On November 13th I competed in my final natural pro show of my first competitive season as a pro. The NGA Universe in Ft. Lauderdale, FL. 12 Pro men showed up in an extremely competitive lineup. Unlike my previous shows, this show did not split us into classes, we would all be judged together. As prejudging progressed I felt really good about how I looked and was confident that I would be at least as good as my personal best, and perhaps better.
This ended up being one of the toughest lineups this show had ever seen. I was certain I was in the top 5 but knew I would have a hard time cracking the top 3 after prejudging was over. Several people in the audience told me I had the freakiest leg vascularity and hardness of any of the competitors onstage. For me, this was almost as good as a victory as I have struggled with my leg development for YEARS and for people to tell me that they were now a strength just made me feel amazing. I still know they have a long way to go but now I have the confidence to get there. In the end, I wound up in 4th place out of 12 competitors with Dave Lovelace (who drastically improved from the Cape Cod show) taking the win. Dave is one of the top guys in natural bodybuilding when he is on point and this was the best I had seen him. I had a great time at the show with my fellow competitors as always and after wards had a great time getting a bite to eat at a Japanese Steakhouse with my friends who were nice enough to drive down to watch me compete. No huge cheat meal for me however as I had to guest pose the following weekend.
The next day I was right back on my diet, and Isabel and I were traveling… again! Kansas City, Cape Cod, DC, Miami, and now we were driving to Dekalb, IL (about 1100 miles) for the guest posing and then back to Evansville, IN (another 6 hours) for thanksgiving with my family. All the travel was certainly starting to take it’s toll. Isabel and I were basically living out of hotel rooms for the last 2 months. Nonetheless I was excited to guest pose at the OCB Midwest States. Isabel and I had attended that show every year since it’s inception in 2005 and had become friends with many of the competitors, judges, and the promoter, Ray Binkowski. Guest posing was an absolute blast as Ray gave me a really nice introduction before I came onstage. The crowd was full, at least 500 people packed the Egyption Theater! After I finished posing I gave a short speech thanking my wife of course, but also exclaiming how proud I was to be a part of the show since at the first midwest states, there were maybe 60 people in the audience and only 19 competitors. This year there were over 80 competitors and over 400 fans! And they made a lot of noise and really made me feel welcome.
After my guest posing was over the other competitors really made me feel like some sort of celebrity posing with me for pictures for probably 2 or 3 dozen people and for what seemed like half an hour. It was fine by me though, I love doing that stuff, even if it delayed my post contest eating by a bit! After the show was over, my friends and I went to the afterparty, but my wife ordered us deep dish Giordannos Pizza (famous pizza place based in chicago). We brought it with us to the after party and dug in, it was so good, but I limited myself to 3 slices and that was it. No post contest binging for me! I made it my goal to have a super productive offseason and it has already started very well. My strength is up, I’m slowly raising my calories, and my weight is only up 4 lbs from my stage weight but I feel great! Obviously I want to get heavier, but I want to do it slowly over time with quality mass.
Overall my rookie year as a pro went far better than I ever could have imagined. 4 pro shows and placed top 5 in each show, including the Yorton Cup world championships! I also managed to win my class at the International, something I thought might never happen, me win my class at a pro show… absolutely crazy. It was such a challenging journey and great experience and I want to thank everyone who supported me along the way, truly it has meant everything to me. Now my focus turns to improving this offseason. It’s time for an upgrade!