Journey to Getting My IFBB Pro Card
Journey to Getting My IFBB Pro Card
The journey started in 2004, in high school, as I was running repeats for track. We all took off our shirts because it was an unseasonably warm spring day in Indiana at Yorktown High School and a fellow teammate, Andrew Goul, shouted, “Hey, have you ever though about bodybuilding, you have a huge chest!” To be completely honest I had never thought about bodybuilding and my “huge chest” has been the target of many jokes and hard times growing up. In middle school wrestling guys would always tell me I had “boobs” and that it was weird. Luckily, years later, I would find out my “boobs” were actually pecs and everybody else tried to build theirs in the gym by lifting. Thank you Andrew for getting the wheels turning.
My freshman year at Ball State University I watched the Mr. and Ms. Ball State Bodybuilding Championships in the spring and saw Dorian Haywood destroy the competition. During his posing routine he actually did a backflip! At that moment I said to myself, “I will be Mr. Ball State by my senior year”. My sophomore year I competed and got second in my weight class. My junior year I competed and won my weight class but got second overall in the pose down to Austin Dossey. My senior year, 2008, I won Mr. Ball State! After this I went on to graduate school and Chiropractic school and took a break from competing.
When my daughter, Avery, was a year old I decided to start competing again and did my first NPC sanctioned show. The NPC in the National Physique Committee, which is the largest bodybuilding organization and funnels athletes towards winning their pro card and entering into the IFBB. This is similar to NCAA colleges funneling their athletes into the NFL or other professional sport. The hope and dream of every NPC competitor is to qualify for a national event and get their “pro card” in their division. My division was the most competitive and gave out the fewest pro cards: Men’s Bodybuilding. I ended up getting second to future Mr. Indiana Greg Wayne and decided to step away from competing again, telling everyone I was retiring. I also got to share the stage with another Novice that day, Derek Lunsford. He looked at me and complemented me on my chest as I complimented him on his entire physique. I told him he needs to keep doing this because he had the perfect build for it and that he would do well. Within 2 years he would win Mr. USA 2017, which gave him his pro card, then his first pro show the Tampa Pro, and then qualify for the Olympia and get 4th at the Olympia! The following year he would get 2nd at the Olympia to Flex Lewis. Flex recently retired from the 212 class, and now Derek is looking like he will win Mr. Olympia 212 this year! What a cool moment backstage with Derek before this all happened.
I came out of retirement in 2018 and decided to compete at Mr. Indianapolis, officially called the NPC Indianapolis Championships. It was also moved to a later date which made more sense with my schedule, and set the athletes up to follow up two weeks later with participating in Mr. Indiana, officially titled NPC Indiana State Championships. Either show was a national qualifier and would allow you to compete for until December of the following year in a national level show. National level shows that are pro-qualifiers can give out pro cards and are USA Championships in Las Vegas in July, North American Championships in Pittsburgh in August/September, or Nationals in Miami later in the year.
I ended up winning NPC Indianapolis Championships Men’s Bodybuilding Middleweight, Middleweight Novice, Classic Physique Class A, and Classic Physique A Novice which qualified me for a national level show until December 2019. I decided then and there that I would compete the next year at a national show and also Indianapolis Championships for the Overall “Mr. Indianapolis” title. I told my wife if I didn’t do this I would regret it for the rest of my life. She supported me 100% in my decision.
On March 18th, my birthday, I hired my coach James Brown (aka JB Prep), and started in on my transformation. Over the course of 20 weeks I would lose over 24 pounds of fat, 53 pounds of bodyweight, while only losing 3 pounds of muscle. He would teach me that cardio plus eating higher calories would be the key to this process. He convinced me that USA Championships was a better show than the North Americans for what I wanted to accomplish and time frame wise it would make more sense, then I could follow that up with Mr. Indianapolis. Early on he said, “Our goal is for you to not be able to compete at Mr. Indianapolis because you won your pro card at USAs”.
As the progress kept going we realized I would be more competitive at welterweight, and that’s the way my weight and conditioning was looking also. About 2 weeks out from USAs, there was some high stress from work and life and I ended up dropping severals pounds after a re-feed. When I got into Las Vegas the Wednesday before the show I freaked out and though my physique was wrecked because of all the weight I had dropped between being stressed and the long travel day. Thursday morning, the morning before weigh-ins, I woke up at 157lbs and my coach said, “Well, you are 3lbs away from lightweights, you want to win a pro card?” I of course said, “ YES!” and slowly cut back on water for the day. By 4p I had hit 154.25 exactly, which was the upper end cut-off for the lightweight class. At weigh-ins I came in and stepped on the scale. The scale only went up by .1 instead of .05 like every other scale I’d ever used. It hit 154.2 then back to 154.3 then back to 154.2, and finally settled on 154.3. I told the check-in coordinator I’ll be right back. they give you 2 hours to weigh-in. I went to the restroom, came back and was 153.9! Open Lightweight Division, OLW. Time to fill out for the judging on Friday at Noon.
After weigh-ins I started eating every 2 hours, weighing every 2 hours, posing every 2 hours, and checking in with my coach every 2 hours, so that he could make tweaks as needed with what I was eating. I also would go get my first spray tan session accomplished. After this the goal was to stay relaxed, eat, drink water, prop feet up, and keep the tan from coming off, STAY COOL. This was easier said then done in the 110 degree desert that is Las Vegas.
My beautiful wife, Chelsea, was able to come with me to Las Vegas and we planned on her to just go to the judging portion of the show since tickets were pricey and I didn’t think I was going to get top 5. If you don’t get top 5 you don’t get to do your 60 posing routine at the night show, so really I didn’t want her to waste the time and money. Although the night show experience at Muscle Contest’s NPC USA Championships is incredible! They do it right! After judging our class they immediately moved me to the center of the stage, which is a good thing, and my coach leaned over and told my wife, “You might want to get tickets to the night show.”
The same routine applied between the judging and the night show, eat, weigh, drink, pose, check-in every 2 hours with coach. Basically find my “sweet spot” and stay their. He gave me 2 muffins to eat! The night show started at 5p, but bodybuilding went on around 9p, so the long wait began. We went out, did our 60 second posing routines, then they lined us up for trophies. 3rd, 2nd, and 1st place USA Lightweight Mens Bodybuilding Winner and new IFBB Pro: BRIAN WATTERS!!! I was elated. I can’t describe the sensation and the feelings that went through me. Backstage they said, “hang out for pose down”, which meant I was going to pose down with all of the weight class division winners for overall Mr USA. I immediately called my mother and asked her if she was able to watch the kids for 1 more day because we had to reschedule our plane flight. It was 1am Indiana time by the way, and she immediately asked, “yes of course, why is everything ok?” I went on to tell her I had to do a photo shoot the next day and that we wouldn’t be home until later, because I had one USA Lightweight and my IFBB Pro Card. She, as any mother would, said, “I knew you were going to win!” and we both started crying. I immediately felt burning in my eyes from the tan and realized I needed to blot it to prevent my tan from running. I went out, posed down with the other winners, and headed out to a post show dinner. I always like to eat a “breakfast” meal afterwards, so we had french toast, pancakes, and biscuits and gravy.
Exactly 2 weeks later, I still am floating high and am humbled and blessed by the experience. I still can’t believe I am an IFBB Pro Bodybuilder. The same league as the bodybuilders I’ve always looked up to growing up: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Franco Columbo, Lou Ferrigno, Ronnie Coleman, Jay Cutler, Lee Priest, Dexter Jackson, Phil Heath, Flex Lewis, and Derek Lunsford.
For the next 2-3 years I plan on taking time and growing. My goal is to step on the stage next to the best in the world at the Indy Pro or Chicago Pro in 2021 or 2022. Only time will tell!