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He remembers Joshua well. In fact, he calls Joshua “the best friend anyone can ask for. If you needed something, he would be there for you in the snap of your fingers.” Nowadays, Jonathan Brownell remembers Joshua every time he hits the gym.

Brownell was only 19 years old when his pal Joshua was killed in a car accident, on Aug. 7, 2010. The loss shook Brownell to the core. “Every second I thought I was going to die,” he says. It caused him to sink into a deep depression.

“I didn’t leave my house at all,” Brownell says. “I had to drop out of school, I had to quit work, and I couldn’t drive.” Xanax didn’t help much, and he had to live off the kindness of his mother and then-girlfriend. He only started driving again in October of last year. He’d always been active before Joshua passed, and after months of sitting on the couch, he started to realize that if he wanted to regain his own life again, he’d need to start back in the gym.

“Mental pain is so much worse than physical pain,” he says. “[The loss of my best friend] almost took my entire life. The only reason I’m here is my mom—and the gym, put it that way.”

The hard work paid off, and now Brownell is living his dream: He’s winning physique competitions left and right while chasing a career as a fitness model, recently signing with Silver Models in New York and placing first overall at the Jim Rockell Mr. Rochester show in June. He also earned gold at the NPC Teen, Collegiate, and Masters in July in his class.

“When I hit the gym I make sure I do enough for both of us,” he says, referring to Joshua. “That’s my brother, man.”