Over the course of my career I was extremely fortunate to be a part of a lot of incredible opportunities, both on the track and off. When it came to racing I was privileged to represent Team USA at the Motocross of Nations several times and lead our country to victory, and I was also blessed to have major mainstream partners like Nike and Targetto bring them into our sport. Off the track, my success allowed me to become a two-time ESPY Award winner, receive a special invitation to be an “intern” at ESPN, and be the first motocross racer featured in ESPN The Magazine’s“Body Issue.” I also formed an incredibly rewarding relationship with St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital that spanned the majority of my career and continues to this day.
When I was racing I made it a point to put myself out there, even if it took me out of my comfort zone a bit, and that’s a big reason why I was able to amass so many memorable experiences. I recognized that my window of opportunity was small and I was determined to try and bring the sport as much exposure as I could while I had the chance. I wanted to leave the sport in a better position than where it was when I came into it and all of these moments, particularly the mainstream ones, were in an effort to do just that—bring attention to the sport by reaching a much larger audience.
I don’t know if any of the things I was lucky enough to participate in personified that mindset more than when I became the first motocross athlete to be featured on a Wheaties box. To this day, seeing myself on one of the most iconic pieces of branding of all time is something that’s hard to wrap my head around. As a kid, my brothers and I would enjoy our morning bowl of Wheaties, joking that one day one of us would be on the box. Never could I have imagined that would become a reality for me, as a symbol of the “Breakfast of Champions.”
Interestingly enough, the opportunity to be on the box was a second go-around for myself with Wheaties. In 2014 I was included in the Wheaties Next initiative, where four other up-and-coming athletes and I were part of a social-driven fitness campaign in which consumers logged workouts as votes to determine which rising star would be featured on the box. It was a decision between myself, MMA fighter Anthony Pettis, U.S.A. Women’s Soccer player Christen Press, U.S. Paralympic athlete Blake Leeper, professional lacrosse player Rob Pannell. It was a cool idea that looking back feels a bit ahead of its time and it provided a great opportunity to get motocross some attention with the general sports audience. I was in the running to be chosen, no doubt thanks to the fitness-driven motocross community, but in the end Anthony Pettis earned the chance to be the next cover athlete.
My management team kept in touch with Wheaties throughout the next season, as 2015 became the most successful of my career and was the culmination of goals we set when I first joined KTM. We were able to secure KTM’s first Supercross title and followed that up with the Pro Motocross championship. I also earned more wins in a calendar year than ever before. Fortunately, Wheaties was all in on making history for both our sport and their brand, and as the season wrapped up I began preparing for a photo shoot to become the first motocross athlete on a Wheaties box. All those aspirations at the breakfast table with my brothers had become a reality and it was incredibly surreal.
When we unveiled the box to the world at the Anaheim 1 press conference it was one of the biggest and most special moments of my career. If you grew up playing any sort of sport, you knew what made Wheaties special and what it meant to see athletes you looked up to on that orange box. Anyone who was someone in their sport was featured on the Wheaties box, but somehow, despite all the legends of our sport, a motocross rider had never been included. That was significant to me and I was motivated to change that. I imagined what it would have been like to see someone like Jeremy McGrath, Ricky Carmichael, or James Stewart on a Wheaties box when I decided to chase my motocross dream, and how inspiring that would have been as I traveled across the country racing amatuer nationals. This was a significant accomplishment that showed young racers that motocross riders can be superstars alongside the biggest names in sports. To me, that was what this was all about. It was a long overdue opportunity to put our sport into the biggest spotlight possible.
As much as I understood how big a deal this was, it wasn’t until I held the box in my hand for the first time that it all came full circle for me. These boxes were going to be made available to millions of people, and while I was excited at the idea of motocross fans of all ages buying them as keepsakes, it was the possibility of creating new fans that was really special.
I’ve always felt like motocross doesn’t get the recognition it deserves, but as a leader in the sport I had a chance to change that. The Wheaties box wasn’t for me as much as it was for the thousands of riders and their families making the sacrifices to keep the motocross dream alive. It’s one of the proudest moments of my career and I hope it had an impact on some people.