What demons do you face? For much of Jeremy Koling’s life his biggest shame was his blemished smile – so much so he rarely showed his teeth to others. But after facing his dental demons and undergoing major dental surgery, nowadays he can’t stop smiling.
Koling, 34, hopes his story can inspire others to face their demons and he couldn’t think of a better way to share that message than on a disc. “This disc can be that first spark to get someone started in their journey,” said the 12-year touring pro.
But just because Koling’s journey has been deeply personal doesn’t mean his disc design couldn’t be light-hearted just like the 6’ 6’’ fun-loving guy from Charlotte.
Centaur? Laser fingers?
Tired of the same boring hero images he’s seen on discs, Koling worked closely with artist Marm O. Set to create a comical design that was part fantasy and part romance novel cover while still conveying the message of conquering his demons.
“When I make stamps, I want them to be in-depth, full of detail – something that makes you think and something that can elicit joy and happiness in some way,” said Koling, the 2016 US Champion.
Four gotta-have Big Jerm the Conqueror discs
Koling didn’t pick just any discs for this release. You’ll find all four of these disc models inside his bag. They include:
These discs are to help spread Koling’s hopeful message and to assist him during a pandemic disrupted season that has been tough on the touring players. So help Big Jerm continue to tour and to help pay off those new chompers (Dental work is not cheap)!
Koling will be the first to tell you his dental hygiene growing up was poor. And after years of neglecting his teeth, his dental problems had snowballed into what seemed like an insurmountable problem. With missing and broken teeth, Koling was downright ashamed of his smile. In fact, he was so ashamed of his teeth he would often think hard before smiling or laughing to determine if it was worth revealing his teeth.
“We all have our own thing. Mine happened to be my greatest source of insecurity. So much of my life was consumed by that insecurity. I felt I didn’t have that strength to tackle it,” said Koling.
Meaning behind the Conqueror stamp
Some of the stamp elements are just plain fun like the “Pew, Pew, Pew” lasers, the two braids flowing from his ballcap, and of course the transformation of him into a centaur. Centaur? – you may be asking. Where’d that come from? Pretty simple, actually. Jerm said he and Marm O. Set asked themselves, “What would elicit the most immediate laughter response?”
Other design elements are a truer reflection of his journey. His girlfriend of nearly two years, Jewels Wilkinson, seated on his centaur body, represents not only her support during this ordeal but all the support he received from his friends and family. In the design, Jewels joins Jerm in battling a horde of dental demons. 32 to be exact, which is the same number of teeth a healthy adult has. But Jerm says these demons, though, can represent any obstacle that someone is struggling to overcome.
Jerm / Marm Collab Video
Learn More about Koling’s journey and how Marm O. Set produced the design in this video.
Getting up and doing something - The first step is the hardest.
The night before the final round of the 2012 USDGC, Koling’s poor dental health caused an abscess (mouth infection) that made his face swell up noticeably. Already extremely self-conscious about his mouth, Koling was quite embarrassed at how he looked on disc golf’s biggest stage. More startling though, Koling realized how his teeth were putting his greater health at risk. That’s when he realized he needed to do something.
However, knowing that he would have to invest substantial amounts of time, money, and physical pain into rehabilitating his mouth, it took him five more years to find the courage to make that first step.
After encouragement from his roommate at the time Elyse Hamilton-Childres and his sister Heidi Montague , he finally decided to make that first move in 2017. What resulted was a 2-year mouth restoration effort that included an extensive dental implant procedure for his upper teeth and crowns (caps) on all of his lower teeth.
After embarking on his recovery, Koling decided to let the public in on what was going on – something he would’ve never done just a few years earlier. Two posts last year on Instagram really caught hold with his disc golf audience. One, prior to his final dental surgery, was a breakthrough for him personally, because he publicly revealed the broken smile that had caused him so much pain over the years.
The next one, on April 5, 2019 in which he revealed his new set of teeth for the first time, really struck a chord and reached thousands. That post included a video of Jeremy seeing his new smile for the first time. It’s a heartfelt moment that he said he’d dreamed about for years.
In addition, dozens of others personally reached out to him about their own dental struggles and other issues as well.
Jeremy never thought how his struggle / journey would affect and touch others. Turns out when you reveal your vulnerabilities, people respond, he said.
“Not everyone wants to be that vulnerable. It’s uncomfortable,” said Koling, who added that when someone does that in the disc golf community, people relate.
Best self found:
It’s safe to say that Koling is a changed man after facing his fears and fixing his smile. He noticed that soon after completing his dental procedure.
“The very first tourney after my teeth were put in (2019 Glass Blown Open) was the most fun I had ever had at a tournament. I could not stop smiling,” said Koling.
He said finding the courage to confront his dental issues and emerging from the experience with a confident smile has allowed him to be the person he’s always wanted to be.
He knows the same can happen to others too, if they’re willing to face their demons.