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Now retired bodybuilder Ronnie Coleman, who some of you may recognize from his long and successful career as a bodybuilder- and others may recognize from the “Yeah Buddy!” videos. Like many champions, he has an interesting story. Apparently his first choice for his occupation, his first dream really, was to play professional football in the NFL. He was denied his dream, and upon graduating from college he became a police officer. After being prodded by a friend, he got into bodybuilding. ”Look at the guy, he must have taken it by storm,” you may be tempted to say…
In fact Ronnie competed for quite a long time without being successful. Bodybuilding is an expensive sport, even more so if you’re not a winner/regular runner that lacks a sponsor. It’s a lifestyle, and a huge time consumer. Many bodybuilders do not work at all, and live mooching off of family or breadwinner spouses, no joke. Competing several times a year is financially difficult, as well as extremely physically straining. Ronnie was competing for several years on his own dime in competition after competition. Flying around the world to contests, spending oodles of money, and getting nowhere. It’s not just that he wasn’t winning 1st or 2nd, he was placing horribly.
After several YEARS, his friend and fellow bodybuilder Kevin Levrone told him to quit. (Kevin, at the time, being a “regular runner up” and favorite to win the coveted Mr.Olympia title). He gave him the advice as Ronnie’s friend- after all he’d been spending tons of time money and time, but getting absolutely nowhere to show for it. I believe this pattern was going on 5+ years, Kevin had believed it was time Ronnie gave it up.
Eventually, Ronnie actually started winning. His first Olympia win was in 1998. He ended up winning 8 straight titles, tying the record of his idol, Lee Haney. Worth of mention is the fact that he was 41 for his last victory in 2005, and he had a real job as a police officer during his first 2 wins.
Not only did he win, he changed the sport. Commentators later joked it looked like he got off of a spaceship. Other competitors would be backstage and wonder who was placing 2nd, 3rd, and 4th. When later asked what his favorite victory was, some wondered if he would cite 2003 as he was in his best shape. He stated, paraphrasing in Ronnie-speaker, “1998. It’s, hard for me to believe that I’ve won to this day because.. actually I was just hopin’, I could make the top 5.” In 1997, he had placed 9th. What’s interesting to note, is that his friend Kevin Levrone never actually won an Olympia title.
Ronnie Coleman went down in history as one of the best of all time. The guy’s made millions of dollars, he’s famous, loved by fans, and a world champion several times over. He’s not the most articulate speaker you’ve ever heard, he didn’t invent anything, – there’s a list of things he hasn’t done: but he’s lived a storied life anyway. Not bad for someone that lost his dream of going to the NFL. Had he made it to the NFL, he may very well have had a lack luster short career, fighting for starting spots and the like. As a bodybuilder, he was one of the greatest of all time.
It’s stories like his and others that I’ll be talking about in the future, that have me mostly unconcerned with the prospect of life closing a door on an opportunity.