Anna Watson may don the red-and-black uniform of the University of Georgia cheerleaders and line up on the sidelines every game day to cheer the Bulldogs on to victory, but she’s not your average All-American cheerleader.
Watson, a cheerleader since age 5, could probably hoist most of the football players she cheers for.
The 21-year-old junior can bench press 155 pounds, squat 255 pounds and dead lift 230 pounds, according to her school newspaper the Red and Black.
What started out as interest in fitness for the junior exercise and sports science major turned into a potentially lucrative obsession.
“When I first went to school [UGA] I would just do cardio all the time to relieve stress,” Watson said today on “Good Morning America.” “And a trainer in Hawaii was like, ‘Why don’t you try weight lifting?’ So I started lifting.”
Watson spent hours in the gym and transformed herself from a 125 pound college student to 175 pounds of lean, cut muscle.
“I just got in the gym and started lifting weights and I kind of got hooked,” she said.
Her body soon caught the eye of a fitness modeling agency who offered her a $75,000 contract, as long as she used a legal steroid to add roughly 50 pounds of pure muscle mass to her body.
While the average college student may have jumped at the five-figure contract and potentially even more lucrative and glamorous future, the deeply religious Watson said no.
“I’ve grown up in the church and I’ve been in the Word my entire life and just reading the truth and seeing that this is really not something that God wanted me to do,” Watson said. “I feel like my body was created the way it’s supposed to be and it’s a temple and putting artificial things in it was not something that I was willing to do.”
Describing her story as a modern-day version of Daniel in the Bible, Watson made the decision to focus instead on cheerleading and spreading the message to young people that too much of anything can become an addiction, as it did with her and exercise.
“I just put it off as an excuse that exercise was healthy, but I realized that something that you love, a passion, becomes an obsession, that’s when you know it’s too much,” she said. “It’s a tough balance. If you go too far one way it just throws your life.”
Despite being sidelined from cheering for the Bulldogs much of last season due to a ruptured Achilles tendon, Watson says she’s happy, both with her decision to forgo the modeling contract and with her body.
“No matter what I look like, I’ve been 175, 125 [pounds], I wasn’t satisfied until I realized that my identity and my image is in the Lord and how he created me,” she said. “I’ve found peace. I’m excited.”