Competition does, too. Performance Chemical, known for its unorthodox hiring philosophy, lured a gridiron star from his chosen sport and added him to a new sort of team.
by Paul Wiseman
The University of Lousiana-Lafayette (formerly Southwest Louisiana) has seen several alumni find success in the NFL over the years—notably Jake Delhomme, who played in a Super Bowl for the Carolina Panthers, longtime cornerbacks Charles Tillman and Ike Taylor, and former Dallas Cowboys kicker Richie Cunningham. When recent Ragin’ Cajun quarterback Terrance Broadway graduated in 2015, he hoped he might add his name to that list.
But after brief visits to the training camps of the New York Giants and Seattle Seahawks later that summer, he decided instead to go to Midland to learn the oilfield chemical business at Performance Chemical, joining former teammate Trae Johnson in West Texas.
The Giants had cut Broadway and the Seahawks were talking about converting him to running back, which was not the path he had in mind for himself. After two days at the Seahawks camp, he found that his true future came calling in the form of Louisiana-Lafayette’s Director of Football Operations, Troy Wingerter, who reached out to him about the Performance Chemical job.
While most players’ former coaches don’t call them about an oilfield job, Performance Chemical does things a little differently. Being owned by two former coaches, brothers Burl and Jerry Fuller, the company is in tune with the discipline and work ethic young athletes learn. The Fullers figure they can coach them on the business end of things.
So they contact a number of athletic departments in Texas and Louisiana, usually looking for the athletes who, rather than being the stars, were the hardest workers, the most dedicated, and had the best attitudes. In calling Louisiana-Lafayette they were not surprised to hear about someone like Johnson, who perfectly fit their profile. For Broadway, who was highly recruited out of high school, was MVP of the 2014 New Orleans Bowl, and was 2014 All-Sun Belt Conference Honorable Mention, it was different.
Burl Fuller said they connected with Louisiana-Lafayette because another Performance Chemical employee with a coaching background was familiar with the school’s program. “So we had an ‘in’ on the baseball and football programs. They had been real successful” on the field. “So we went to the coaching staff and said, ‘We don’t want your All-Americans, we want the kid that shows up every day, and goes to work.’”
The first player they named was former middle linebacker Trae Johnson.
Then school officials told Fuller, “We’re going to throw you a curve here—our quarterback, Terrance Broadway,” the accolade-hoarding star, is also someone to talk to.
Broadway said he was very interested in the call from Wingerter because he realized the Seahawks situation could potentially end the same way as the opportunity with the Giants, and he needed a good fallback option. “I had a bad feeling about things that morning already,” he says. Having already thought about getting into coaching as a career, he very quickly decided that Performance Chemical’s offer was the right one instead.
“I had to make a decision for my family. To me, it wasn’t fair to my wife or my kids to keep chasing something and it keep happening the same way,” says Broadway. He knew he needed to find something steadier than his football dream, which he likened to chasing a kite.
The timing was truly right, as—about five days after leaving camp—Broadway was able to be present for the birth of his son. Three days later, he headed to Lafayette and, in April 2016, he came to the company’s Midland office.
As to how this falls into his lifelong dreams, Broadway admits, “I never thought I’d be where I’m at right now.” Understandably, Midland was not on the radar for either athlete as they considered their futures.
Both young men completed their degrees in four years, so they were, in that realm, more ready for life after football than many athletes.
Johnson was actually glad football was over for him, having become burned out on the whole idea by his last game as a senior. Two months after graduation, Johnson went to work offshore in the oil field. He knew all about the oil patch from having grown up in Mississippi and having spent four years in the oil-rich regions of Louisiana.
But his first job demanded long nights, long hours in general, and hard, harsh working conditions. So he was just as happy as Broadway when Coach Wingerter called him about a West Texas job with better hours and a top-level training program. Johnson knew Broadway was also in consideration for what was just one position at that time. “I knew Terrance needed the job more than I did,” Johnson said, and so Johnson let Broadway step in at that point, with a promise to keep in touch with the company for future positions. Johnson was able to join Performance in February of 2016.
“It was a long process, but it was worth it,” he says.
“I think it was great for both of us to get down here,” Johnson continues. “We both already have a work ethic that you pretty much can’t teach. That got pretty much drilled into our brain in football.”
They were both surprised at how busy Midland still was even with the downturn—it is much busier than Louisiana’s oil industry. The best thing about the region’s busy-ness is that they’re getting a crash course in everything they need to know to get up to speed. At the end of 2016, the plan is for them to leave the Permian Basin to open new Performance Chemical offices—Broadway in Houston, and Johnson in Lafayette.
Daily, they see how football’s lessons apply to their current careers. They speak of sticking to the game plan for getting new locations going, they understand doing their best every day in order to stay ahead of the competition, they realize that learning what they need to know—both about the industry and about sales—is a lot like studying the playbook.
In fact, one of the main things that drew Broadway and Johnson to the company was its thorough coaching, if you will, in all aspects of success.
Broadway adds, “The change hasn’t been too different because it’s competitive on both sides. You’ve got to be on your A-game all the time—you can’t get complacent,” even in the oil business. “There’s a sense of, if I don’t get this right, if I mess this up, if this tank’s not running correctly, we could possibly lose this [customer]. You’re always competing with somebody else. You’ve always got that in the back of your mind.” They noted that the concerns about competition are the greatest with larger accounts—they know other companies are competing for those especially.
There are benefits to this business over football, says Johnson. “Like in camp—getting up at 5:30 and hitting somebody, that’s kind of hard. But getting up at 5:30 and going to work? That’s easy.”
He recalled that their football coaches used to throw sudden changes at them in practice, to prepare them for game action. Now when they get a call about chemicals at 9:00 p.m., they’re ready to do whatever needs to be done.
The Fullers agree that Broadway and Johnson were both good hiring decisions. “They’re both outstanding young men,” says Jerry. Although they did also allow, with a smile, that if these former athletes ever needed to be terminated, it should be done by a committee. A large committee. Not that this will ever be necessary.