Jesse Allred came in third in a recent contest, but he didn't mind so much — it was on national television.
The Phoenix pool player was one of five subjects whose videos were ranked on the ESPN show "SportsNation" this past winter. He lost out to the eventual winner, a one-armed swimmer.
"Someone told me about it, then I went and looked for it on the Internet and found it," says Allred, 31. "It was an awesome surprise. I didn't know they picked my video to show on 'SportsNation.' Then I had a bunch of friends who saw it, too."
Allred has gained celebrity after a series of YouTube videos grabbed attention last summer. They showed him playing one-handed speed pool — he's made all 15 balls in the rack in just over a minute — and doing trick shots, sometimes with a co-host like his young son, Maxwell, or with a stuffed monkey as a prop.
One shows him making 27 balls in a row one-handed, but he's gone as high as 60 and is exploring the possibility of being recognized by Guinness World Records.
When the videos began appearing in July, it didn't take long for equipment suppliers to contact him or for players and fans to "friend" him on Facebook and make regular visits to his page.
Most recently, Allred received a pool table, light, cues and other equipment, plus a high-tech camera, from Family Leisure, a home-product chain with eight stores in the South and Midwest.
Store representatives sought a trick-shot player for website promotions. Allred, who has one YouTube video with more than 52,000 views and another with more than 33,000, was their guy. He's been shooting for the company recently and expects video to be ready for its website sometime in April.
He might also be dispatched to stores for exhibitions.
One of the first companies to contact Allred last summer was Kamui Tips, an industry leader in cue-tip manufacturing for which he's made videos.
Allred recently graduated with honors from Rogue Community College, which he attended on the Army GI Bill. He'll enroll at Southern Oregon University this spring, seeking a degree in computer science.
In between terms, he had time to work on his pool game.
"I've improved quite a bit focusing on this one-handed thing," he says. "I'm hoping to do some challenge matches with celebrities or professionals or something."
He's sent videos to Jimmy Kimmel and David Letterman for late-night TV consideration.
"After I've annoyed them 100 times or so, someone might take a look and email me or give me a call," he says.
One TV executive did.
Allred recently was contacted by Blair Thein, producer of the "Deadliest Catch." Thein's company picked up a reality show called "Pool, Poker & Pain" that requires contestants to play the first two games, then meet in an octagon for martial arts combat.
"He emailed me a couple days ago and wants me to do a behind-the-back match on his show," says Allred, adding they are only in discussions. "It's just an example. I've had a couple other trick-shot artists talk to me. I've been getting the word out, so it's pretty exciting."
Allred began playing pool at age 10 and first tried it one-handed at age 15. Since then, he's developed a variety of eye-opening shots — behind the back, jump shots, shots where the cue ball and the object ball are moving, shots with a golf ball.
Allred describes his style as "jacked up," because he doesn't rest the cue on a rail while shooting.
"One-handed play is more with feel than actually aiming," Allred said in an article last August. "With two-handed, you use your elbow as a pendulum. One-handed, it's all in the shoulder. It's basically opposite of two-handed."
Allred didn't plan a career as a corporate pitchman when he uploaded videos; ultimately, he'd like to become an instructor. But he's a bit of a showman and sought to share his talent.
John Bertone, a master dealer for Kamui Tips, was tipped off about Allred's videos by a repair associate. Bertone soon was on the phone with the shooter.
"Anyone can try one-handed shots and get lucky," said Bertone, who lives in Long Beach, Calif., in the earlier story. "But to do masse shots (dramatic curving) or jump shots one-handed, that's just extreme control, perfect precision."
Of his trick shots, Allred favors the masse for its difficulty. Others have told him they're more impressed by a full-rack, behind-the-back run.
Allred also has video of running a rack while alternating with each hand.
Some tricks take a while to master, others, despite their difficulty, work on the first try.
Such was the case with a shot in which he banked the 8-ball off five rails, then sent the cue ball behind it off two rails. The cue eventually collided with the 8, knocking it into a corner pocket.
Allred is an accomplished two-handed player, as well. He won his second straight championship in a straight-pool league in December and plays weekly in area tournaments.
Owner Dave Smith of Rack Em Billiards in Medford has been with the establishment for 20-plus years. He considers Allred the best two-handed player the area has seen in his time, but that talent pales compared to his one-handed abilities, Smith said earlier.
"There are very accomplished players who can't do with two hands what Jesse does with one," said Smith. "I'm not sure Jesse understands how remarkable it is."
As evidenced by the popularity of his videos, others certainly do.
Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 541-776-4479, or email firstname.lastname@example.org