Mike Sellers was once a football star at Newton High School who took his talents to East Carolina University and eventually the Canadian Football League, but a desire to impact young people brought him back to Covington to help spearhead community outreach at the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.
Mike Sellers’ array of life experiences, interests, talents and abilities is as diverse and plenteous as the number of fish in the sea, which might explain how he settled on his current career.
Sellers serves as the Community Fishing Coordinator for the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. In that role, he helps students—particularly those in urban areas—see the possibilities in working with wildlife in natural habitats. He is fueled by giving young people an opportunity to see a future in something vastly different than what may be immediately in front of them. In so doing, Sellers presents to others some of the same types of opportunities that helped direct his life.
“The work I do for the Georgia DNR, that passion comes from people,” he said. “It comes from wanting to help and give back and teach others. So many people gave back to me and looked out for me. I think it’s only right—and kind of contagious—to do the same for someone else.”
Sellers’ passion for young people began in Covington, stretched to Decatur and now impacts the entire state. However, that initial love for the Newton County area was ignited when he left behind a nomadic lifestyle in some of Atlanta’s toughest projects, where he was born and raised, in order to get a fresh start at Newton High School as a freshman. Sellers excelled in football, basketball, baseball and track and field at Newton, but over time, he started to see more for his life—even beyond sports—than what a difficult upbringing showed him.
“So many people gave back to me and looked out for me. I think it’s only right—and kind of contagious—to do the same for someone else.”Mike Sellers
“I was just born a natural athlete,” he said. “Deion Sanders was one of my early idols growing up, and that inspired me to do baseball and track in the same season. I saw guys like Dale Carter and Jake Reed, who came from right here in Newton, and coach Harold Johnson, who was the head football coach then, and they all—just that whole experience—gave me the confidence to say I can get to the next level.”
Sellers did so and more. After graduating from Newton in 1994, he went on to play football at East Carolina University on a scholarship, and like many young athletes, Sellers had NFL aspirations.
“I left school early in my junior year because things were so bad for my family, and I wanted to try and provide for them,” he said. “I went on to play for the Montreal Alouettes in [the Canadian Football League], and I thought I was going to make football my career, but God said, ‘Not so fast.’”
Plans changed when injury cut short his playing career. Sellers returned to ECU, paid for his final year of college out of his own pocket and finished his degree. Shortly after, he founded a record label called 50-Deep Records. He later realized his once indescribable love for music was genetic. Sellers met his father for this first time in November 2022 and found out his dad was a singer and a musician who now lives in Germany.
“He did it all throughout his life, then got caught up in some bad stuff and did 26 years in prison,” he said. “I couldn’t find him, and I always wondered where I got that music thing from, and when I met him, I found out.”
Sellers also discovered he had a deep appreciation for the outdoors. The impetus for his 13-year career at the DNR began when he and some other athletes at ECU began volunteering to scratch their itch to make an impact beyond the football field. “We were just athletes trying to give back to our communities in various ways,” Sellers said. Fishing was one of those outlets. Sellers creates experiences, like his Wildlife Day events, that expose youth and their families to fishing and the outdoors. Sellers and his team execute almost 50 of these free events a year across 49 lakes in Georgia between March and October. The events attract anywhere from about 75 people to one recent event at Sweetwater Park in the Douglas County area that saw 3,000 in attendance.
“The events are fun and educational,” he said. “We have our own hatcheries, and we have our fish managers and our team stock the lakes with fish during the winter time, so that way, when we have these events, we can guarantee that people who come out are going to catch some fish.”
Sellers’ efforts and those of his colleagues have inspired some young students to pursue careers in wildlife. That is the most rewarding part of the job.
“Oh, it means the world to me when kids come back and say, ‘Mr. Mike, you saved my life,’” he said. “That’s the goal, to make them say that life is precious. That’s my million-dollar ticket right now. That’s my way to reach kids, even those with behavior problems.” Sellers loves the ability to expand students’ career horizons: “We don’t give kids enough opportunities to understand that, yes, you can do things like teach people to fish and get paid for it.”
Though his work with the DNR allows him to touch virtually every corner of Georgia, Sellers decided to come back to Covington to settle down for the long haul.
“That’s how much I believe in this area,” he said. “My roots are here now in this Covington community. It’s one of the fastest-rising cities around, with Conyers right behind it. There’s such an influx of different people here, and that shows how people are seeing the beauty and value Covington has to offer. Not only did [Covington] start to change my life around as a young kid, but it’s where I first started working to teach people about fishing, wildlife and outdoors.”
Meanwhile, Sellers wants to do all he can to help find more people who can perhaps pick up his passion and run with it for years to come.
“I get them around the lake, I maintain relationships with them, be a good friend,” he said. “You never know what kids may need an internship, and you never know which one of our youth could be the next conservationist or wildlife biologist.”