Awesome Men Throughout History: Alvin Roy

Awesome Men Throughout History returns to sports this week, as we examine Alvin Roy, the man who brought weight training and anabolic steroids to football. Professional sports were probably better off without steroids, in retrospect, but either way, Roy basically ushered in the modern era of American sports, so he’s definitely worth knowing about.

Back before WWII, college and professional coaches were staunch believers in “musclebound theory,” which held that allowing athletes to train with heavy weights would make them bloated, slow, and tense. These people would have had nightmares about Scott Steiner.

Roy believed all that stuff too, until he joined the Army and ended up as the aide de camp for the United States weightlifting team during their stay in Paris. Upon observing the team, Roy learned that weight training could make a man faster and more flexible; seeing John Davis do a back flip holding a 50-pound dumbbell in each hand pretty much turned his world upside-down.

After being discharged from the Army, Roy returned to his hometown of Baton Rouge armed with the gospel of weight training as the key to good health and fitness. His attempts to start lifting programs in schools flopped initially, though. Coaching was even more of a good-old-boy network back then, and they didn’t take to change very quickly.

Still, Roy was an intense, passionate man about things he believed in, and he persisted until he found an ally in James “Big Fuzzy” Brown, the football coach at Istrouma High School. Brown was tired of getting smacked around by Baton Rouge High, and he let Roy set up and supervise a weight training program at his own expense. The results were astounding: nearly every athlete made noticeable gains in strength and lean body weight, ran faster, got injured less, and the team won all of their games that season. One of those athletes was Billy Cannon, who also played basketball and ran track and became the highest-rated high school running back in the United States under Roy’s training regimen.

That was in 1954. In 1963, after finding success elsewhere, the San Diego Chargers hired Roy to be their new strength coach. In addition to deadlifts, bench presses, and power cleans, Roy introduced the team to Dianabol (aka anabolic steroids), which was legal and not banned by any athletic organizations because it hadn’t been around all that long. Hell, bodybuilders had only been using it for about three years at that point.

Steroids had as much to do with the Chargers’ success that year as their insane training sessions or anything Lance Alworth did, but so did weight lifting, and Alvin Roy’s relentless dedication to same. For good or ill, he helped make modern sports what they are today, and for that, he’s worthy of Awesome Man status.

Now let’s all watch some more Scott Steiner.

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About Dave Kiefaber Dave Kiefaber is a Baltimore-based writer who regularly contributes to Adfreak and the Gettysburg Times. His personal website is at

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