Rhuben Williams was born and raised in Los Angeles, California and graduated from Eagle Rock High School. He attended the University of California Berkeley and earned a degree in biology and competed in shot put, hammer and discus. Rhuben was a two time collegiate All American in shot put and competed in the Olympic trials in 2004 while still in college. After graduating in 2005 he moved to Athens to train with a group of post-collegiate athletes under the tutelage of Don Babbitt to continue chasing his dream of making an Olympic Team. In 2007 at the U.S. National Outdoor Track and Field Championships, Rhuben placed high enough to earn a spot on his first national team, where he earned a gold medal at the N.A.C.A.C Senior Championships in El Salvador. In 2008, Rhuben made it back to the Olympic Trials and earned a 10th place finish. He continued pursuing his athletic dream until he retired in 2012 to focus on his career in fitness.
Rhuben is co-owner and coach, along with business partner Wes Gresham, of Strength and Strike in Athens, a gym and training facility offering strength and conditioning, kickboxing classes and personal training. He and his wife Megan, who works for Athens Clarke County Leisure Services as a gymnastics coach and program director at Bishop Park, enjoy flying trapeze and salsa dancing together. Rhuben is currently triathlon training as well, and swims regularly at the YWCO. He lives on the West Side of Athens with wife Megan and their dog Daisy.
What do you love about your job?
I love that I get to help people. I get the opportunity to provide for my family and get the personal fulfillment from it when I am helping others.
What is your favorite thing to do in Athens when we are not sheltering in-place?
I am a people person so I love spending quality time with friends, and I am a big food person so I like getting together and breaking bread. The way I share and connect with somebody is to have a meal with them, so one of my favorite things to do is enjoy one of the local restaurants we love here. Some of our favorites are White Tiger, they actually catered our wedding. Cali-n-Titos is one of our other tops. We have had countless anniversary dinners at Last Resort. Our life pretty much revolves around food and exercise.
If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?
I have been blessed being able to travel a lot through track and field. I have had opportunities to go to Europe, to Ireland, to Africa, to Asia and Taiwan. My wife Megan has a lot of Irish heritage, but she has never been to Ireland. I have been there before, but our goal was to go this year and take her mom because she has never been there before. But that looks like it will have to wait. We are really beach people. Our goal is to do one breach trip vacation a year, every year. I would have to say maybe a place like Bali. You know when you see one of these places where there are huts in the middle of the water? If I could go anywhere, somewhere like that would be awesome.
If you could have lunch with anyone, dead or alive, who would you have lunch with and where?
My father. My father was Chino “Fats” Williams. Everyone called him Fats. His birth name was John Daniels, Jr. He passed away my senior year in high school. My dad in the later part of his life wound up being involved in television and movies and stuff, but he was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana in 1933 (he was 19 years older than my mother); he was a wino and a hobo and he never made it past the sixth grade. So, where he started his life and where he finished his life were universes away from each other. He rode the freight trains out to California. He hung out in downtown Los Angeles on skid row with the others winos and hobos. So, he was hanging out downtown on skid row, when he met Robert Blake who was in Barreta. My dad ended up doing a bunch of small parts in movies like Action Jackson, Roadhouse, Jumping Jack Flash, and Talking Dirty After Dark. He was 5’7 and at his largest he had a 62 inch waist, so he had this huge, huge belly and was an alcoholic for a long part of his life. He never had a drink since before I was born, so he had been sober for over twenty plus years, but ultimately wound up dying of complications of kidney failure and he passed away on April 5th of my senior year, right before I graduated high school. One of my driving forces when I was a young man was to be the first person on my dad’s side of the family to graduate high school. Since no one had done that, it meant a lot to me to achieve this accomplishment. It was my hope and dream for him to get to see me graduate and walk across that stage. Unfortunately, that did not happen but I know he is watching down on me from heaven.
Losing him has been massively impactful on my life and is part of my “why” in my profession. I wouldn’t wish not having a father on my worst enemy because it has been very, very difficult not having him here. Part of my why in helping people is because whenever I have the opportunity to work with somebody who has children it is imparting the importance of fitness and your health. Yes, it is about losing weight and looking good, but you need to be physically healthy to be here on this planet for your children for as long as you can. And, if you are blessed enough to have grandkids, I am teaching you how to deadlift properly so when you are seventy years old, you can get down on the floor and pick up your grandchild. It is my personal philosophy that it is your responsibility as a parent to take care of yourself physically to be able to be here as long as you can for your offspring. So, I just miss him a lot. That is one of the blessings about what my father did, is that there are still times when I can turn on the TV to see his face and hear his voice which is pretty amazing. It is amazing and hard at the same time. I would give the world to sit down and have lunch with my father and hug him. I would not care where I have lunch with him. Just to be able to sit at our house and sit across from him and talk to him and hear his voice would be all I’d need.
What is your favorite movie or series?
One of my favorite scenes from a movie that my dad was in is Weird Science… “In the family Jewels?!” If you’ve seen it before, just re-watch the bar scene and you’ll know why. One of my all time favorites is The Shawshank Redemption. I love Morgan Freeman, who is such a great actor. That was just a solid movie. I could watch it over and over multiple times. I also love Goodfellas, because it’s symbolic of the relationship I have with my best friends. It’s what we call ourselves and we all have “GOODFELLAZ” tattooed on us
If you could see any band, musician or show, dead or alive, anywhere who would it be and where?
Bob Marley. We are getting ready to have our three year anniversary of our business, and we have been blessed to be doing really, really well. If nothing changed before February, if nothing was any better or any worse, our business is going to be 100 percent debt free by or before October. Our reward to ourselves was that our business was going to pay for a trip for me and my wife and my business partner and his girlfriend to go to Jamaica. So, Jamaica would be one of my top places, if not Bali. Bali is probably like a big dream type vacation, but Jamaica is one place I want to go as soon as I can. It is interesting because through all of this turmoil of losing our dogs and just being emotionally devastated, I love music. And, a lot of times when my heart is heavy, praise music makes me feel good. But lately, it just hasn’t been doing it for me, and I have found that the only type of music that will immediately lift my spirits is reggae. I have been listening to a lot of reggae. So, Bob Marley in Jamaica.
What advice would you give your younger self?
There would actually be two things. Number one: it is going to be okay. The other would be: don’t go into debt. Just save. Only if I knew then what I know now… It would be about money management, about how to utilize and leverage credit and not go into debt and how to save. Money management skills are one of these most valuable skills you can have. I would definitely go back to eighteen if I could teach myself one thing, I would force myself to save money and manage money the way I do now.
If you could put one message on a billboard, what would you put?
I am a Black man in today’s society, within this current climate of what has been going on in the past couple of days and the past couple of weeks. I had a really rough time earlier this week shaking this thought process and this question just kept repeating in my head: How can America be so beautiful and so amazing, and at the same time be so cruel and terrible? How does that STILL happen all at the same time? We just put the first people in space on a privatized rocket, on something that was not NASA. We sent people to outer space! And, I thought about it, talking this out through my head, at one point as humans we still had tails. We didn’t need them anymore so we got rid of them. It is 2020! How the fuck are we still racist? How does that still exist? How is that not obsolete and not just disappeared? When I think about that, that is my thought process. You go back to the persecution of the black race, Jews or anybody else, it all comes down to the dehumanizing of another person. So, I guess talking through this process it would be: We Are All Human.
What is something interesting about you that most people don’t know?
That aside from these good looks and muscles I have, I am pretty damn smart and kind of a nerd. I have a biology degree from Berkeley and I graduated with a 3.5 GPA.
What three words or phrases come to mind when you think of the word “home”?
Mom, monkey bread and the “Goodfellaz,” my earthly brothers. Those are my childhood friends that are my family and my brothers. If God blessed me with genetic brothers from my own DNA, I still don’t think I would be as close to them as I am those guys.