Leo Ingram

The disappearance and reappearance of this well-armed Navy officer

For nearly a decade, Leo Ingram was like a specter haunting the upper reaches of amateur bodybuilding. He appeared, seemingly out of nowhere, in 1997 to almost win the NPC Nationals when he was 27 and enormous enough to shake up the pro ranks. Then, as quickly as he arrived, he vanished, leaving everyone to wonder, “Whatever happened to that mass monster?” Eight years later, he reappeared again only to repeat his runner-up finish in the heaviest Nats class. The following year, 2006, the 36-year-old won the North American Championships and finally secured pro status after one of the oddest journeys to the big league.

That trek covered not just nine years from his near-miss to his arrival but thousands of miles. It took him from his hometown of Atlanta to ports around the world during a span that included two Iraq wars. Ingram joined the Navy after high school, and he first competed in bodybuilding when he was stationed in San Diego. But his military service later kept him off stages (and precluded ideal workouts and meals) when he spent most of several years on a 453-foot frigate. “For me, if I can’t do it 100% I’d rather not do it at all,” the chief petty officer stated in 2006 soon after finally earning the right to go pro.

Ingram, who competed at 250–265 pounds at 5'9", remains one of bodybuilding’s great what-ifs? What if he had turned pro in his 20s, as he was on track to do? With his capacious arms, legs, pecs, and traps, he could’ve impacted pro placings for years. As it was, he competed in 12 professional contests over four years, including the 2008 Mr. Olympia, but all after turning 37. He made three pro posedowns. Today, this father of three is a personal trainer in Atlanta. Leo Ingram should be commended for his two decades of military service, for building four of bodybuilding’s best limbs, and for a never-give-up attitude that saw him fulfill his dream of posing in the pros, even after it was deferred for nearly a decade. - FLEX

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