Dude Perfect, five buddies who recently graduated Texas A&M, have become one of the hottest sensations on the Internet for their trick shot and "stereotype" videos. They've done videos with Russell Wilson and Pete Carroll, among other sports stars, and have gotten product placement deals with Gatorade, car manufacturers, and other topline companies...but have eschewed alliances with alcoholic beverages or men's magazines.
That's because the subtext of Dude Perfect is their love for the Perfect Dude - their Christian faith underlies every YouTube video. What drives these guys to throw basketballs from the Goodyear blimp or the top row of Cowboys Stadium? If you guessed the love of God, you'd be right.
A Dude Perfect trick shot video will be featured in the NBC Super Bowl pregame show on February 1...sharing the airwaves with an interview with President Obama. That's coming a long way from College Station.
Tyler Toney, one of the Dude Perfect guys, and his father, Jeff, the group's business manager, gave me a pre-Super Bowl phone interview. My twelve-year-old sons, Isaac Levin and Walter Levin, huge Dude Perfect fans, weighed in with questions of their own.
Michael: I'm sure you've heard the rumors that the Russell Wilson ring toss, that it's going around the Internet, that he was using an underinflated ball. How do you respond to that?
Tyler: I would say absolutely not, because I was taking some of his passes earlier. And when they were hitting my hand, it was definitely not an underinflated ball, I can tell you that.
Michael: Do you ever step back and say, "Why were we chosen, a bunch of college guys, and all of a sudden, we're going to be on the Super Bowl pregame show next week, and it just happened in a short space of a few years?"
Tyler: Yeah, it's crazy. It's something that we definitely talk about all the time. It's just a testament to the guys that I work with. And it doesn't even really start there. I think it starts with our families. When this started to take off, we knew we wanted to keep it a Christ-centered business. And we didn't want to compromise on any aspects that would cause us to turn away from our faith or anything like that.
It was just something that we always knew that we wouldn't compromise on. That was always a point in business decisions we made. I think that's one of the reasons that God has chosen to bless us.
This success could have happened to anybody. But we believed that God has allowed us to have this platform because at least up to this point, we've done a good job of giving the glory back to Him. And it's been a really, really fun ride so far.
Michael: It looks like you guys are having so much fun every time you make a video.
Tyler: Absolutely. The thing that created Dude Perfect was just the competitive, best friends feel where it's a bunch of guys out having fun. It's something that everybody can relate to. But each one of us has that competitive edge -- "Okay, I see that what you did there. That was a nice shot. Let me try and add my take on it." And that's how Dude Perfect was born.
Michael: You mentioned that you've tried to keep your faith as the guiding light in the business. I'm wondering if you can give me an example, without naming names, of situations where you had the opportunity presented to you, but you turned it down just because it didn't fit with your faith.
Tyler: We have alcohol companies that approach us all the time and want to throw large amounts of money at us to do videos for them. And it's just something that we can't comfortably do. It's just not something we would feel comfortable promoting to a younger audience.
There also have been times where certain male magazines wanted to do an interview with us. Do we really want to be associated with that? We don't want to be pushing people to go pick up that magazine just to see a "Dude Perfect" interview.
There are a lot of times when you've really got to make some tough decisions, and it's not always really clear-cut. Sometimes you could look at it, and say, "Well, we'd be reaching a group of people who don't really know about Christ." And then, other times, the overall concept of it just doesn't feel right. It doesn't sit right.
We've done a pretty good job so far of deciding what we've associated ourselves with, but that all points back to one thing.
Michael: How do you decide what athletes to work with? What reception do the Russell Wilsons and Pete Carrolls of the world give you?
Jeff: We've been really fortunate in that we've worked with quality individuals. We try to be careful not to associate ourselves with people who are blatantly controversial in terms of a particular activity that they've been involved in or what they're associated with.
We found that most of the people that we've had a chance to engage with grew up just like us, and have a lot of the same values that we do. Sure, they're a little bit more popular or famous, or make a little bit more money than the average person, but they're regular people at heart.
Tyler: Oh, yeah. Almost every person we've worked with has a representative who says, "Hey, you're only going to have 30 minutes, or you're only going to have an hour." And what always ends up happening is these celebrities or athletes end up staying three, four, or five hours with us, or even all day, just because they're enjoying themselves, and it's just like they're hanging out with their friends. It's different for them. It's a break. It's enjoyable for them, to hang out with us. And that's a huge honor for us, that we're able to give them that moment to just be a kid again.
Michael: You're going to have a trick shot video on the NBC Super Bowl pregame show. Do you pinch yourself and say, "How did this happen?"
Tyler: We pinch ourselves all the time. We made our very first video. And so YouTube calls us, and they're, like, "Hey, you want to be a YouTube partner?" And we're, like, "Sure. But I don't even really know what that means."
I remember pulling up the site, and I saw that we'd made some money. And I went around screaming around the house, telling the guys. I'm, like, "You guys aren't going to believe how much money we made off this first video." And we made two cents. And I was like, "Guys, this is incredible. We're going to be able to buy sandwiches one day, from people watching these videos."
We were so happy. Every day a new door opens up. And we're constantly wondering how did we get here? And we're just trying to make the best possible use of this platform that God's given us.
Michael: If you had not been doing "Dude Perfect," what would your career be right now?
Tyler: I don't really know. We all graduated from Texas A&M. Gary had a master's in architecture, so I'm sure he'd be doing something like that. Cody was a youth minister for a while before we went full time. But honestly, I don't really know what I would be doing. It'd be something outdoors, maybe sports-related. I'm just not the guy that can sit in an office all day. But it'd definitely be something active.
Michael: Jeff, what was your career, prior to managing Dude Perfect?
Jeff: I've had a background in the technology space for almost 30 years. But when I had the opportunity to represent these guys and make that my focus, I jumped at the chance. It's not only helping keep me young, but I'm proud to represent these guys. They're actually a breath of fresh air in the entertainment world. And it's fun to be associated with them.
Michael: You've got Odell Beckham and Hines Ward on the Super Bowl pre-show video. What can we expect with Odell?
Tyler: There'll be an interview segment, where we can just have some fun with him and take him out of his element. You'll have some of the more incredible feats that we do at one of the stadiums down there in Arizona with him. So, I don't want to give too much away, but it's gonna be a fun video.
Walter Levin: How many times does it take you to make a crazy trick shot?
Tyler: It's kind of weird. Every single one of them is different. We really don't keep track unless it's the first or second try. We had several shots where we made them on the first try. In the summer camp video, for instance, I made the airplane shot on the second try.
Walter: Yeah, I saw that on the news.
Tyler: The slingshot one, that one was just really hard because you got all these external factors with the way the ball spins out of the slingshot, how it's going to land, and everything like that. And then, of course, as you start trying harder and harder tricks, it's expected that some of them will take a little bit longer. But we really don't keep track the number of shots that it takes.
It's usually not as long as people think. I mean, like, the Cowboys Stadium one that we did only took about 15 minutes. So it's not as much as people think. Videos would be a lot harder to film if every shot took eight hours. I don't think you'd be seeing quite as much content from "Dude Perfect" if it was eight hours a shot.
Michael: What about in the bowling alley, the world's longest strike? How long did that take?
Tyler: That one was quick. Jason Belmonte only needed about ten minutes. We got the long one at the skate park on the second try. So that was really cool.
Michael: When you guys go crazy after a wild shot, it's obvious that, you aren't acting.
Tyler: Yeah. I mean, if you've ever gone outside and made a crazy, long shot, it's a pretty natural reaction to be excited about it.
Michael: When you watch the videos, there's nothing overtly religious about the message. How do you transform the "Dude Perfect" videos into a spiritual message to the world?
Tyler: I don't think it has to be, really in your face, or over-the-top, or anything like that. That can be more of a turn-off than anything. When we go film with somebody who doesn't really know us that well, or is meeting us for the first time--and we always hear constantly, whether it's a celebrity or whether it's a production company--they just say, "You know what? There's something different about you guys. I can't quite put my finger on it just yet, but there's something different about those Dude Perfect guys."
And then, if they do any amount of research, looking into us, on our website and our bios--if you look on any of our profiles on social media or anything like that, I mean, we're very open about our faith in Christ. So it's not hard to find, but we also don't shove it down people's throats or anything like that. It creates a balance in a world where everything is all about being edgy and scandalous. It's refreshing for a lot of people to come across that.
Michael: My understanding is that the term Dude Perfect came after one of you guys made a really great shot in college.
Tyler: So, it's actually--
Michael: My son Isaac is shaking his head rabidly.
Michael: My son Isaac is, like, "No, Dad, you got that wrong."
Tyler: He knows, yeah. One time, we were filming in the backyard. And we didn't have a cameraman at the time, so he set the camera on top of the railing, and looked through it on the little screen. And we were already perfectly in frame, so he said "Dude, perfect." And so, we kept that audio, and we named that first video that. And it stuck ever since.
Michael: How do you make sure this doesn't become boring for you guys? The fans are always going to love it, but how do you keep it interesting for the group?
Tyler: There are a lot of different things we're doing. We've got an iPhone app that's out right now, and it did really well. We're really excited because we've got our second iPhone app going out probably in the next couple months. It's significantly better than the first. So we're really excited about that just because of the success that the first one had. You get a much better feel for what people like, and how it works, and everything like that. So, we're really excited about our second gig.
And we're working on a TV show. That'll definitely be a big step for us, and a little bit more long-form content. We always come up with a new series, like the stereotypes. But we're not moving away from trick shots, but just broadening what we do.
It's a combination of all those things -- TV show, apps, broadening our videos. It's not just basketball trick shots. People are starting to label us as entertainers now.
Isaac Levin: How did you make the move from trick shot videos to stereotype videos, like the one about the Super Bowl party guests?
Tyler: Everybody loves doing trick shots. But surely, there's a point where trick shots aren't going to be as popular as they are now. So we were brainstorming, and taking a look at ourselves, and saying, "How do we expand this to more than just basketball trick shots on YouTube?"
And so, we came up with the concept of the stereotypes, and did the pickup basketball one first. And now that's our most popular video. So that's got 16 million views, I think. Collectively, all the stereotypes have gotten more views than the trick shot videos now. So, it's really cool to see our ability to come up with this brand-new concept that we weren't doing before.
Michael: What was it like being at ESPN? Was that fun last week?
Tyler: That was a blast. I mean, that was a dream come true, to get to see all those studios, and meet all the anchors and everybody that you grow up watching. We got a personal tour of the baseball studio, the SportsCenter studio, the NFL studio, and the college basketball studio. It was just incredible to see the amount of production and work that goes into putting together the half hour of SportsCenter.
Michael: Is there an end date, or are you just going to let this play out for as long as people watch the videos?
Tyler: I hope there's not an end date anytime soon. We're enjoying what we're doing. And it's definitely a lot of fun getting to work with your friends, and always meeting new athletes and celebrities, getting to interact with them. So I hope there's not an end date coming up anytime soon. But we are definitely enjoying our time, and we feel very blessed to have the opportunities that we do.
Michael: Do you get a lot of invitations to speak in churches or to youth groups?
Tyler: Yeah, especially over the last year and a half. It's really just exploded. It's honestly gotten to the point now where we get so many requests that it's had to say yes to anybody because we know that's going to be the only one that you're able to do. But we definitely try.
Cody was a youth pastor at a church close to where we're from. So we still go and do things for that. And if our families have something that they want us to come do, we try and always be accommodating like that. But you wouldn't believe how many "Can I have my son's birthday party at your office?" requests we get. Dude Perfect" would cease to exist because we'd be having birthday parties every day at the office. But it's good. It's been a lot of fun.