Black History Today: Justin Cheadle, lifting others up to change their lives

This post is part of an ongoing Black History Month series written by Marcus Harden, a truly unsung hero of South Seattle, as he honors the living legacy of Black history in his community and beyond, and recognizes the people who are shaping the future.


“Champions aren't made in gyms. Champions are made from something they have deep inside them―a desire, a dream, a vision. They have to have the skill, and the will. But the will must be stronger than the skill.”

-Muhammad Ali

We live in an age where people are often placed into boxes, told if you do “x” then you can’t have an opinion on “y.” Many times those rules are multiplied when it’s people of color — a reality TV “star” and business “mogul” can hold the highest office in the world, while others are told to just “shut up and dribble.”

It is our complexity as people that make us truly human. Showcasing the depths of people helps destroy the boxes we are often placed in. This is especially when we are shining a positive light on the deep and often-overlooked humanity of people of color.

Justin Cheadle not only shatters that box himself but spends his time helping others shatter their own boxes. Born in California and calling Bakersfield home, Justin was raised by a devoted father and loving mother. Justin would learn at a young age about the power of being personally diverse, his interest ranging from arts — playing several instruments — to history and all points in between.

In seventh grade, Justin’s dad took him to 24-Hour Fitness, and thus a new love began. Having enjoyed athletics, from this trip to the gym sprang a journey that would later help transform his life. While basketball became his first love, after growing to 6’4” and over 250 lbs, it would be football that became his calling.

As a standout in high school, he was highly recruited, yet because of his intellectual curiosities and endeavors, Justin selected the University of California at Berkeley to fulfill his full potential.

While at Cal Berkeley, he became a standout student and athlete, graduating with a degree in American Studies and earning the opportunity to sign as a free agent with the NFL’s Kansas City Chiefs and later the Pittsburgh Steelers.

After three seasons as a professional, however, Justin knew there was more for him, and he chose to leave the game young. He wanted to use his platform to showcase more.

Justin began his journey of being what he called, “Loyal to the Lifestyle (LTL).” At 330 lbs, he knew he had to reinvent himself from the inside out. So with the support of his now wife, Katie, he began the journey of losing 100lbs in a year! Through the journey he found himself becoming an inspiration for others, and he willingly shared his successes and his failures on the journey.

Three years later, Justin shows his complexity by being an expert in the medical field — a personal trainer, motivator for those in their own fitness journey — as well as a loving and devoted husband and father. Justin showcases the kaleidoscope of what we all can aspire to be and willingly shares his life for others to learn from him and alongside him.

You might find Justin in a pair of scrubs, leading a class of youth through warm-up routines, on the treadmill next to a 300-pound man following his path, or on the floor playing hide-and-go-seek with his daughter — and you’ll see him fully present with the same passion and zeal in all of those endeavors. Not defined by being “just an athlete,” he presses the boundaries and shows — not tells — what is possible.

Justin Cheadle is more than an athlete. He’s more than a trainer. He’s a dad in love with his family, a dad in love with fitness, and a man whose passion lies in being loyal to others who want to change their lives. All this and more is why he is Black History, today!


To support and learn more about Justin: