In an era when there are no late bloomers and everyone knows everything about everyone before they hit the big time, Chris Mosher might be the ultimate rookie of the year.
Less than two weeks ago, taking part in only his second major competition, the Woodburn native won the Masters Physique Division of the International Federation of Bodybuilding's North American Championships in Pittsburgh.
Imagine the Fort Wayne city tennis or golf champion winning the U.S. Open, and that's comparable to what Mosher, who turns 40 this week, accomplished.
Except his story is even crazier than that.
Now a salesman at Fort Wayne Nissan, Mosher was a football player at Woodlan and at the University of Indianapolis for a year. Other than that, he wasn't much of an athlete, but he was the ultimate gym rat, working out most evenings.
"It was my lifestyle,'' Mosher said. "It's like anything else. Guys golf, fish, deer hunt, that's their thing and what they enjoy doing, and I looked forward to going to the gym and cranking out the weights. That was my release and made me feel better.''
Then 3 1/2 years ago, Linda Simnick came in to buy a car, and she and Mosher have been together ever since. She had previously competed in bodybuilding and decided to get active again and compete. Mosher encouraged her but didn't think he'd be interested.
But Simnick kept working on him and finally convinced Mosher to try competing at his first major-caliber event Aug. 3 in Nashville, Tenn. By helping out with the cooking, she helped him cut his weight from 228 pounds to 188.
"I definitely knew he had a top-five physique, and if he posed well he had a good chance of winning,'' Simnick said. "I always thought he was capable of winning. I think it's just a matter of believing in yourself. You're always your own worst critic. Every time you look in the mirror you always see your own worst flaw, and everyone else always sees the bigger picture.''
Then Simnick and her coach Trae Kidd suggested Mosher compete at nationals.
He figured there would be no way he could compete on that level because he was used to competing in sports where progress is gradual and takes extended time. He'd been training for little more than a year. Simnick and Kidd worked to convince Mosher he was ready.
"The years and years that I've been in the gym has developed my size and muscle maturity that I needed, but we had to fine-tune it for three or four weeks,'' Mosher said. "I went into this show in the best condition I've ever been in, the leanest I've ever been and the best I've ever looked. My goal going in was to maybe place top five.''
He was thrilled when he was told he finished in the top five and would be on the awards stage. When he was announced as the winner, he was completely shocked.
"It was surreal because of how fast it happened,'' he said. "It was totally unexpected, not what I thought was going to happen. It's an awesome feeling. It's nice to get back and compete and win again, especially at my age. It's still sinking in.''
Now Mosher is a national champion, has earned professional status and is an unqualified success who is still getting congratulatory handshakes from workout partners at Max Fitness on Maplecrest. Luckily, he has about six months to prepare for his next event.
"It's a whole new level for me, a whole new focus,'' he said. "It's bringing a competitive nature back that I have missed for so many years. I'll start early in the year and make my pro debut early in the spring. I still need to make myself better. Life is about setting and making goals, and I'm ready for some new ones.''