I've been a member at the same gym since age 14, but I didn't get serious about it until age 19, thanks to my cousin Dan Pond. I received my one and only DUI at age 19, and because I had no driving privileges my cousin picked me up every day, took me to the gym to train with him, and then we went to work together.
Before I started working out, I was fascinated with the human body from seeing Arnold as a youngster and from learning about the body in science class. I always doodled on my notebook during class and drew bulging biceps and full-body muscular men. Throughout my early 20s, I was a typical gym rat. I lifted for two hours every day and started to get "the look," so lots of people asked for my advice and help. I loved helping others, so the next step was to get my personal training certificate.
I always wanted to compete, but never had the dedication. At age 21, I started to read more about pro bodybuilders, what they ate, how they trained, applied it to myself, and got stronger and bigger.
I attended the University of Dayton and loved every day of it. I was enrolled in the Army ROTC program and was gearing toward becoming an officer in the Army after college. The summer after my sophomore year, I came home like most kids, got a couple part-time jobs, and had fun with my high school buddies. This was the summer after 9/11, so any graduating officers within the next five years were being picked up and sent overseas immediately.
After finishing my bartending shift on a Saturday night around 2 a.m., I was to be at work Sunday morning around 7 a.m. and decided to pull an all-nighter like I've done many times before. I started to drive to the nearest 24-hour Speedway that was about 15 minutes away for some coffee and to kill time. I took a few back roads and next thing I knew it was about a week later at Miami Valley Hospital.
I had run off the side of a road, a curvy, hilly road, and hit a tree head on. My right leg was shattered, my left ankle was burned from the engine catching fire and coming through the firewall, my pelvis was split open with massive internal bleeding, and my collar bone, jaw, and eye socket were broken. My hospital stay was somewhere around 20 days, but after nine days my white blood count tripled in one day—they knew the leg was infected and had to be removed.
At age 21, I was extremely positive about it. I was ready to get back to normal life and rehab as fast as possible, which I did. I was motivated to recover, but hit a low point after a while. From age 23-27, I was down and depressed, but never realized until later. I should have talked with a psychiatrist. It all started in August 2003 when I started to think about going back to college. I thought I wanted to go get a degree, but soon realized I just needed closure from that place and all my friends from University of Dayton who were getting ready to graduate. I still had two years left, which was even more depressing.
I went back to school for a semester, screwed around, and came home again for the summer. Within a month, I unknowingly met my future wife and we have been together since. I found a good factory job and was motivated and determined to give it my all and prove I could do anything. After busting my ass for a year, my leg couldn't take it anymore, but I wouldn't admit it to myself. I was put on short-term disability soon after and went out and drank and smoked for six months. I became fat (280 pounds) and sank even further into depression.
Eventually, around March 2008, I found a bartending/cooking job that made me happy and comfortable. I remained positive, happy, lost weight, got in shape, and competed for my first time at age 29 at the 2010 Northern Kentucky. To prepare for this show, I sought out the only two people I knew who competed. One was IFBB figure pro Chastity Slone and the other was Josh Bunch, an amateur bodybuilder. This couple ran a CrossFit and personal training studio and helped me get competition ready. They set me up with meal plans and introduced me to the paleo diet, which worked fantastic for my body because I'm sensitive to carbs.
I started in September 2009, weighed 220 pounds, and competed in March 2010 at 183 pounds. I placed last out of 13 in my class, but it was my first show with inexperienced posing, and a lack of symmetry and conditioning. After the show, I went crazy on crappy food and was relieved it was over. I didn't compete again until the same show the following year. I followed the same meal plans, training, came into the show a little leaner with better conditioning, and placed 10th out of 11 at 181 pounds.
After the show, I went through the same process again and didn't compete for more than a year. Eventually, I was itching to compete again and found the INBF Tri State in Dayton, Ohio. This competition was in May 2012 and I weighed 183 pounds. I busted my ass and felt like I looked conditioned until the day of the show when I saw the other competitors who looked way better. It crushed my confidence. Through pure luck and randomness, I set up backstage camp right next to Austin Dossey, Eric Gibson, and Zack Sizemore. Eric and Zack were competing and Austin was coaching. I listened to every word and conversation they had, and wanted to know more.
Shortly after the show, I contacted Austin through his website and made the trip to Indianapolis a few months later. I wanted to compete in the Cardinal Classic in September 2012. Austin taught me some amazing things about nutrition and supplementation. When competition day rolled around, I weighed in at 167 pounds. My conditioning was amazing, but I lacked symmetry and size and placed second in my class.
I gained quality weight and competed in the Buckeye Classic in April 2013 at 172 pounds. Again, I placed second in my weight class and lacked size. The bodybuilding world has definitely brought a new and positive look on life. But even better, it brought me to Austin Dossey, Eric Gibson, and Zack Sizemore.
A few years after I lost my leg, I decided to be better than I used to be. Not necessarily better than anyone else, but in better shape and healthier. My goal was to step on stage and I knew it was going to be a tough and painful road. I had to adapt, evolve, and find ways to work my body with a prosthetic. When working legs, I learned the mechanics and function a real ankle gives you. I definitely have more painful days than non-painful, mainly because of bodybuilding, but I have to go through pain to succeed.
I'm driven to win my pro card and become a role model. I may be the first pro amputee one day. I can honestly say I love pre-contest prep; the process leading up to peak week and the day of. I love the smells backstage, the tanner, oils, etc.
My cousin, Dan Pond, was my motivator. When I was young, I watched him train, take supplements, and mix powders. He always had muscle magazines lying around. At age 19, I got serious and Dan picked me up every day and took me to the gym to train with him.
I want to show everyone, eventually the world, what someone like me can do. I've seen too many amputees feel sorry for themselves for way too long, stuck in wheelchairs. I want these people, and people in general, to be inspired by me. The dedication to compete is far harder than what it takes to walk again, at least in my experience.
I talk myself out of bad and unmotivated moods, but sometimes it helps to watch videos of my favorite pros. I used to watch Pumping Iron almost every day or Ronnie Coleman videos. Finding old episodes of American Gladiators on YouTube puts me back to that place when I was young and wanted to look like those guys. Usually, just getting to the gym puts my mind in the right place.
Listening to my favorite music gets me going. Sometimes a song will come on that takes me back to a point in time when I was angry with my situation or depressed and down. I take that anger and gear it toward my workouts. A favorite quote I constantly read is "Luck is when preparation meets opportunity."
I really want my bodybuilding and life experiences to reach everyone. I'm a generous person and nothing is more satisfying than helping someone for nothing, just to see them smile and succeed. With my personal training and CrossFit background, I hope to open my own facility within the next year. That's a huge goal I can accomplish because of bodybuilding. The dedication and drive required can be applied to all aspects of life.
Learn as much as you can from anyone with experience. People who are stubborn and think they know what they're doing won't achieve their results. People with the most experience are usually more excited to help than you can imagine. The ones with the experience are more confident and can guide anyone through motivation and support.
This may sound like a broken record, but I admire Arnold Schwarzenegger. Not because of his body from the 70s and 80s, but because of what he accomplished in life. He did everything he wanted to. He was successful before anyone heard of him or saw Pumping Iron. I draw inspiration from those types of people, who may not have a college degree but are more successful than those who do. They set goals, read and educate themselves, and do whatever it takes to succeed. They don't worry about failure. The biggest failure is not trying at all. If you do the work to prepare, opportunities will be there. Just being out there and meeting people can open many doors.
I never wanted to be the typical factory grunt who hates his job, but that is the way it's supposed to be. I never understood that. I have too many dreams to be stuck in a prison like that. My mind is constantly dreaming of things I want in life, and for the longest time I thought they were impossible to attain. But somewhere in the past few years, I started to realize that any dream is attainable, no matter what part of life you're in. Having kids makes me focused to attain my dreams, because I want them to have the same outlook. This is the inspiration I drew from successful people, starting with Arnold.
I always order supplements from Bodybuilding.com now. For years, I went back and forth between 3-4 different sites, but always came back to Bodybuilding.com. The articles are fantastic. You can literally find an answer to any question about your body or training, even for questions you think might only apply to you. It's extremely helpful.
- "Life To Lifeless" by Killswitch Engage
- "Cold Reader" by Stone Sour
- "Blind" by Korn
- "Narcissistic Cannibal" by Korn
- "Walk" by Pantera