Retired NFL Player Gets “Up Close” With A Feral Hog in Florida on Brotherhood Outdoors
by Kurt Beckstrom
With Florida’s thick backcountry scrub as a backdrop, hunter Joe Tafoya hefted a stout 7-foot spear, with a long, wicked-looking blade and contemplated a close-quarters battle with a feral hog brought to bay by a highly trained and well-protected hound.
“I’m trying to get a feel for this thing,” he said through a nervous grin, “but I’m not sure I know what I’m doing.”
His hesitations didn’t stem from a lack of outdoor experience. Though he grew up just outside Oakland, California, he regularly went hunting with his uncle, fishing with his dad and grandmother, and camping with a family friends.
“The best times were sturgeon fishing with my dad,” he said, “but basically, I’d just tag along with whoever was headed out the door.”
Neither was he unfamiliar with doing battle. In high school, he played football well enough to be courted by D1 college programs. Later, his standout performance as a defensive end at the University of Arizona created a path to the National Football League.
In seven seasons with the NFL, he was with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Chicago Bears, Seattle Seahawks (including an appearance in Super Bowl XL) and the Arizona Cardinals. Hand-to-hand combat were his profession from adolescence through early adulthood.
Still, the prospect of what the next few minutes in the Florida underbrush could hold was something different—stirring an exhilaration even more primal than that from shedding an all-pro tight end to make a tackle for a loss.
“I hunt deer and elk in my home state of Washington,” said Tafoya, “but I’d never done anything like this before. Hunting with a dog trained to grab a wild hog by the ear and hold it until you can bust through the brush and get there—that is so different from anything I’m used to. In fact, the whole place—and the people there—are like a different world to me.”
Even that was no obstacle, however, because a shifting universe is something the former football player had lived through before. When an ankle injury cut his gridiron career short, it left him for a time to wonder what would come next.
“You do something for so long, and it’s such an important part of your life,” he said, “and then one day….”
Tafoya transitioned into the business world after football. He co-founded Jumpit, a company focused on increasing sports fan engagement through a phone app as well as organizing events that would bring current and former NFL players to local organizations and businesses around the country to drive traffic to those locations. In addition, he and his wife Brandelyn created Lady 12 Fashions, a company that produces sports apparel for women. He also became involved with the NFL Players Association, the union that advocates for active and retired players.
“Jumpit was very successful, but the travel it required was tiring,” he said. “So, when the opportunity came to partner with my wife in Lady 12, I took it.”
Today, the couple resides on a homestead in Washington with their children Brooklyn and Jaxson where they rescue and re-home horses, keep dairy goats, raise poultry, grow fruit and vegetables, as well as operate their business.
“Lady 12 is our day-to-day employment, but I’m also the feeder and fixer around here,” he said. “My wife is the horsewoman, and markets hatching eggs around the country. We live on a creek that’s a tributary to the Snoqualmie River and, nearly every morning, my son and I start our day catch-and-release fishing for cutthroat trout and salmon (when they’re running).”
A quiet life on a family operation under the perpetually overcast skies of the Northwest may be the opposite of chasing wild hogs through the undergrowth in sun-soaked Florida. “But you know what,” Tafoya said, “given the opportunity, I’d go back and do it again in a minute.”
If you want to see how Tafoya’s hog hunting adventure turns out, click on “Barkin’ For Bacon.”