Tim McGraw: Clinging to underdog status

Singer-actor Tim McGraw.
CBS News

(CBS News) "I Like It, I Love It" was a giant hit for singer Tim McGraw, and though he's branched out into other fields, McGraw has never forgotten his country music roots. This morning he talks with Tracy Smith . . . For The Record:

It's a fairly common scene around Super Bowl time: Guys gather in the yard to toss a football. Only in this case, some of the players actually are pros, like Matt Hasselbeck from the Tennessee Titans.

And the friend who invited them to his farm outside Nashville is country star Tim McGraw.

Is he competitive? "I'm pretty competitive, I mean, in most things," McGraw told Smith. "But in these kind of things, I'm competitive, but I like to just have fun.

"I find when I get too competitive, something ends up getting hurt," he added.

It's not like Tim McGraw needs any more hits -- on the charts, that is. He's had 23 Billboard Country Number Ones.

And if that's not enough, he's a successful actor.

Tim McGraw and Faith Hill at the 45th annual CMA Awards, Nov. 9, 2011, in Nashville, Tenn.
Michael Loccisano/Getty Images

And did we forget to mention he's been married to Faith Hill, that other chart-topping singer, for more than 16 years?

Most of us would call ourselves superstars at this point. Tim McGraw has a different opinion, calling himself an underdog.

"I feel like that. I like to feel like an underdog. It may not be a healthy philosophy in the long run, but I feel like that I think I need to feel that way. I want to feel like I'm in a corner sometimes and need to fight my way out of it."

Fact is, Tim McGraw has always had to fight -- or at least work hard.

He was born in 1967 and raised, without much money, in and around Monroe, La., He grew up as Timmy Smith, thinking his stepfather, Horace Smith, was his real dad.

"See, he was really sort of a cowboy, redneck kind of truck driver," McGraw said. "I spent a lot of time in his truck listenin' to eight-track, probably six years old, five years old, hauling cotton seed across Louisiana and Texas."

But at age 11, while snooping in a closet for Christmas presents, Tim found his birth certificate.

"It said, 'Father: Frank Edwin McGraw. Occupation: Professional baseball player,'" he told Smith. "I knew who Tug McGraw was. I had his baseball card on my wall, yeah. So, I knew instantly who it was. But I don't think I could comprehend it."

His mother, Betty, reached out to Tug McGraw, but the baseball star wasn't eager to admit he was the father -- much less have a relationship with Tim.

"How did you not let that disappointment ruin your life?" asked Smith.

"Well, look, I had a great mom. I think one thing that I got from finding out that Tug was my father and seeing his success and the things that he did with his life, I think it flipped a switch in me I might not necessarily had had flipped."

In 1989, Tim -- who'd now taken on the name McGraw -- headed to Nashville. After three years of trying, he landed a record deal.

And it was a flop. But the label decided to give him one more chance...

"I felt like it was do-or-die," he said. "In fact, I'm surprised that I got a chance to do the second album. I think I sort of snuck in under the radar and did it without anybody paying attention until i got done."

"And then, they started paying attention," said Smith.

"Well, yeah, they paid attention close after that."