2009 Legends in the Field

Terry Todd

Terry Todd was born on January 1, 1938 in Beaumont, Texas and grew up in Austin, spending most of his elementary and his entire junior high and high school years there. He loved sports and excelled in both baseball and tennis. In fact, he attended the University of Texas on a full athletic tennis scholarship beginning in 1956.

He began lifting weights at the end of his senior year in high school in an effort to develop his left arm, which he considered to be smaller than his right. He enjoyed lifting weights and continued training while he played tennis at the University of Texas, much to the chagrin of his tennis coach! While at UT, he met Professor Roy McLean, who was a pioneer in weight training. Professor McLean owned a tremendous collection of books and magazines on the subject, and Terry attributes McLean with piquing his interest in weightlifting. He has been quoted as saying, "it was in Mac's study where my love of iron game history began." This was undoubtedly a major turning point in Todd's life! Terry quit the tennis team after his junior year and began concentrating on Olympic-style weightlifting. Soon he began competing, winning the Junior National Championship in Columbia, Missouri in 1963. His unusually thick biceps and forearms made it difficult to catch the bar on his chest when performing a squat clean. The stronger he got, the larger his forearms and lower biceps grew, creating "sort of a Catch 22," according to Todd. He realized that as a result, his success as an Olympic-style competitive weightlifter would be limited. Fortunately for Todd, powerlifting was gaining in support and popularity. He switched gears and won the first national event in powerlifting, which was held in 1964 in York, Pennsylvania. The following year he won the first official Senior National Championships, weighing in at 335 pounds! He became the first man to total 1600, 1700, 1800, and 1900 pounds. His best official lifts were: a 720 pound squat; a 515 pound bench press; and a 742 pound deadlift. He competed until 1967.

Todd's interest in weight training turned into a full-time career. In 1964 he became the managing editor of Strength & Health, the largest and most influential magazine in the field of weight training. In 1966 he received his doctorate degree from the University of Texas. Once he stopped competing, he became a college professor in 1967 at Auburn University and resumed playing tennis in an effort to return to a more normal weight. After 10 months, he weighed 250 pounds, and has weighed more or less the same in the years since. He taught at several universities in both the United States and Canada before finally returning to the University of Texas 26 years ago.

In 1974 he married Jan Suffolk, who then began her own lifting career. Todd coached her in powerlifting, and by 1977 she was called by Sports Illustrated the "strongest woman in the world." One of the universities at which Todd taught was Auburn. He and Jan coached the University's powerlifting team, which won several national championships under their guidance. While there, he also volunteered to design and oversee the varsity football team's winter weight training program before the full-time strength coach arrived. On e of his assistants was Bill Kazmaier. Under Todd's guidance, "Kaz," as he was known, became one, if not the, most famous male powerlifter of that era, winning the World Championship as well as television's "World's Strongest Man" show three times. Todd also worked with Lamar Gant at Auburn, a man Todd considers to be "the greatest powerlifter in history."

In addition to teaching and coaching, Todd was the top official and color commentator for several of the earliest World's Strongest Man competitions, as well as several World Powerlifting Championships on CBS and NBC. In 1978 he created and directed the "Strongest Man in Football," a show on CBS that ran for three years. The show was dominated by linemen from the Pittsburgh Steelers, which at the time was considered to be the top team in pro football. That same year he began writing articles for Sports Illustrated, which featured prominent competitive lifters and other strength athletes. In addition, Todd has written numerous books and articles for both popular and academic journals. His book, Inside Powerlifting, was the first book ever written about the subject. In addition to doing color commentary for CBS, NBC, BBC, and ESPN, Todd has appeared on numerous television programs, including 60 Minutes, CBS Evening News, ABC's Nightline, and the 1992 and 1994 Olympic Games coverage. He has written and delivered commentaries about sports and physical culture on National Public Radio's Morning Edition, as well as lecturing extensively around the country on topics, such as strength training, sports history, and drugs in sports.

In 2001 he was asked to create a Strongman contest for the annual Arnold Sports Festival, which is held in Columbus, Ohio. This competition is known as the Arnold Strongman Classic and is considered to be the most prestigious contest in the Strongman sport.

Since 1990 Todd and his wife, Jan, have co-edited Iron Game History; the Journal of Physical Culture in an effort to stimulate research in the field. Over the years, together they have collected countless books, magazines, photos, videos, films, posters, and artifacts dealing with the field of physical culture. Todd has now retired from the classroom and is currently the Director of the H.J. Lutcher Stark Center for Physical Culture and Sports, a 27,500 square foot library/museum, which is housed in the football stadium at the University of Texas in Austin.

This champion and record-holding powerlifter, writer, coach, editor, professor, television color commentator, and historian has created a lasting legacy in the field of physical culture through his own accomplishments and through his creation of an invaluable reference source. His unique collection of materials provides a wealth of archival information that follows the development of Physical Education, Weight Training, Sports Conditioning, and Competitive Sports that is unmatched!