Ricky Wysocki doesn't sweat. Instead, passion oozes from every pore.
On first impression, he's like a robusta bean, his rat-a-tat words flowing quicker than comprehension. His cadence comes from an inner confidence that suggests he knows exactly where he's headed.
Better yet, the excitement in his voice is so palpable that if he sold lint for a living, no one would bet against Wysocki becoming the best darn lint salesperson in the world.
But why settle for lint when perhaps being the best disc golf player has a better ring to it?
In a meteoric career on the Disc Golf Pro Tour that has paralleled the sport's popularity, the sinewy 6-foot-4-inch Wysocki dominated 2021 en route to leading in wins, points and being named the Professional Disc Golf Association (PDGA) Player of the Year for the fourth time.
"I think after last year, I am," says the two-time PDGA world champion when asked if he's the best player in the sport. "There are obviously players who are great, but in 2021 I won every award there was and I was also the most consistent player out there."
Although current world champion James Conrad might take umbrage, know this: Wysocki's words weren't spoken with arrogance at the wheel.
In an era when athletes fish in a sea of cliches, there was refreshing earnestness mixed with a bit of innocence. There's little doubt his successes in the Tour's Mixed Pro Open division at 28-years-old has him positioned to remain as an upper echelon player, but sticking that legacy flag in disc golf's historical ground is what matters most.
Dynamic Discs, founded in 2005, is also banking on him. On January 4, Wysocki, who turned professional in 2010 and promptly won PDGA Rookie of the Year honors in 2011, signed a $4 million endorsement deal with the company that could prove to be more lucrative in the long run. The payout matched Paul McBeth's $1 million average annual contract as the biggest in disc golf history.
"His contract is $1 million a year and it's guaranteed," says Dynamic Discs team director Eric McCabe, the 2010 PDGA world champion and, incidentally, the company's first sponsored athlete. "It could be more than that because depending how many discs we sell with his name on it, it could be $2 million."
Says Dynamic Discs founder and CEO Jeremy Rusco: "I never thought in this short of time we'd have a million-dollar athlete throwing and representing Dynamic Discs. For us it's really exciting — and for Ricky — and for the future of the sport."
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Additionally, the deal included an extra $250,000 signing bonus paid in bitcoin. Crypto payments are a growing trend among some professional athletes. The NFL's Saquon Barkley, Odell Beckham Jr., Trevor Lawrence, Russell Okung and Aaron Rodgers have packaged endorsement deals in crypto or leveraged it into contracts.
"For one, I've done a lot of research and feel confident, in my opinion, it will be the next generation currency," says Wysocki, who makes his home in Scottsdale, Ariz. "It's a long-term hold. In five to 10 years I think it will be worth quite a bit. Plus, in disc golf there is a crossover with crypto."
Before the crypto deal, though, things got rather cryptic. At the end of 2019, Wysocki started "feeling off" and struggled. Fatigue followed him like a shadow. It was uncharted territory. He practiced, emphasizing shots and parts of his game that came easily. Self-doubt seeped in. Was he on the downside, he thought.
Little did he know, Lyme Disease had taken root. In hindsight, he said, it made sense since disc golfers compete on courses in wooded and bushy areas.
Then it got worse. In early 2020, Wysocki missed tournaments for the first time in his career.
"He went from being the top golfer in the world to barely being able to walk," Rusco says.
For six months he battled the disease and then depression.
"From going from being a top-level pro athlete in my sport to getting Lyme Disease to barely being able to walk, and not knowing if I'm able to touch a disc at that level again, it was crazy to me," Wysocki says.
It changed his mindset about health and wellness. After hiring a nutritionist, he said it was one of the best moves he ever made, pointing to his momentous 2021.
"I noticed I consistently had mental clarity and energy to play at the best of my abilities," he says, adding that through blood, urine and saliva samples his nutrionist is able to set up his body for optimal performance with vitamins, supplements and diet.
There's little argument the sport has experienced an upward trajectory. McCabe calls his era the pioneering times. Few players then made a salary, and only eight to 10 were traveling on tour full time. Today that number is closer to 50.
"The only time you were getting paid from a manufacturer was if you got your name on a disc. And the way you got your name on a disc is that you won a world title," McCabe says.
Ken Climo, perhaps the most celebrated professional disc player, reeled off an unfathomable nine straight PDGA world titles in the 1990s and finished with 12. He earned $436,230.32 in career money. In 103 fewer events, Wysocki has already totaled $506,832.76.
Yet it's not necessarily about the money. It comes back to legacy. Wysocki, a six-time major champion, wants to be everything he can be, from growing the game at a grass roots level through his Sockibomb Foundation to being an anti-Lyme Disease advocate, to becoming a legendary player in the same vein as Tom Brady.
For someone who became hooked on the sport circa 2004 while being home-schooled during his teenage years in Medina, Ohio, he's gone places.
"It progressed from, 'Hey, this is fun,' and then it progressed to 'I have a passion for this' and 'Hey, I'm good at this' to 'Hey, I'm going to dedicate my life to this' to 'Hey, I'm now the best player in the world for, who knows, how many years to come.'"