Grambling’s Ronnie Coleman reluctantly tried the sport he eventually dominated

Written for the LSWA

Ronnie Coleman didn’t start off planning to become one of the world’s greatest bodybuilders.

The eventual eight-time Mr. Olympia had a simpler scheme — he wanted a free gym membership.

His origin story is one of happenstance.

Coleman majored in accounting while attending Grambling State University, but couldn’t find work in his field. Instead, he became a policeman in Arlington, Texas, where he served as an officer from 1989 to 2000, and a reserve officer until 2003.

“One day I was out on a call,” Coleman said. “One of the guys on the force saw me, and I’ve always been pretty big and muscular. He was asking where I was working out, and at the time, I was working out at the station.”

Coleman said his setup then was “about the size of a bathroom.”

So, his fellow officer took Coleman to Metroflex Gym, where owner Brian Dobson first spotted him and asked him if he ever considered bodybuilding.

“He said, ‘You need to compete. You could be world champion one day,’” Coleman said. “I told him I didn’t want to do it at the time. I just got on at the police department and I didn’t like being on a diet and having to take drugs like I’d heard to those guys did. I didn’t know anything about bodybuilding.”

A few days passed, with Coleman working out every day and Dobson trying to convince him to give it a try.

“About the fourth day, he finally said, ‘I’ll give you a free membership to the gym if you compete in this show coming up in about four months,’” Coleman said. “Soon as he said that, I’m like, “OK. You should have led with that the first day.”

Coleman didn’t know it then, but he’d steered himself toward his destiny. From an unceremonious beginning emerged one of the greatest bodybuilders on the planet.

“Ronnie was special, man,” Dobson said. “He was amazing. He was supernaturally strong. Even now, his body does not carry body fat. He literally has no body fat. None, with paper thin skin. That’s something that you either have or you don’t. It’s rare to see a man that large that maintains that low a level of body fat.

“But he also had the ability to put on huge amounts of muscle. That made him even greater.”

For all his achievements, Coleman is part of the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame Class of 2020, one of 11 inductees to be honored June 24-26 in Natchitoches. He is the first bodybuilder elected.

“I was shocked,” Coleman said. “Bodybuilding is not a real popular sport in the United States. I was shocked they were putting me in the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame. The biggest crowds we get are five or six thousand. NFL, NBA, they get hundreds of thousands. I was shocked but I was honored they would recognize my sport like that.”

For tickets to the LSHOF Induction Celebration events, and information about the festivities, visit or call 318-238-4255.

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