Trey Morris will never forget the day he sold his first goat.
Every first and third Saturday of the month, his father would take him to a Mayfield auction house where they would watch livestock and other property get bought and sold. He was captivated by the process and by the local auctioneer, a man named Larry Clark.
One summer day, when Morris was just 13, the auctioneer had a coughing fit. Morris's father told him to get up there.
"I handed him a bottle of water and he (Clark) handed me a microphone. I was just panicking and bug-eyed and barely even auctioneering so much as I was saying numbers," Morris, now 36, recalled.
Later on, he would find out that his father had put Clark up to it, "but that's the day the fire was lit" for Morris.
"From there the rest was history: I wanted to be an auctioneer."
Twenty-three years later -- on July 12 -- Morris reached the pinnacle of the auction world when he was named the 2019 International Auctioneer Champion at the National Auctioneer Association (NAA)'s 70th Annual Conference and Show in New Orleans, beating out competitors from across the U.S., Canada, Mexico and Ireland.
"It didn't seem real when it first happened," said Morris, an alumnus of Murray State University and Graves County High School. "This is a goal I've had for many years and I've competed for the last six. It's such a high achievement and an absolute dream come true."
When most people think about auctions, it's the speed of the chant that comes to mind, but Morris believes clarity and the people that got him there are the keys to his success.
"You want to communicate well with your buyers. You want to make sure they understand you and hit your numbers," he explained. "But there are so many people that have fingerprints on my trophy and who helped me get to where I am today.
"My mom and dad made me, from a professional standpoint the NAA formed me. They've helped mold me into the kind of professional I need to be."
Morris' name could be a familiar one for local sports fans, as he was the in-arena voice for the MSU men's and women's basketball teams for three years. He and his wife, Kandis, now live in the college town -- where he owns an auctioneering business specializing in real estate and fundraising.
Much of his time is spent helping others through his auction skills by partnering with music artists, athletes and organizations for various causes, including St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, Juvenile Diabetes, American Heart Association and the Ronald McDonald House.
"You make a living by what you get. You make a life by what you give," Morris said, citing a quote often attributed to Winston Churchill. "I've realized this championship is really about giving back."
And, for any parents with kids fascinated by auctioneers, Morris said he's not above having a "coughing fit" of his own.
Morris has gone from selling goats in Mayfield to regularly working with Larry Clark -- the Mayfield auctioneer who used to leave him "star struck" and whose kindness first got him in the auction game -- to fielding bids on thoroughbred horses for Fasig-Tipton and selling classic cars on the Discovery channel for Barret-Jackson Auction Company.
For a man who remembers auctioning off imaginary horses to no one in his family's Graves County barn, this is the culmination of a lifetime's effort. He'll be representing the NAA and the auction industry throughout the year, acting as an ambassador to trade groups and other organizations.
"The two most important days in anyone's life is the day you're born and the day you figure out why," said Morris, who just became a fulltime auctioneer two years ago.
"I live by that and I was born to be an auctioneer. It's my dream job and passion and it's something I've worked so very hard for. I really haven't worked a day since."