RONNIE COLEMAN HAS ALWAYS BEEN AN ENIGMA. With his plainspoken Southernisms and blunt answers, he provided amiably, but never penetrating, interviews. The impression given was that he merely wanted to lift ludicrously heavy things, eat the same food at the same places at the same times every day forever, and transport yet another Sandow from Las Vegas to Arlington, Texas, each September. Yeah, buddy.
But what truly motivated him? What were his first 25 years—before his first bodybuilding contest—like, and how did they mold him? What did he hate? Who did he love? Twelve years after he retired from the stage with a record-tying eight Olympia titles (and 26 pro titles), the living legend who is arguably bodybuilding’s GOAT opens up in his new autobiography, Yeah Buddy! My Incredible Story.
After reading his book, here are six of the things we know better about Ronnie Coleman.
1. EVEN AS A KID, HE WORKED AND WORKED AND WORKED.
You may have known about Ronnie’s work ethic during his Olympia reign, how he remained a police officer until 2004, when he had a mantle loaded with Sandows, how he toiled in the Texas swelter in Metroflex Gym in the cruelest hours of August. But you probably didn’t know how early this began. “Because I grew up watching my mom work all the time, I saw hard work not only as something normal but necessary,” he writes. “When I was nine years old, I decided that I wanted to get some type of employment and make my own money.”
Child labor laws are damned, at nine he convinced the owner of the general store in his small Louisiana town to hire him to help with chores. At 12, he began chopping cotton each summer—brutally hard labor. He was a busboy in a restaurant. He removed toxic asbestos from a paper mill with a jackhammer! And all before college. “To me, working was more than a way of life. It was a blessing. It was the greatest thing that could ever happen to me….[I]f I hadn’t had a job, who knows what may have happened to me.”