Last time I checked on Jason Buck he was working in financial and insurance businesses.
Before that he was coaching high school football on the side and trying to get the head job at BYU.
Before that, he was a rancher and farmer with a large spread in Manti.
Before that he was dabbling in motivational speaking and TV football commentary.
Before that, he was a professional football player with the Washington Redskins and Cincinnati Bengals, a starter in two Super Bowls.
Before that, he was a BYU All-American.
And now for his next act: Jason Buck is — ta-dum! — going to Washington.
Or so he hopes. Buck is running for Congress, hoping to join former BYU teammate Jason Chaffetz on Capitol Hill (gee, do you think anyone will use the "Buck Stops Here" for a motto?). His opponent is Democratic incumbent Jim Matheson in the second Congressional District. In football terms, he just picked a fight with the Green Bay Packers.
"Does it surprise you that I would take him on?" Buck asked me last week.
Buck has stared down long odds since he was an Idaho farm boy with big dreams. His mother left home and his father lost their farm, leaving the family destitute and sleeping under a truck. If that sounds like something campaign handlers would make up, well, nobody could make up Jason Buck's story. A skinny kid who owned almost nothing but the clothes on his back, he vowed at an early age to play professional football so he could buy back the farm for his dad, and he did just that, only to lose it again.
But politics? He says he has always been a student of American history — he majored in American studies at BYU — and in recent years he has become fed up with Washington, specifically the erosion of states rights, the growing federal bureaucracy and what he deems to be a concerted effort to penalize success.
"We've got a president who says there is a point where people make too much money," says Buck. "If you go to 12 years of college to be a doctor, you deserve to be paid what the market will pay you."
Buck, 48, isn't speaking as someone who has known nothing but success. He has had his struggles. For that reason, he and his wife Roxi entered the political arena with some trepidation, knowing they would be opening themselves up for scrutiny. Like so many professional athletes, Buck lost money through a bad investment and bad professional advice. He also lost the Manti farm, filed for bankruptcy and battled the IRS.
"People will attack that," says Buck. "I'm just out there scrapping like everyone else and trying to do my best. You meet people who aren't as straight forward as they are on the farm. People who mislead you. It's been a learning curve."
Buck believes he can appeal to the common man. He's run jackhammers on the freeway (during college summers). He's plowed and irrigated fields and repaired fence. He's worked in feed mills and forests and construction. He's sat in corporate boardrooms around the world. He's sold products.
As Buck says, "I could put boots on tomorrow and brand someone's cow, then put on a suit and go to the boardroom in Manhattan."
During the last decade or so, Buck has ventured into life insurance, private equity and structured financial products, work that carried him as far away as Europe and Asia. He currently works for a Delaware-based firm called Electronic Payment Exchange, which specializes in electronic payment systems.
He decided to enter the political arena a year ago while participating in a fundraising event in North Carolina for the Congressional Sportsman's Foundation that featured Mitt Romney as a speaker. Buck, the Idaho farm kid, spoke spontaneously and passionately about states rights in managing lands and wildlife.
"When my dad and I sweat and bleed in the soil in Idaho and know it better than anyone, why can some pencil-neck bureaucrat in Washington tell us how to manage our lands?" he said. "Nobody knows the land better than we do. We should be able to control our own destinies."
This prompted further discussion on the subject by Romney, who afterward chatted with Buck and teased him about his "pencil-necked" comment.
"When I left the meeting I decided it was time to get into the fray," says Buck. "It's a long haul. I have some name recognition, but people don't know me as a political figure. That's what I've got to develop."
Buck recently made the rounds in Washington D.C. meeting various movers and fundraisers in the Republican party. "I don't sleep," says Buck. "I am on the phone or on the computer till late." He also has been studying, reading books on the Constitution and U.S. history and taking a class at the Jefferson Center for Constitutional Studies.