While the characters on The Walking Dead regularly share their backstories with one another, Daryl Dixon’s (Norman Reedus) past remains mostly shrouded in mystery save for an admission that he mostly wandered around doing what Merle told him to do. But while that generally speaks to the characters past, it’s pretty unlikely that he never held down a job at any point in his life because liquor, leather, motorcycles, and meth cost money, so here are a few educated guesses on what Daryl might have taken on and fallen short on in the past based on his particular set of skills.
Sporting Goods Salesman
Along with his chopper, his leather vest, and his dreamy disposition, Daryl’s crossbow is an essential aspect of his character. While it gives him the notable advantage of being a near-silent assassin amongst hyper-aware zombies, its reload time makes it an unusual choice as a go-to weapon, though it may give a clue to his possible background. Like, say, someone who worked retail in the sporting goods industry. Most likely specializing in used weaponry — like the kind you’d find in the back of a pawn shop, given how difficult it is to imagine Daryl putting up with wearing a uniform and name tag at a big-box store.
Let’s face it, Daryl is a nurturer. When Sophia (Madison Lintz) turned up missing, he dedicated himself to tracking her down, even after sustaining a couple of bad injuries along the way. When it was revealed that she was another zombie being kept in the barn, he was the one to comfort her mother, Carol (Melissa McBride). Not long after Judith was born, Daryl practically leapt at the opportunity to bottle-feed her while comforting her in his arms (which became its own meme), perhaps revealing his caregiver past.
When gutting a zombie with Rick (Andrew Lincoln) for clues, Daryl has no trouble locating the stomach. Once he gets there, it doesn’t take him much time to figure out that it had digested the remains of a woodchuck. Considering he also took to wearing necklaces made of zombie ears for a time, there aren’t a lot of occupations that’ll give one that kind of anatomical insight. And let’s face it, it’s pretty unlikely that Daryl learned all that working in an operating room.
Boy Scout Troop Leader/Survivalist
When Daryl briefly becomes a member of the blood-thirsty marauders known as The Claimers, he has a conversation with their leader, Joe (Jeff Kober), who shares his opinion that the world didn’t fall apart. Instead, Joe argues the opposite, that for people like them, the zombie apocalypse was the moment that the world finally “came together.”
It’s hard to deny that Daryl seems as though he’s the member of Rick’s group that is most comfortable with the day-to-day realities that come with the post-apocalypse, and he was the last one to change clothes or shower after arriving in the (at first) tranquil community Alexandria. While there’s no doubt that Daryl was already prone to the survivalist lifestyle, his willingness to help others, and his incredibly helpful knowledge as to which plant to rub on yourself to avoid mosquito bites may indicate something more along the lines of a Boy Scout Troop Leader.
Amateur Wrestling Referee
Daryl’s had to break-up a few fights before they got out of control, he’s always hyper-aware of what’s going on around him, and he’s quick to let people know when they are out line, such as when he called Shane out for an illegal chokehold.
Generally No-Good Lowlife
As I alluded to, the most specific Daryl has ever gotten about his past was when he and Beth sat around a dingy, rundown cabin in the woods while they knocked back jars of moonshine. For the first time, he opened up a bit, talking about the “ugly places like this” that used to dominate his life. Looking back at the original Atlanta camp, he was little more than a skittish, strung-out tweaker who was the first one willing to turn on his fellow survivors, even prompting Rick to set the initial “we do not kill the living” rule (although we all know how well that ended up working out for everyone).
Not long after that, it came as no surprise to anyone when Daryl revealed that his then-missing brother, Merle (Michael Rooker), kept a hefty supply of pharmaceuticals with him, along with a bag of familiar looking blue meth. Though he’s learned since then to become a team player and an integral part of Rick’s band of survivors, his tough guy exterior and willingness to fight will always hint back to his uncertain life before The Walking Dead.