams across multiple divisions all competing on the grounds of Texas Motor Speedway.
“I think a lot of its just life experiences,” Cornell said. “We get to travel around the world, we get to do what we love and don’t have to go to a desk job every day.”
Playing in the National XBall League is Cornell’s only job, but many of them do have to sit at a desk to make their money.
“I work as a supply chain analyst for a mineral mining company,” Danner said. “It’s almost like you live a double life. Nobody really knows what pro paintball is.”
No matter where they’re from or what they do off the field, there’s one key that keeps them coming back.
“Oh, it’s shooting people,” Prihidni laughed.
The home team, AC Dallas, finished with a semifinal appearance, tied for its best ever in an NXL event. Los Angeles Infamous won the event, beating top ranked Edmonton 7-6 in the final.