Richard Jones is a Renaissance man of sorts among professional bodybuilders, having fine-tuned his skills in disciplines ranging from kenpo karate to law enforcement. He’s articulate, well-read, driven and — this may be the worst news for the IFBB elite — extremely patient. Not that he’s had to be. Richard has been familiar with success since winning the first bodybuilding show he entered at age 18. Over the next 12 years, Richard won every competition in which he participated, putting his star on the rise and a strain on his trophy case. He finished 18th at his first Olympia last year, but don’t let that fool you. At 31, he’s only going to get better.

Humble Beginnings
Richard will never be out of his element elbowing for position during the final posedown at a show. Growing up in the projects of East Boston, he was the runt of a litter of eight children, all born within a span of 12 years. Resources were limited, but the Jones family always managed. According to Richard, some of the biggest conflicts arose not out of want or need but over sharing bathroom time with his five sisters.

“Growing up in the projects was tough,” he admits. “I didn’t come from money. But that’s where my work ethic comes from. You learn to do things through education and hard work that create opportunities. But I know what it’s like to be at the bottom level.”

“Bottom level” was a relative term for Richard, who excelled in football, track and field, martial arts and his studies as a teen. When bodybuilding entered the picture at age 18, it became clear to him that something had to give.

“I remember telling myself that if I won that first show, I’d be done with all the other sports,” he says. Richard did take first in that show and never donned pads and helmet again, though you get the impression that he could now be taking handoffs from Tom Brady if that’s what he had really wanted to do. “I didn’t get into bodybuilding with the goal of being Mr. Olympia,” the Shawn Ray look-alike remarks. “I just love being able to change my body in a span of 10 weeks and get up there onstage and perform.”

Richard thrives on new challenges and his interests are incredibly varied, though he seems to excel at everything he tries. He holds a bachelor’s degree in business and is currently pursuing his MBA at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

When he’s not pushing iron in the gym, Richard sometimes finds himself turning the pages of a heavy book, delving into the likes of As a Man Thinketh by James Allen, Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison and (insert gasps of disbelief here) the dictionary.

“I like to read the dictionary every day,” he says without batting an eyelash. “I pick random pages, select five words and put them on my refrigerator, making it mandatory that I remember three out of the five by the end of the week.” Of the five that were posted on his fridge the week of our interview, his favorite, not surprisingly, was intrepid.

His hypertrophied vocabulary eventually spawned another unlikely hobby. “I write short stories. I’ve written dozens, but I’ve thrown many of them away.”

Officer Jones

But life isn’t all writing and studying for this Jones-of-all-trades. He has always had a love for the law, even when it came to his choices in literature and cinema. So it was no surprise when Richard, a huge fan of crime stories and heist movies, decided to pursue a career chasing bad guys in the late ’90s. He attended the Sheriff’s Academy in Orange County, California, a time he refers to as the toughest six months of his life. “The academy sent my determination off the scales. It taught me just how focused I can really be,” he says.

The long days studying in class and endless hours of physical training at the academy paid off in ways Richard had probably never imagined. He dealt with inmates in maximum-security jails, served a warrant or two and even suffered through some unruly traffic violators in his time as a deputy. On one occasion, Richard had to hoof it after a fleeing suspect — the day after a leg thrash, of course.

The mental discipline required to put in 12-hour shifts in such a dangerous and dynamic profession intrigued Richard, which made it all the more difficult to leave behind when he became a pro bodybuilder two years ago. “That was a tough decision — I loved the job, the excitement. Every day was different and challenging, both physically and mentally,” he recalls.

Right on Schedule
After turning pro, Richard knew he had to temper his expectations. A winner by habit, he realized he needed to be more realistic with his goals. “I never train to lose,” he remarks. “But expecting to win every time just isn’t practical [at this level].”

Qualifying for the Mr. Olympia and then competing in it last October was a bit surreal for Richard. “That was the highlight of my life. I still felt like a fan, but one with the opportunity to be up there with those guys. I was just honored to be a part of it.”

Placing eighteenth was personally disappointing, but always pragmatic, Richard put it in perspective. “Bodybuilding is hard to get right all the time, and I just didn’t get it right. But it was a tremendous learning experience, and I realize that I’m only going to improve.” Richard, who gives himself 6–7 more years in the iron game, says his biggest project moving forward will be putting on muscle where he needs it most. “I don’t want to ruin my physique in the process, so I have to be patient.”

He’s just now entering his prime, so his plan is simply to enjoy the ride. “Of course I would love to be Mr. Olympia someday,” he confesses. “But my real goal in this sport is to just be the best Richard Jones I can be.”

And with his intrepid approach to everything he does, from pumping iron to lifting his pen, the next six or seven years should be very good to him.