One of the great local success stories of recent years—when success is measured by YouTube followers and Guinness World Records—began in the backyard of a nondescript College Station home occupied during the school year by five God-fearing, sports-loving Texas A&M undergrads.
In their spare time at home, the boys shot hoops. Not in their driveway, but in the backyard. And from the oddest of angles: back facing the rim while seated in a lawn chair, from in front of the back fence, from behind the back fence, off the chimney, and from a variety of spots on the roof of their rented house.
It was all caught on video camera and, like the famed 1993 Michael Jordan-Larry Bird McDonald’s television commercial, each shot–at least from the viewer’s perspective–ended with a “nothing but net” outcome.
Which led to the catchphrase: “Dude, perfect!”
A video compilation of this trick-shot craziness, which the young men destined to be collectively known as Dude Perfect called “Backyard Stuntmen” at the time, was posted to YouTube on April 8, 2009. Since then, it has been viewed 27,776,878 times. Make that 27, 776,879 times as of this writing.
That staggering number potentially means more than 10 million followers of the Dude Perfect YouTube channel have yet to witness the not-so-humble beginnings of what has become a media and entertainment empire featuring 18.5 million Facebook connections, multiple gaming apps, an apparel line, a television series on the Nickelodeon Channel, a state-of-the-art world headquarters located at 6644 All Stars Avenue in Frisco, Texas...
...and a 28-date live tour set for 2019.
Ultimately, it risks sacrilege to report that the reach of Dude Perfect dwarfs that of notable fellow Aggie Lyle Lovett, whose number of likes on Facebook totals about 260,000; or the university from which each of the Dudes graduated. But that’s the case, given that Texas A&M University’s Facebook page lists a friend count hovering around 627,000.
Before we proceed with more mind-numbing numbers, let us introduce to you the five-man band which calls itself Dude Perfect.
Tyler Toney is known to his fans as “the Bearded Guy.” At 30 years of age, he is the youngest of the group. Toney grew up and played high school basketball in the suburban enclave of Prosper, north of Dallas. Prosper is aptly named, given the median household income there exceeds $135,000.
Toney is unquestionably the mouthpiece of Dude Perfect and perpetrator of many of the group’s Guinness records. He obtained his degree from A&M in Wildlife and Fisheries. His instincts for promotion rival that of Barnum and Bailey.
Garret Hilbert, 32, is the only true “dude” in the Perfect clan. He grew up in California, then moved with his family to Prosper, where he and Toney played on the same high school basketball team. Hilbert studied architecture at A&M.
Coby and Cory Cotton are twins from The Woodlands, Texas. They’ll turn 32 in July. Like the rest of the Dudes, they grew up in a Christian household—their father, a pastor— and they spent much of their youth playing tennis, running cross country, and, of course, playing basketball.
The brothers studied communications at A&M and have put that to good use as the digital marketing mavens for the group’s ever-expansive and formidable brand. In fact, Cory wrote a book in 2011, in the infancy of Dude Perfect’s success, entitled Go Big: Make Your Shot Count in the Connected World.
Probably still worth a read.
The fifth member of Dude Perfect is Cody Jones, another North Dallas native who spent his college years at Texas A&M. Known to fans as “The Tall Guy,” Jones played on the Plano High School basketball team which won the Texas Class 5A State Championship in 2006. He studied finance at A&M and became a commercial real estate agent upon graduation.
In fact, all the Dudes took jobs in the real world once they finished up at Texas A&M, but they kept loading trick-shot videos onto their YouTube channel and the acclaim grew. Shortly after the Backyard Stuntmen video streamed, ABC’s Good Morning America came calling.
Their story had to be told.
In January 2013, the Dudes invaded Kyle Field and with fellow Aggie Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel along for the ride, proceeded to launch trick shots from every corner of the 12th Man’s Home.
The clip today has more than 14 million views. It was my incredulous introduction to Dude Perfect.
In addition to the Dudes tossing footballs and basketballs toward the ever-present portable backboard which served as their act’s constant companion in the early years, Manziel got into the swing of things displaying his NFL-caliber arm strength by firing a football from the first row of the second deck of the stadium’s north end zone.
Nothing but net.
Are you kidding?!? Seriously???!!!
Any reasonable person would have to ask: Is this real?
Juju Chang is co-anchor of ABC News Nightline program. Before being promoted, she was a Nightline special correspondent. In 2015, she and her network turned their attention to Dude Perfect.
In his lead-in to the report, anchor Brian Pitts took much of the drama out of Chang’s piece, telling viewers, “They may seem too cool to be real, but their stunts are actually 100 percent real.”
By the end of the story, Chang herself had joined in on the amazement.
Her conclusion? Dude Perfect’s “deal” is about practice, setup, and repetition. Toney told Chang the Dudes attempt their stunts over and over–sometimes over as much as a two-day period, if necessary–to achieve the desired results.
In two tries, Chang sunk a no-look, back-to-the-basket shot in the Dude Perfect headquarters’ gymnasium. In ten tries, she putted a golf ball off a pool table and into a hole laid out on a putting mat on the floor next to the table. She even made a shot from the roof of Dude Perfect’s headquarters building, but The Dudes weren’t happy that she rattled the shot off the rim.
Thirty-five tries later, she finally swished the shot.
Only perfection will do for The Dudes.
The website Grunge, which covers weird-but-mostly-true stories, addressed the Dude Perfect phenomenon in 2016. In a seven-minute video on the site, Grunge fact-checkers suggested it would be harder to fake the shots than actually do them.
“It gets extremely difficult to get the gravity of the physics, the lighting, all that stuff right,” Grunge reported on the challenges of faking the shots.
Plus, there’s the matter of the vast number of Guinness World Records Dude Perfect has achieved. As weird as Guinness records can get, the organization meticulously verifies authenticity, usually with one of their own on site for record attempts.
Successful Guinness record accomplishments have become a staple of The Dudes regular YouTube posts.
In one episode, they set 11 world records with a Guinness representative alongside every step of the way.
And it turns out, that’s what the Guinness World Record business has turned into: customizing record-setting attempts to help companies “engage your audience through unforgettable moments of sheer amazement and wonder, whilst (keep in mind the Guinness enterprise is British-based) delivering bottom-line results.”
If Dude Perfect seems too good to be true, they are, both in their professional and personal lives.
The Dudes found each other in college through Texas A&M’s vast network of Christian activities and organizations. Despite their phenomenal success, they remain strong in their faith.
Check out their website at dudeperfect.com. Scroll down the Home page and you’ll find their “Sizzle Reel”: endorsement deals from the likes of Nerf, Fiat, and Bass Pro Shop; Dude-Perfect branded merchandise including backpacks, t-shirts, and basketballs; and words of praise from NBA superstar Lebron James—one of the many, many professional athletes to have made appearances and sunk incredible trick shots with The Dudes.
On the Dude Perfect “About” page, you’ll find this:
A free sandwich, a simple camera, and 20 “I can do better than you” shots later, Dude Perfect was born. Obviously when that first ball swished, we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into, but we believe that nothing happens by accident, that God’s given us this platform for a reason, and that we have an opportunity to make an impact on the lives of countless others all around the globe. Above all else, our ultimate goal is to glorify Jesus Christ in everything that we do. We want to use this platform for something much bigger than us.
Most of The Dudes are married. Some have little dudes themselves. Everything about them may seem too good to be true, but they walk the walk, as Christians bearing testimony to others, or as amazing performers, whether with basketball, golf club, snowboard, or even a bow and arrow in hand.
Still not a believer? Visit their website and catch The Dudes in person when their live tour comes to a town near you.