You never know when a good idea, a life-changing person, a thrilling discovery or a mega opportunity is going to hit you.
You know the feeling when it does – that heart-clenching, stomach-dropping, head-spinning moment. It is when you have to move in for that first kiss, that job-cinching handshake, that signature on the document that seals the deal.
Mike Knight has had a few of those moments lately. OK, more than a few. This guy is luckier than the leprechaun on the kids’ cereal box. He’s in the best shape of his life. He’s a SAG actor. He’s a business owner. He’s hanging with celebrities. Life is sweet.
Here’s why Knight’s name is about to become even more familiar to you — he’s become a Metro Detroit celebrity of sorts. For those of you in the movie-going public, you might recognize him as the bad Russian dude in “Red Dawn.” Others may know him as a personal trainer and co-owner of Art of Strength, a training center for kettlebells and boxing in Birmingham and West Bloomfield.
The movie, which is theaters now, is allowing Knight to look back at the past few years with fresh eyes. He’s gone from an over-weight guy into someone who is following his biceps to glory. And what an adventure it has been. And he has nothing but praise for his life here, despite his moments of fame and brushes with greatness lately.
“I believe in karma. Everything happens for a reason,” Knight told me this week. “I started down this path with a life scare – a doctor told me that if I didn’t deal with my weight (which was around 325 pounds at the time) then I would be dead soon. I had to deal with it.”
That was when Knight started meeting some of the people who would change his life – that doctor’s visit resulted in meeting a great personal trainer. That trainer got Knight into physical fitness and eating right. Suddenly, his image of himself as a “fat kid” wasn’t working any more.
And speaking of not working (horrible transition, I know) but right about then Knight lost his job as a sales director for a local automotive company. He decided to follow a new path – he would focus on the one thing that made him feel the most alive, the most vibrant. He started working out with other people, showing them the picture of that fat kid.
That willingness to share who is was and the person he had become got him clients at Powerhouse gym. That gym got him in front of one of the country’s foremost expert on Kettlebell training, Anthony Dilugio. He did the hard-core training and work to learn this up-and-coming exercise regime. He probably could have stayed in Chicago, gone to a swank gym there and set up shop. But he came back to Metro Detroit.
Here comes the karma again. One of his clients knew someone at Pound and Mooney Casting, the group working on “Red Dawn.” They wanted someone tall and menacing – and, of course, Knight’s client thought of him. If you exercise with the right trainer, they kinda strike fear into your heart for all the right reasons.
Knight showed up on set, met a few people. He learned to fight, movie style. He auditioned in part by having a fake fight with one of the stars, Josh Peck (you know, that skinny kid from show “Drake & Josh” on Disney? You know the one…admit it.) Sure enough, Knight became the nasty Col. Ivanov – he has one line in the movie remake, but he helps us invade North Korea, so that’s all good, I suppose.
At the same time, Knight’s athleticism got noticed on set, and someone made another call. That got him a gig training another “Red Dawn” guy, Chris Hemsworth – the blond guy who needed help turning his surfer body into one ready for “Thor” and “The Avengers.”
Again, who would have thought the fat kid could hang with A-listers? That they’d listen to his advice, spread the word, let him into their world. Knight laughs at the whole thing – he’s doing everything he never dreamed about on his job, in his life. Thanks to those experiences, Knight started to pursue and work with area athletes from the Red Wings and Lions, showing them the routines and equipment that helped him turn his life around.
There is something great to be said for being a big fish in a small pond. Knight can say with pride that he has done something amazing that he never expected – he earned a part in a blockbuster movie. He earned every one of those muscles. And he earned the respect of those athletes, business leaders and famous guys he has helped train.
Knight’s story resonates with me. It’s all about seizing opportunity. Know what you want, Detroit, and do something (even if it’s only a small step) to go get it. The day has just started in this city – we have many, many obstacles in our way. Let’s make some change, even if it is one small thing.