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Deerfield’s Own Strongman
Jonathan Donville '17 Senior Writer
January 27, 2017

With an undergraduate and master’s degree from Springfield College in Athletic Therapy, Rob Kearney has been on campus for a total of four years and spent this past year as Deerfield Academy’s Strength and Conditioning coach.

As a high school football player and cheerleader in Norwich, Connecticut, Mr. Kearney began lifting weights at a young age. However, his strongman career did not begin until a substitute teacher, who was an owner of a crossfit gym, noticed his talents. Training throughout the weeks, he competed in a competition held the day after his senior prom. As the youngest strongman there by 13 years, Mr. Kearney placed 14th out of 27 competitors at just 17 years old.

During his time in college, he began competing as a member of Springfield College’s powerlifting team and as an active participant in Strongman competitions—competitions specializing in unconventional methods of heavy lifting such as log pressing. By the age of twenty, he was a two time Massachusetts State Teen powerlifting champion and won the youth Olympic games in Virginia Beach with a combined deadlift, squat, and bench press total of 1490 lbs. In 2011 and 2012, he placed second in the National Amateur Strongman Championship and in 2013, he placed first by a margin of 50 points.

Katherine Von Weise ’17 practices her front squats under Rob’s supervision.
Credit: Caroline Goguen

By 2015, Mr. Kearney had an array of sub-professional and professional awards including two second places in America’s Strongest Man Competition in 2014 and 2015. In 2016, Mr. Kearney was invited to his first major international competition by Lithuanian legend Žydrūnas Savickas who called and stated, “food, board, everything is covered, just get yourself to Lithuania.” Significantly lighter than all of the other competitors at 445 ½ lbs, Mr. Kearney surprised everyone, even himself, when he won the competition.

On a personal note in 2014, Mr. Kearney came out as openly gay. “I did it in really cheesy fashion,” he recalled. “I made a Man Crush Monday post with Joey [his boyfriend at the time] and that was it.” Mr. Kearney is the first openly gay professional strong man, and his story immediately went viral. He was interviewed by the Huffington Post, featured on TMZ and Perez Hilton, and referenced by Conan O’Brien. Mr. Kearney and his boyfriend became inspiration to countless people.

Fast forward two and a half years, Mr. Kearney and Joey are still happily together and announced their engagement over the 2016 winter break. When asked about their future wedding, Mr. Kearney stated, “We’re not sure exactly when.” He continued, “There are so many things in play.” While Joey completes graduate school, the two are living and working as dorm parents at the nearby elementary school Bement. While Mr. Kearney said that he enjoys living at Bement, he one day hopes to live and work at Deerfield. “It’s one of my goals to be more involved around Deerfield,” he commented.

He does not know where the future will take him, but for now Mr. Kearney is content living and training in the pioneer valley. With a sport that he loves, a companion by his side, and the Deerfield community that he continues to grow closer to, Mr. Kearney’s future is indeed bright.