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Part II of our Melvin Anthony interview from the November issue of FLEX
By George DePirro
The November 2008 issue features the FLEX Interview with Melvin Anthony tracking his rise from street kid to IFBB pro. Along the way, Anthony mentions many of the obstacles he had to overcome, as well as several role models and influences that pointed him in the right direction. Here are three more excerpts from that interview, which includes Melvin’s takes on roles he never would have presumed to be in his future as a youngster: college football player, wage-earner and manicurist.
FLEX: You were a good enough natural athlete that you were able to snag a football scholarship at San Bernardino Valley College as a walk on.
Melvin Anthony: I was still going back and forth, hanging out with my friends. I was lifting weights, but I still did everything they did. They were out there hustling; I was out there hustling. They would say, “There’s a party over here on such and such a street, you coming?” I’d say, “I’ve got to go to the gym first.”
My mom got me a membership at Jack LaLanne’s. I would go there and lift weights, get my swerve on, and then I’d go and hang out. I was still teeter-tottering with it. So at the age of 19 or 20, I said I’m going to go to college. My mom was “whatever…I’ll believe it when I see it. If you’re not going to change your life, you can’t come back around here. It’s making the family look bad.” At that point, my mom was like done with me. Once I had that will to do it, I was going to play football.
FLEX: You didn’t play in high school.
Melvin: No. I was too busy acting up. I was too busy drinking and smoking with my friends. I was lifting weights and everything, so I was big. All the coaches were trying to get me, but I wasn’t trying to hear it. I didn’t have the grades, because I wasn’t going to class.
I went to the registration office with a friend of mine who had played in high school. I filled out my paperwork, and I ended up getting a Pell grant, a student loan. My friend said, “Well, go talk to the coach and see what happens.”
Coach Smedley was sitting behind a desk. I said, “I want to play football. I didn’t play high-school ball, but I know I can do it. I learn fast and I’m willing to do whatever it takes to get on the team.”
He asked, “How much do you weigh?” At the time, I was maybe 219. “You’re pretty big. We’ll give you a tryout. If we can use you, we’ll put you on the team. Go next door to the sports guy and get your gear.” I didn’t know how to put my pads on, nothing. This stuff was foreign to me. I walked in the locker room, trying to tussle with it. A guy came over and talked to me: “Man, why don’t you just ask somebody to help you?” I was putting on my pads backwards, so they showed me how to do it.
FLEX: Was it fun?
Melvin: It was fun. The first time I hit somebody, I tried to lay him out, because I had no fear. This is like gangbanging, man. Shoot, I get to hit somebody and he ain’t gonna hit back.
FLEX: What position did you play?
Melvin: I was a running back, but they started me on defense. At my height and my size, you would think they would put me on offense right away, but since I didn’t know a lot, they put me in an easy position at defensive end.
By the second year, I was the captain, so they transferred me over from defense to offense. I ended up getting a scholarship at midterm. I was going to school in the morning and at night, going to practice, lifting weights and trying to get my meals in whenever I could. I ended up graduating midterm, and I transferred to Cal State Fullerton.
FLEX: What were you studying?
Melvin: I was a liberal arts major in junior college. I took a little of everything. They were trying to put me in weight classes and physical ed, but if I’m going to college, I’m not going for that, because it was too easy for me. I wanted to do something where I had to work. When I got to Cal State Fullerton, I went into political science.
I ended up transferring because Cal State Fullerton lost their program. I went to Central Oklahoma State, and I played there a year. I took a hit in a game, where the offensive lineman took the wrong assignment and they let the middle linebacker come in untouched. He hit me right on the knee, almost like it was on purpose. When he hit my knee, my pad was to the side, so it was helmet to knee. In the air, I was like I don’t think I want to do this. I hit the ground, bang, tapped out and went to the sidelines limping. I couldn’t squat for a couple of months. I said, “Bodybuilding has to be easier than this. If I’ve got to take this pounding day in and day out, is it worth it?” That day I transferred back to Cal State Fullerton, and I did my first bodybuilding show in 1993.
FLEX: You give a lot of credit to John Brown as one of your mentors. Melvin: What did John teach you?
He was a big brother/father type. I thought everything was a hustle. I was so bad that I would put a quarter in the newspaper box, take the whole stack and sell them for 15 cents apiece. To me, that’s a hustle. Whatever your angle is, you do what you have to do.
John asked me, “Do you want to be a gangbanger or do you want to be a professional athlete? Do you want to be a productive citizen and vote or do you want to hang out with your knucklehead friends?” There would be times where I’d slip back into that, go hang out with them and then go back to college. He said I had to make a choice. If I wanted to bodybuild, it costs a lot of money. Even without the supplements, just the food alone is money. If you aren’t making 200 to 300 dollars a week that you can spend on meat, then you aren’t going to make it. He said, “I don’t care what you’ve got to do. Your objective is to eat, sleep and train. You don’t need a girlfriend, because that’s a distraction.”
I was used to getting my Pell grant, and using school money to keep training. He said that’s not going to be enough, you’ve got to get a job. So I looked. I think I was just doing it wrong, everywhere I went I got turned down.
Do you want to hear a funny story about John? I went to his office where he had his clothing business, J. Brown Fitness Wear. I had this file, this paper I was filling out. He asked, “What are you doing?” He looked over and it was for general relief, almost like welfare. He snatched that paper from me and cussed me out. “Are you out of your mind?” He crumbled it up. “Get out of my office. Don’t come back until you’ve got a job.” Pissed off. I thought he was playing. He wasn’t playing; he was really grabbing my shirt and pushed me out of his office.
“You must be crazy. What are you thinking?” I said, “Man, I done tried everything. This is something I can get every month.” “You’re crazy. That’s the worst thing you could do. What are you, a dang lowlife?” He went off on me, took me, whack, and threw me out of his office. A week later, I had a job.
When I went back to the office, he asked, “You got a job, boy?” I said yeah, and showed him my first check. He’s like, “OK, now we can talk; now we can continue.” That was a struggle for me, trying to find a job. You can’t get a job if you don’t put in any applications. That’s one of the things that he taught me. To this day, we still laugh about it. Some people don’t know the next step. They can only dwell on this circle. John taught me to think outside the box.
FLEX: Speaking of some of your jobs, is it true that you were a licensed manicurist?
Melvin: I still am.
FLEX: What appeals to you about doing manicures?
Melvin: In my neighborhood, there were a lot of blacks, a lot of Hispanics and a whole bunch of Asians. I hung around one of my Vietnamese friends, who e ended up opening up a shop with his mom. I was laughing at him at first: “What are you going to do that for?” He goes, “Trust me. Chicks dig it. Especially if you’re straight. Because most of the dudes that do that ain’t straight.”
After he had been in business for a year, he said, “You should just try it. You never know. Two weeks into it, if you don’t like it, just quit.” So I did it for two weeks, and I picked it up real quick. When I first walked in, all the girls were laughing, because I’m sitting there at 240, with my T-shirt all rolled up. I went through the course, and three months later I had my license.
FLEX: You’ve kept up your license since then?
Melvin: I still have it. I just paid my fee a couple of months ago.
FLEX: How much is that?
Melvin: It’s like 60 dollars a year. Right now, I can walk in and get a job…today. That’s something that people can never take from me. Why would I give that up? I’ve gotta keep that forever. It’s something I kind of keep under wraps, doing pedicures and manicures. Chicks tell you everything, man. You get to rubbing those feet, wooo, women tell you everything. They start asking you questions, “Let me get the man’s opinion.” All the time in school, all I did was gossip and do nails.