BY HANNAH GOLDFINGER
One Opelika Middle School (OMS) teacher has a “claim to fame”.
Justin Devereux recently won the World Masters Weightlifting Championship in Poland.
He traveled to Poland for almost a week and represented Opelika well while there.
Devereux actually wore an Opelika shirt in Poland to represent the school and the supporters he has in the system.
Devereux is new to the area. He moved here with his wife from Oregon in July.
There were challenges to moving — shipping his weights, postponing training and necessary preparations.
“While they [the weights] were shipped I had to kind of go around to different friends’ gyms to train,” he said.
However, once they arrived, it all worked out. The house that Devereux and his wife Mandy are renting is the home of former Auburn Strength Coach Bryan Tatum.
“Whenever I talked to him about like, ‘hey, could I train in the garage at your home? I’d really appreciate it, I do this sport, Olympic eightlifting?’ And he just was like, ‘Oh my gosh.’ He sent me a picture of it because he had his garage as a gym and trained people out of it.”
Sometimes an average day may include weight training before school and on other days, training comes after spending his time with the middle schoolers.
Devereux said that having Keith York, principal of OMS, on his side, in addition to his landlord, has been incredibly helpful for the transition.
“I emailed him and talked about [the competition] in the interview where I was explaining, ‘you know, I would normally never ask this starting a new job but I’m signed up to represent [the] USA in Poland’ and he was just, [supportive] from the very get-go, ‘We’re looking forward to having you here and we take care of our teachers,’” Devereux said.
His career in weightlifting started as a younger child.
“I remember being far back as fifth grade and I would write out little workouts in my room with dumbbells, right?” he said. “I was always a little smaller growing up and I just liked being strong; it kind of gave me a lot of self-confidence.”
Although he played football in high school, Devereux said that being smaller made the sport less of a fit for him. Weightlifting, however, allowed him to compete with people in his weight class.
Following high school, Devereux joined the Marines.
“When I went in the Marines, I had a really good recruiter, that I told him, I said, ‘You know, I want to be a Marine, but if it’s all possible, I know there’s been Marines that have tried to make the Olympics,’” he said.
His recruiter set him up with a legal job in the Marines that was accommodating to his training and weights.
During this time period, he competed in the US Men’s Championships eight times.
“As a young man, it really kind of just helped provide a good, positive activity for me,” he said. “So, it kind of became like a lifestyle.”
Following a Nationals competition in 2015, Devereux said he decided to focus on his teaching career more. But, he also knew he needed balance in his life, he said.
“So, I still kept training, but I didn’t have my sights set on competing,” he said.
However, the principal of the school in Oregon was encouraging and Devereux actually set his weights up in the school where he taught.
Now, at 41, in Alabama, Opelika is just as supportive. His students even celebrated him on his return from Poland.
“We are so proud of his accomplishments,” said Opelika City Schools Public Relations Coordinator Becky Brown. “Way to go Mr. Devereux.”