Professional basketball player Graylin Warner will admit he became a little burned out by the sport toward the end of his career. After playing basketball at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette from 1980 to 1984 and then traveling through Europe on a professional team he decided to move back to his home in New Orleans to try a different career, driving semi trucks.
So after being in front of crowds most of his life, he traded all that fame in for a place behind the wheel, and five years ago he joined us here at R+L Carriers as a driver. Coincidentally Graylin played for the Ragin’ Cajuns, one of the teams headed to the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl!
Graylin sat down with us to reflect on his memories of the sport and what it’s like to transition from professional basketball to truck driving.
How has the atmosphere for the student-athlete changed since you were playing the game?
I think schools are more accountable for the athletes attaining their degree. More people are looking out for the students now. Colleges are making sure that the athletes are also meeting the requirements for being a student.
You played at a time when the talent at the college level that went to the NBA was fairly amazing. Charles Barkley, Michael Jordan, Doc Rivers…and Patrick Ewing, who was surprised in an early game by an upstart Ragin’ Cajuns team. How does playing or being in the same business as people of that caliber change the way you approach situations?
You don’t really change the way you approach it. If you have a good work ethic, you will do fine in any situation. The games were not the hard part; it was the practices. You were pushing each other, playing against people you knew. We went after each other harder in practice. It is easier to play people you don’t know. We always executed well, and that is because we executed well in practice.
By all accounts, you had a spectacular career playing basketball in France. What brought you to Europe to play? How is the European game different from the one in the United States?
I was a six round draft pick for the Seattle Supersonics in ‘84, and Seattle toured Germany the previous year. I was last cut and Germany was looking for a player in my position, so off we go to Europe. Being in that is tough. You have to have thick skin to play at that level.
Maybe [the European game is] not as physical as the play in the NBA, but all five players were great shooters, and the biggest difference is once the ball touches the rim it’s live.
Do you miss playing basketball on the professional level?
I miss the guys in the locker room. One of the greatest rushes is being a little bit behind in a game and coming together with the rest of the team. Making sure that the younger guys on the team know that we have to stand up to the other team and that it is not the coaches, but we the players that decide what happens on that court.
What made you want to work in the trucking industry?
I became interested in the trucking industry when I found out that Karl Malone loves eighteen wheelers. I was one of the people that tried to help recruit Karl to USL, but ended up playing against him when he went to Louisiana Tech. My first choice was becoming a state trooper and after that it was becoming a trucker. Honestly, it was also an escape from the crowds, and I enjoyed the crowd for 12 years.
WHAT’S THE BEST PART ABOUT BEING A TRUCK DRIVER?
The solitude. After twelve years of playing basketball in the public eye, I just wanted to get some time for myself. It is a different frame of mind. Basketball is a sharp business; there are things that go on off the court that are as hard as what happens on the court. I needed a break from that. I do play basketball still, but for myself.
WHAT LESSONS DID YOU TAKE FROM YOUR BASKETBALL DAYS THAT APPLY TO YOUR CURRENT JOB?
In many ways, sports prepare you for being in business. You have to be able to take a lot to play in the pros. You cannot excel without thick skin. The preparations you do outside of the job help you for what you do on the job. You start to develop instincts about things that go on with the job. You begin to learn about other people like you learn about yourself. Good employees know what is going on and react well to it; great employees see things before they happen, and anticipate how to deal with them. That was one of the things that made Larry Bird great. I like him because he was able to anticipate the game, and see things on the floor that no one else saw. Anytime you pull together for a common goal great results shall be attained.
How long have you been driving for R+L Carriers?
Five and a half years. I bring that same work ethic and consistency I had on the court to R+L. I like to build an impression with my customers of consistency and that comes through doing my work day in and day out every day I don’t accept being mediocre in my job; I want to do my best. If you keep doing the work like that, it is going to pay off for you.
We want to thank Graylin for taking the time to talk to us and for his service with us. If you have any questions for Graylin leave them in the comments!