The Burt Reynolds Line That Inspired One of Toby Keith’s Biggest Hits, “As Good As I Once Was”

“You know, I’m not as good as I once was, but I’m as good once as I ever was,” said Burt Reynolds in the 1980s. The phrase, coined by Reynolds, was one Toby Keith‘s father, Hubert K. Covel Jr. (1933-2001), would often use. The saying stuck with Keith, who later found a use for it in his 2005 single “As Good As I Once Was” from his 2005 album Honkytonk University.

The song became one of Keith’s longest-running No. 1 hits on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart, where it remained for six weeks. Honkytonk University also topped the Country chart and peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard 200.

“Burt Reynolds came and he sat down and said, ‘You know, I’m not as good as I once was, but I’m as good once as I ever was,'” recalled Keith’s co-writer Scotty Emerick. “That was on a rerun of a show from the ’80s or something. I think that saying has been around a little bit. Which is cool, because we had never heard of it as a country song. But I had never heard of it that way, so that was Toby’s idea.”

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[RELATED: 3 Songs You Didn’t Know Toby Keith Wrote for Other Artists]

Coming of Age

In the song, Keith is singing from the perspective of a man who doesn’t feel as good as [he] once was in his younger years, when it comes to having a threesome with twins and getting into a pool game fight.

She said I seen you in here before
I said I been here a time or two
She said “Hello my name is Bobby Jo,
Meet my twin sister Betty Lou
And we’re both feelin’ kinda wild tonight
You’re the only cowboy in this place
And if you’re up for a rodeo
I’ll put a big Texas smile on your face”
I said “Girls…”

I ain’t as good as I once was
I got a few years on me now
But there was a time, back in my prime
When I could really lay it down
If you need some love tonight
Then I might have just enough
I ain’t as good as I once was, but I’m as good once
As I ever was

I still hang out with my best friend Dave
I’ve known him since we were kids at school
Last night he had a few shots, got in a tight spot
Hustlin’ a game of pool
With a couple of redneck boys
One great big fat biker man
I heard David yell across the room
“Hey buddy, how ’bout a helpin’ hand”

[RELATED: Toby Keith Dies at 62 Following Stomach Cancer Battle]

Of the song, Keith said it was one of his favorites from Honkytonk University. Probably my favorite song on the album. If I hadn’t come out of the box with ‘Honkytonk U’ I’d have come with this one. It didn’t matter what order, they were going to be singles one and two. I can always tell when I’ve got a special one as soon as I get done. My dad used to say this line some. The first verse is about being with a woman, two is about fighting, and three is saying don’t sell me short because I’ll surprise you.”

Throughout the years, “As Good As I Once Was” became one of Keith’s signature songs and one he performed during his final concert on December 14, 2023, at the Park MGM in Las Vegas, months before his death on February 5, 2024, at 62 following a two-year battle with cancer.

‘Broken Bridges’

A year after releasing “As Good As I Once Was,” Keith appeared with Reynolds in the 2006 musical drama Broken Bridges. In the film, Keith starred as the down-and-out country singer Bo Price, who returns home to Nashville following the death of his brother in a military training exercise. Once he’s back in town, Price is reunited with a former lover, Angela Delton, played by Kelly Preston, and a teenage daughter (Lindsay Haun) he never met.

Keith talked Reynolds, who plays Keith’s former girlfriend’s father, Jake Delton, into taking on a role in the movie, which also stars Willie Nelson and Bebe Winans.

When Reynolds died in 2018, Keith wrote “Working with Burt Reynolds was a bucket list check mark” on Facebook, and added “Great guy. Icon. Hey bandit, rest peaceful.”

Photo: Theo Wargo/WireImage

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