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Elkhart Co. Corrections Officer sets world record in bench press

(WNDU)
Published: May. 24, 2016 at 12:14 AM EDT
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The South Bend Common Council honored an Elkhart Co. Corrections officer after he won the international power-lifting federation championship in South Africa.

Thomas "TD" Davis, 24, set a new world record for the bench press with a lift of 622.5 lbs. Considering his impressive stature, at 6'3, 410 lbs., this feat could be considered the great accomplishment of his life. However, it's his mental strength that has made him a champion both in and out of the gym.

It was just one lift; an incredibly heavy one, but one regardless. It was over in an instant and Davis made it look easy. Pushing more than a quarter ton of weight off of his chest. It was quick but the training and hard work to get to this point was anything but. Long hours spent in the gym to bring Davis into the behemoth of a man he is now. However, his physical strength isn't the most impressive part of his life. It's his mental fortitude.

"I had a picture of my little man's obituary and I was looking at that before," Davis said. "I was getting emotional and my coach was like, 'Let's go. It's time to go."

Davis' "little man" is Bryson Washington, the three-year-old who drowned in Baugo Bay last summer. Davis, even though he's not the boy's biological father, helped raise Bryson as his own. His death has stuck with Davis and the emotion wrought from it, he focuses into his weightlifting; motivating him to keep going.

"We got in the groove and I got on the bench and it was nothing and I blew it up," Davis said. "I see the green lights and I was like, OK we made it home. I did what I wanted to do. I got the gold for the team and a world record. I did what I wanted to do and that's the best feeling ever."

Bryson's passing was just the latest in a long battle with adversity for Davis. His father died when he was young and it left him angry. But his mother stepped in and found a male mentor in his life. A mentor who was closer to him in the Council than he thought.

"Mr. Kelly," Davis said, motioning to Council Member Randy Kelly. "Your father was a big part of my life. He was a mentor when my father passed away. I always remember his words. Doing everything natural and don't take steroids. The little things he did to come see me every day when I was at school. I never forget that. That's one of the reasons I'm here today. I thank your dad and you as well because you've always been there as well."

"I'm sitting in the chair where my father used to sit," Randy Kelly, son of former Council Member Roland Kelly said. "It all kind of came together at that moment and to see Thomas, a grown man and doing so well, regardless of the accomplishment, was wonderful. Just to be in his presence again. He clearly is a charismatic and wonderful young man."

It's impossible to not respect what Davis has done in the gym. Lifting 622.5 lbs. with ease is impressive. However, it pales in comparison to the respect Davis gets from every person he meets. Whether they be a family member, friend or complete stranger, Davis exudes character and respect with every breath he takes. Something he hopes to pass on as he continues to grow up.

"To be someone's role model and if I can change one life, that's a beautiful thing," Davis said. "There are a lot of kids out here who need guidance. It doesn't have to be me, but maybe someone I know that can inspire them."

When Davis isn't lifting extremely heavy things, he works as a Correctional Officer at the Elkhart County Jail. Just the sight of him could change even the most harden criminal's thoughts on life but that's not how Davis approaches the job.

"He's not throwing his weight around or anything like that," John Perry, Davis' co-worker and friend said. "His size is intimidating but he's so calm that he keeps things under control. When he walks in, things are calm. They know he's going to treat them fairly."

And it's his strong character which deserves its own world record.

"I was thinking about his character and how I would describe him," Perry said. "We have a character core training at the Sheriff's Department and I can't think of one that wouldn't apply to him."

Davis' character has made him an impressive weightlifter. He approaches lifting "raw" which means he doesn't take any illegal supplements like steroids. He says he always wanted to do it the right way because that's the way he was raised. With his family and support system helping not to build just his strong physique but an even stronger character too.

Davis is taking a week off from training but then it's right back at it for nationals in September, where he hopes to break his own record. The ultimate goal for Davis though, the Olympics.