Speakers Circle celebrity Derrick Fogle is taking a hiatus from Hacky Sack.
“Basically, it’s looking like I have the equivalent of tennis elbow on my right knee,” he said. “It was becoming more and more painful to keep kicking.”
By day, 48-year-old Fogle is an MU systems administrator. By night and weekend, a husband and father. On Thursday afternoons, he is Columbia’s renowned “Hacky Sack guy.”
While his lingering knee pain has forced him to shelve his alter ego for the time being, he anticipates being “back and kicking” by start of the fall semester — or, at the latest, by Aug. 31, Fogle’s 49th birthday.
He plans to take the day off to celebrate with “a big footbag birthday bash” in Speakers Circle.
The Hacky Sack player suspects his knees are simply “wearing out” after having logged around 20 million reps with his footbag over the past 30 years.
His practice and performances have earned him spots in the World Championship Finals, induction into the Footbag Hall of Fame and even a world record (which has subsequently been broken) for the most consecutive rallies with a footbag.
Since moving to Columbia 19 years ago, Fogle has taken a few hours off work each week to occupy Speakers Circle with a video camera, a boom box and a footbag.
“My music is very integral to my style of performance,’” he explained. “’Footbag freestyle’ involves a lot of swinging your leg over the bag and swinging your body around.”
Fogle’s performances have accrued fame across the Columbia and Internet communities alike. On his website, h4x354x0r.com (computer lingo for “hackysacker”), he posts videos of his kicking sessions. Fogle achieved viral status with his video “Hackman vs. Preacher,” in which he faces off with campus preacher “Sister Cindy” for control of Speakers Circle.
His injured knees, however, have slowed his video uploads. Fogle is presently looking into some treatment options often used for triathletes, although his current therapy is simply rest.
“I can’t wait to get back to (hacky sack),” he said. “When you keep it up off the ground; have that music; do the dance thing; when you get in the groove; it’s such an incredible feeling.”
From Humble Beginnings to Hall of Fame
Fogle’s fans may be surprised to know that kicking the football did not come naturally to him.
“I totally sucked when I started,” he admitted.
Fogle kicked his first footbag at a party he attended with his older brother when he was 17 years old.
“When we got (to the party), there was a circle of people standing outside the house, apparently kicking at something," he recounted. "I’m like, ‘What are you doing? I’ll try it. I’m here to party.’ But I couldn’t kick the footbag for anything.”
Despite his initial lack of skill, Fogle was “addicted” to the game.
“I hated organized sports because I was a loner kind of guy, but Hacky Sack was a noncompetitive activity," he said. "Everyone stood together in the circle and worked together. When someone missed, you just kept going.”
Starting out by kicking small rocks, he practiced obsessively until his skills improved enough that he started entering freestyle competitions. At first, he learned most of his tricks from other footbag competitors. As he progressed, however, he created his own style.
“One of the things I’m known for in my footbag community is my weird, funky style of playing,” he said. “They call me the ‘Funky Chicken.’”
After making his mark on the footbag community, Fogle retired from competition in 1997 and was inducted into the Footbag Hall of Fame in 2005.
Fogle no longer plays Hacky Sack socially, as he did 30 years ago at the party in Colorado.
“If I walk into a circle and start doing my moves, it freaks everyone else out and kills the circle,” he said.
One Man’s Sport, Another Man’s Salvation
For Fogle, Hacky Sack has become much more than a hobby.
“I call Hacky Sack my religion,” he said. “It’s what found me my salvation. It’s how I discovered myself and my passion for hard work and dedication.”
In addition, the game gave Fogle a positive focus for his energy, which helped him straighten out his life as a young adult.
“It allowed me to grow up and become a functioning adult in society,” he said. “It really changed my life.”
Seeing Hacky Sack make such a difference in his own life, Fogle was convinced it would do the same for others. After years of trying to sell his religion to others, however, he finally realized salvation isn’t the same for everyone.
“Ninety-nine percent of the people in the world play Hacky Sack in circles as a social game," he said. "One percent end up getting some kind of spark in their body like I did.”
These days, he’s trying to send his audiences a simpler message.
“I’m just trying to show the students that if you work hard at something, if you love something that gives you passion, the whole world opens up to you,” Fogle said. “That’s why I go out there on Speakers Circle and kick the Hacky Sack.”