I grew up in the country lifting weights. I never conceptualized being Mr. Olympia or something like that from a bodybuilding perspective, but I did tell all of my friends that I was going to be on the cover of a magazine one day. Back then it sounded completely crazy because I was living in a trailer, learning how to lift weights, and I didn’t live close to anything related to fitness.
For Some Reason
I was reading about Arnold, Frank Zane, and Franco Columbu at the time, and for whatever reason, I had this vision to be on the cover of a magazine. On top of this, I wasn’t someone that was willing to take drugs and I wasn’t that big of a guy.
The Bad Dream
Here’s what I had to endure before my dream came true… As you may know, the Arnold Classic is here in Columbus, and with it comes the opportunity to meet people in the fitness space. I was relentless because I saw an opening that I could push for.
The person I pushed worked at Physical Magazine. This particular magazine was a regular on the shelves at GNC. Once this guy responded to my email, I continued to press hard to stay in his ear. Finally, he gave me an opportunity a month before Thanksgiving.
I tried my best, but I did everything wrong in order to get ready for this photo shoot, I swear to you. When I flew, I had too much sodium. When I got off the plane, I could already tell that I felt off, so I went and did a bunch of cardio. I did everything wrong up to this point.
I walk into the photo shoot, and the first person I see is Greg Plitt, RIP. Greg’s been on 300+ magazine covers and is one of the best of all time. Greg’s around 190 pounds, completely shredded, and has a girl hanging on his arm. He’s killing his photo shoot.
Soft as a Marshmallow
I was as soft as a marshmallow. I finally got my opportunity, I flew to Los Angeles, it’s my turn to go, and it looks like I don’t have any fucking muscles. I literally didn’t have one ab line showing. The week before I thought I looked alright considering that I had such short notice. This aside, I thought to myself: “I got this.”
Both me and the photographer could see what’s going on. Greg literally thinks that I’m a part of the staff. Straight up. I’m about 30 minutes in and I say, “Look man, I know I’m not prepared. I don’t look the way I should. I’m going to use this to come back prepared. So don’t continue to waste your time.”
Cory, the photographer, was nice enough to say that he could try editing them to make them look better, but I was too soft, I wasn’t prepared, and I simply fucked it all up. I wasn’t ready.
What Happened Next
I asked the photographer for his card. I told him that I would come back on my own in six to eight months. I told him that I was going to come back looking ridiculous, if he was willing to give me another shot. He gave me his card, probably thinking that he would never hear from me again.
I Went to Work
I went to work those next 6-8 months. When I got back to LA I was shredded to the bone. When I took my shirt off, he could tell that I was serious this time. I got through the shoot and murdered it. Lights-out, everything looked good. It took two more years for the cover to come out.
I went through the bad dream, worked for eight months, flew back on my dollar, smoked the shoot, and then persisted for two more years for someone to use the photo. The magazine finally came out in 2008.
Do you understand the percentage of people that make it on a magazine cover, especially without taking drugs?
Fast-forward to 2015
I shot with Physical Magazine again. I remember absolutely murdering that photo shoot. That shoot alone resulted in four covers. When I went to pitch Arnold Schwarzenegger to be my business partner, I was on newsstands.
How easy would it have been if I tucked my tail and just sulked back to Ohio? Fuck that, I was right there. I had already lived through the worst part. Everything that I didn’t want to come true came true. The main player in the industry saw me look like shit, I didn’t look good, and I didn’t deliver. That being said, I had the opportunity to persevere to come back and kill it.
I don’t just kind of want this life. I fucked it up, but I came back and killed it. And now, 13 covers later, I still believe in me. This kid, from a trailer lifting sand weights, believed he could do it. To be able to realize my dream I had to live through the worst possibility first. As hard as it was, I was able to come out the other side a winner.