In the worst-case scenario, Paul Boals thought his new venture would help float his fishing habit. Then, he and his business partner sold more than 150 hand-built fly rods in two years.
That’ll buy a lot of flies and line for the founders of Yampa Rod Company.
“We build the rods in our basements,” Boals explained. “They perform like the more expensive ones on the market, but we keep our price low because our overhead is low and we don’t go through rod shops to sell them.”
A landscape architecture graduate, who earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in 2004 and 2007, respectively, Boals moved to Denver on a whim with his wife Lisa, who earned a doctorate in veterinary medicine in 2008. To her, the move meant living closer to her sister. For him, it indulged a well-established love for fly fishing.
“We moved out here and our lives are basically play and work,” explained Boals, who is in his third year as president of the MSU alumni chapter in Denver. “We try to take advantage of the mountains and things up here, and I’ve continued to learn about the sport since we moved.”
Now a certified casting instructor, Boals said building his own rod became the next logical step, so he and a friend embarked on the project just to see what they could do. But after showing their handmade fly rods to other members during a local Fly Fishers International meeting, the overwhelming interest led them to form a company.
Today, Yampa Rod Company sells three rod styles that are built to order. They also take custom orders, like Boals’ current project—a Mississippi State themed rod for a fellow alumnus.
“Even our so-called production-line rods have a custom feel,” Boals said, explaining how their fly rods differ from others on the market. “We also provide a lifetime warranty and offer a two to three week turn on repair work.”
When not fishing, planning to fish or thinking about fish, Boals said he works as an admissions adviser for a career college in the Denver area. While not directly related to his degrees, he said he finds a similar satisfaction in the work.
“After college, I did some work helping to recruit for my fraternity and I realized I enjoy helping people make that decision about coming to school,” Boals explained. “So, where as a landscape architect I was helping people make decisions about what to do with their courtyards or plazas, now I’m helping people decide what they’ll do in life and that’s a good feeling.”
A 1976 business graduate, Don Hines set out for Denver to work for a $3 billion construction firm. Later, when a layoff claimed that job, he shocked human resources by entering his exit interview with a smile.
“They asked why I was so happy,” Hines recalled. “I told them ‘First, I don’t have to commute anymore. And second, I’m going to open a barbecue place.’”
A native of Jackson, Hines fell in love with smoked meats while living in Memphis, Tennessee, after college. And with that taste forged in the barbecue capital of the South, he found the offerings west of the Rockies lacking.
“The barbecue in Denver is very wet,” Hines explained. “When I ordered I would always ask them to let me sauce it myself because there’s nothing worse than ordering a barbecue sandwich and getting something that’s more like a sloppy Joe.”
Despite his excitement for the venture, Hines found it difficult to get banks on board since he had never worked in—much less run—a restaurant, so he took a 10 percent penalty and cashed out his 401(k) to make his dream come true.
It was enough to let him rent and set-up a 700-square foot space in downtown to open Yazoo BBQ. Setting itself apart with its dry rubs and smoky flavors, Hines’ joint, which opened in 2001, has earned numerous “best of” awards including consecutive “Best of Denver” honors for pulled pork.
Today he owns the building, which he has expanded to take up an entire downtown Denver block. His operation is now 5,000-square feet, including an upstairs bar that hosts athletic watch parties for the local chapter of Mississippi State’s Alumni Association. He also opened a second location in south Denver.
“It was one of those things,” Hines said. “I saw something and thought I could do it better and make a living at it, so I rolled the dice. And thank goodness I did.”
Though Hines stresses that this is not how things are done at Yazoo BBQ, he offers the following tips to help Bulldogs “cheat a little” to achieve that smoky barbecue flavor at home.
Tools and Ingredients
• Large aluminum pan
• Dry rib rub—but don’t ask for Hines’ secret recipe
• Ribs, baby back or St. Louis cuts are recommended
• Liquid for steaming
• Fruit or nut tree wood chips—Hines prefers pecan
• Saran wrap
• Aluminum foil
• Wire rack that sits at an inch off the bottom of the pan
Pour a shallow layer of the liquid in the aluminum pan, careful that it won’t touch the meat. Season the ribs with the rub and place them on the wire rack in the aluminum pan. It’s OK to stack the ribs. Cover the pan with saran wrap, then aluminum foil. This, he says, acts like a pressure cooker and will not melt the plastic. Place the covered pan in a 225-degree oven for 4-5 hours, until the ribs reach the desired tenderness.
Once the ribs are steamed, they can be refrigerated to be finished later, or taken straight to the grill.
To achieve the smoky flavor, place moist wood chips in a grill on low heat. Hines recommends placing the chips in a heavy-duty aluminum foil “cocoon” so they will smolder, not ignite. Add the steamed ribs, bone-side down and cook on low for an hour. If applying sauce, do so at the end of the grilling process.
Hines says with a longer time, this process also works for brisket.
The first time he saw a rotating supercell roll across the Kansas plains, Cory Reppenhagen says he was hooked. Still, it took an intervening news director to turn this amateur storm chaser into a professional meteorologist.
“It didn’t take me long to realize that good forecasting makes for easier chasing,” said Reppenhagen, who was working at a TV station in Kansas when he first discovered storm chasing.
“It wasn’t until I moved to Orlando, working for WFTV that I completed my degree at Mississippi State,” he continued. “Our news director there is fully responsible for creating the photographer/reporter/meteorologist monster that I am today.”
Reppenhagen took advantage of Mississippi State University’s online degree options and completed a bachelor’s in geoscience in 2010, which accompanies the communication degree from Mesa State he earned in the late ’90s.
He returned to his native Colorado in 2013 to join KMGH in Denver before transferring across the street to KUSA in July. There he said he’ll be able to take a proactive approach to covering weather in the field.
“I’m like the utility infielder of the weather business,” Reppenhagen explained. “I shoot the weather. I report on breaking weather from the field. And I can even do the studio forecast on a fill-in basis. In this new job, I’ll never miss a storm in Colorado. That is the perfect situation for me.”
A regional Emmy winner for his coverage of 2011’s tornado outbreak in Mississippi and Alabama, Reppenhagen is an advocate for providing thorough local weather coverage, not only because it can save lives in cases of severe storms but also because, even in good times, it can bring people together.
“We all live in the community together, and the weather is one of the few things that we all have in common,” Reppenhagen said. “We are all impacted by the weather, so let’s share our experiences with each other. That’s how I roll.”
As a history major at Mississippi State, Andrew Newcomb had aspirations of one day becoming a professor. But as he studied American government and the intricacies of its legal system he found another path.
Today, Newcomb is a partner with the Denver-based Speights and Worrich law firm he joined in January. He previously had his own successful civil litigation practice. He said for him, it’s about finding a balance between work and family, and all of the opportunities a city like Denver has to offer.
“There’s a saying in law that when you run your own firm you get to pick whichever 100 hours a week you want to work,” Newcomb said. “I was ready to just practice law, and to have more time to spend with my family enjoying the unique Colorado lifestyle.”
Newcomb said the move from the Gulf Coast, where he first practiced law, to the Rocky Mountains was an “exhilarating change.”
“Snowboarding, hiking and an amazing city to explore. No more humidity and mosquitoes. My vegetables don’t get eaten by a ton of bugs. It’s daylight until 9 p.m. in the summer,” he explained, echoing other Denver Dawgs’ statements about how the city has great opportunities for both work and play.
“As far as the social adjustment,” he continued, “Denver is a big melting pot of young people looking to make a name. And now, with the Mississippi State alumni chapter growing, it’s great to get together to cheer on the Bulldogs even when we can’t be in Starkville.”