(Photo by James Overstreet)
Towell is a free lance writer/photographer with Towell Outdoor Media, a business started by Towell and his wife, Duffey, in September 2007.
Towell, a 1989 graduate of Manila High School, injured his back in 2003. He underwent three surgeries and was in a wheelchair for almost two years. Towell said he could have dealt with the wheelchair but the constant pain almost made him give up several times.
"Thanks to the love and support of my family I survived," Towell said. "They would not let me give up."
His family kept encouraging him and as he began to get stronger he needed something to do to keep his mind busy. He started writing and started a blog. It was only natural he would write about what he had always enjoyed, the outdoors.
"My first finished piece was published in The Town Crier," Towell said. "It gave me a purpose. I began to think even if I can't walk, I can write."
J.M. Associates out of Little Rock, which produces the Bassmaster Elite Series Show, The Worlds Greatest Fishing Show, and a lot of other outdoor programs on ESPN, also builds and maintains the ESPNOutdoors.com, Bassmaster.com, Stihl Timbersports and other outdoor sports websites. Towell's relationship with Steve Bowman, the executive director of ESPNOutdoors.com is the reason his writing was picked up by ESPNOutdoors.com. Towell said he had no journalism background and Bowman, "helped me polish up my articles."
"I became a student of writing," Towell said. "I started studying and learning. I had a lot of time and it helped keep my mind busy, which helped with the chronic relentless back pain."
Towell was excited to be invited to help work the Bassmaster Elite Series Legends Tournament near Russellville.
"I worked the tournament and I loved it," he said. "It was not like work at all. I got to meet professional fishermen I had only read about or watched on television, some since I was a kid. I knew I really wanted to pursue this as a career.
While Towell was there to write, it was his photography getting the attention. The photographer saw some of his work and asked him to work with him; he had over 60 shots published from that first tournament. As he was learning the ins and outs of writing, his photography really took off. Most of the basis of his assignments has been photography. He has been published on television on ESPN commercials, in Bassmaster magazine, and four of ESPN's outdoor websites.
Again he became a student and started learning more and more about photography.
Towell has been assigned to all Bassmaster tournaments and a multitude of other events. He has flown to Texas, Florida, South Carolina, and New Hampshire covering outdoor events.
"The down side is being away from home, but again my wife and daughters are very supportive," Towell said. "When I am home, we spend quality time together."
His daughters, Savannah, 13, and Zoe, 6, are what started Towell in photography. When Savannah was born he got his first 35 millimeter camera and started taking pictures.
Towell can say there is a difference in taking family photographs for fun and getting professional shots to be published.
"On each morning of the tournaments I will shoot 200 or more photographs and go back to my room and process the top 24 or so and build my morning gallery," he said. "I will do it again in the evening with the weigh-in shots."
Towell said James Overstreet, head photographer for ESPNOutdoors.com, has been a great mentor for him. They travel together and work together covering tournaments.
Some other assignments Towell has really enjoyed include taking shots at the Collegiate Stihl Timber Sports and working with the McDonalds Big Bass Splash.
"I felt very humbled when I was requested to photograph all of the McDonalds Big Bass tournaments," Towell said. "They host eight events a year all over the United States. They are produced by Sealy Outdoors, a family owned business. They are great people to work with."
His work is not limited to fishing tournaments. He will shoot any outdoor venue including golf tournaments, ball games, or other events.
Towell said he has been blessed.
"I've been told God does not give us more than we can handle," Towell said. "From 2003 to 2007 I think I was in preparation for something big; and I think I am just at the beginning of it now, I see things much differently than I did five years ago."
Towell is also writing his first book and he hopes to have it completed by January. The book is not about the outdoors but a book of hope and encouragement for others who may be at a giving up point in their lives. It is about the importance of family support and love, and being forced to change directions in life.
"I have a story to tell and if it can help another person out there, I am more than willing to share it," Towell said.