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ASL Interview with the Chief

An Interview with Chief Harold ''Iron Bear'' Collins

Held on March 3rd, 1998

ASL: Hello. Is Chief Collins in?

The Chief: Yes, you're speaking with him.

ASL: This is Justin McShane

The Chief: Justin, great. How can I help you?

ASL: I was wondering if you have time for that interview we scheduled?

The Chief: Yup.

ASL: First, I want to thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule for this interview.

The Chief: Sure.

ASL: Would you care to share with us some statistical and biographical information?

The Chief: My best bench has been 705 for three. My best squat has been about 950. My best deadlift is about 860. My best truck pull has been seven semis that's 124,200 pounds. That's seven tractor trailer trucks. My best car turn over was 3500 pounds. That's the full car with the transmission and everything included.

ASL: With the engine block in it?

The Chief: Yeah everything. Plus there was a passenger in it.

ASL: Ha Ha. Oh yeah, really with a passenger inside?

The Chief: You bet.

ASL: Who was that?

The Chief: One of the boys here in the gym. My best pull, hand over hand, has been two semi trucks and three limousines. I think those limousines weigh as much as a transfer truck, you know, that goes up and down the street. Those were stretch limos that we pulled over there in Las Vegas. Let's see what else have I done that is unbelievable... Maybe I should point out that I have the World's Strongest Man record in the log press with 21 reps back in 1993. Crucifixion my best time is a world record of a minute and fifteen seconds. The crucifixion was a minute and the ax hold was a minute and fifteen seconds. Those are world records right there. I am the World's Strongest Native American who ever walked the planet. Then there's all the great charities that I have done work for and the give-aways.

ASL: Could you expand upon your charity work for us? I have read about the shoe project for the North Carolina Indian Cultural Center. What else have you done?

The Chief: I have raised $100,000 for the March of Dimes doing the dime thing with Sprint telephone. I have raised over $3000 in an hour and thirty minutes for St. Jude's research center. I have raised money for kids to get wheel chairs. We raised $1600 in one day in about an hour and twenty minutes for a kid to get a wheel chair. I am raising money for different things. It just keeps going on and on and on. Anytime, I do anything and I get a hundred percent of what I earn for a living, I give back 50 percent. I give 50 cents on the dollar back. I give it to people who need help. It's just like this shoe project. This shoe will raise $150,000 for the North Carolina Indians. We need three million dollars. They have no money whatsoever right now except for the money that I have raised for them. I have raised right now $13,000. That makes the total only $30,000. This culture center will help about 65,000 Lumbee Indians. Well actually it will help all six tribes in North Carolina. So, there are over 100,000 Native Americans in North Carolina. The money goes out to all six tribes. So, the money that I am making now is money that they will use to make more money and more money. So, by the year 2001, they will be building things. This Cultural Center will be the most beautiful place in Rutherford county. There is a 500 acre lake there with a little island in the middle of the lake. There will be a 250 acre golf course and then there is an Olympic sized pool for the kids in the summer. Squash and racquetball courts too. There will be an area for the pow-wow which is held twice a year. It is a really striking event. It is really real. When you get together, it takes you right back. Well, I also did a thing with Sprint telephone with there dime a minute campaign to raise 100,000 dollars for the March of dimes. It was a bar loaded with 510 pounds in dimes that I had to bench. I did it ten times and they gave the money to me and I gave it to the March of Dimes. It was like a strongman event. The bar shifted so you had to be really careful with your stomach when you brought it down because it wants to shift forward toward your stomach, but you can't let it. When I do these things, I just don't do them for the Indians or one specific race. I do it for a human race. I do it for everyone because everyone needs help somewhere down the line. Even the Chief needs help every now and again. You just do what you can to help everyone.

ASL: Could you give me some info on the shoe project so people can help.

The Chief: Sure. If they don't want to buy a shoe which is all right, they can just send a donation. there aren't too many shoes left. There were 2000 now there aren't too many. Send it to:

Visions of Life
PO BOX 2038
Pembroke, NC 28372

This Cultural Center will help all Native Americans in North Carolina. It is just like an apple. It will act like a seed of life. When they are ripe, they will feed everybody. Everybody will get something out of the Cultural Center. Everybody.

ASL: Could you confirm some things for me? You were three time powerlifting champion in US in 1991, 92, 93?

The Chief: Right.

ASL: You took third in 1990 in the 125 kg class?

The Chief: Right.

ASL: At the IPF senior worlds you came in third in 1993?

The Chief: In 1993, I came in first.

ASL: In 1993 World's?

The Chief: No. No. No. You're right I thought you said US. I took bronze in 1993. I was cheated out of the gold.

ASL: Really?

The Chief: What happened was that the other two lifters where cheating. They weren't locking out their legs fully in the deadlift. They let them go anyway. They really didn't want me to win because I was a Native American. They never said this, but this is what I think. The head judge from Asia got so mad that they cheated me that he asked for the shirt right off my back. So, I gave it to him and signed it for him. He was really upset by it. It was the second time I went and the second time they cheated me out. I did get the gold in the bench both times, though.

ASL: When was the second time you went?

The Chief: 1992.

ASL: From what info I have, you are six foot two?

The Chief: Six foot two.

ASL: And 350 pounds?

The Chief: Well actually, I fluctuate from 370 to 385 pounds.

ASL: And you were born on May 25th 1957?

The Chief: Yes.

ASL: When did you start lifting?

The Chief: When I was thirteen years old.

ASL: Was it for a sport or something else?

The Chief: I knew what I wanted to do when I was five years old. My goals were to be the World's Strongest Native American and win the United States nationals at least one time, but I won it three times, to win the gold medal in the Worlds and to compete in the World's Strongest Man. Now, I've done all that except for the overall gold medal, but that's all right because I won the gold medal in the bench twice. Then, I wanted to go to the World's Strongest Man and compete and do well in that. I knew I was never going to win the World's Strongest Man. It was a learning experience because when I went over there, it was totally different. The events were weird. I had never done that. But I gave a hundred percent. That's why these countries call me every year. But you saw that right? You were there, right?

ASL: No I wasn't. For whatever reason, they don't want to publicize it ahead of time. I learned about it after the fact. I would have gone but no one told me.

The Chief: Yeah, they try to keep it secret until event one. This year, they didn't even let me know about the contest until three days out.

ASL: Three days?

The Chief: They didn't invite me until three days out. I had just come back from overseas and was resting without working out for five weeks. I was just sitting there resting for five weeks. Then they called me.

ASL: What was the thinking behind that? What was the excuse? Did they offer and explanation?

The Chief: They didn't want me there. No.

ASL: Then that's kind of egg in their face that you came in second then isn't it?

The Chief: He [Hal Connelly] told me that if all of the power events had been right in a row, I would have clinched first place on the second day. They put a lot of running stuff in there and they started cheating me on different events. They took time away from me on the bus pull. I finished that bus pull in 33 seconds. If you timed that bus pull you see that I was done in 33 seconds. I would have been done sooner lift I had jumped at the line, but they told us we couldn't do that our torso had to cross the line. Mark Phillipi he just jumped out and crossed the line with his hand and they stopped the clock. But you know... I had my men there timing me and my time was 33.4 seconds I believe. [ASL note: Mr. Phil Martin's winning time was 35.63 seconds] They gouged me out of that. But what can I do? I caught them though. They promised me that they wouldn't do that again. The reason why was that they wanted me out of second place. But I kept second place in the second day and into the third. I was in first. I had been in first. I got moved back by a half point. Then, by a point. Then, when they started cheating me, I started getting pissed off and didn't want to compete anymore. They done it all. They apologized to me. They did. They came up to me and told me that would never happen again. I said, ''Look I am 40 years old. You shouldn't be doing this to me.'' I mean Mark Phillipi had all of the events.

ASL: From what I heard, he helped build most of the apparatus.

The Chief: He should have blown everyone away. Ha Ha. Because he's sitting there with the flintstones in his backyard. As far as the bar bending, his daddy owns the company. His daddy owns the steel company. So, he practiced with all of the bars. What did he get third place in that?

ASL: No, he tied for second, I think. Jim Voronin got first.

The Chief: The other ones tied. Ken Brown and me tied for fourth.

ASL: Could you discuss a little about your powerlifting experiences and career because not too many people know about it outside of the loop and what they have read in Powerlifting USA Magazine.

The Chief: I think it was because I was really quiet and reserved. Plus, no one wanted to talk about Native American champions and accomplishments. I mean, I won the championship three times. How much do you know about three time powerlifting champions?

ASL: I know a lot about Bill Kazmaier, Don Reinhoudt and Fred Hatfield. They all won it a number of times.

The Chief: I was never publicized like them.

ASL: Captain Kirk too.

The Chief: Yeah like Kirk and all them boys. I was competing with them and against them. If I had been a white boy or a black boy, I would have probably gotten more, but I'm OK with it. I didn't care. I was always happy with who I am. I went on and did everything I said I was going to do. I did everything I set out to do. Even World's Strongest Man, I mean it's not like what you see on TV. You don't see all the long hours. And you listen to the commentator talking about this or that and they are telling you who is the strongest athlete there. Even old Bill Kazmaier said that if I had had my cardiovascular up to par then it would have been a blow away. But I mean when you start cheating and catching them cheating you and it really gets to you. It really does. But you have to have the mental toughness to stay in there and fight and stay where you are or else you are out the door. I am invited back next year. The top three are invited to come back to next year's automatically.

ASL: Will you be there?

The Chief: Oh, I'll be there. We don't know yet when or where it is at. It could be June or July.

ASL: I hope they give you more than three days notice?

The Chief: Oh yeah, they will. Especially after I caught them cheating me, they owe me one. Hal Connelly said so. He calls me every month. He calls me once a month sometimes twice just checking up on me and seeing how I am doing. He caught them too cheating me. He felt really bad and said that he is going to make it right. He said he is going to do everything he can to help me. He calls me to check on me. He calls to check on me to see how I am doing and talk for five or ten minutes. Yeah. Hal's a good man. I like him. I saw it all. There is something sad going on, but he was on my side. See, he didn't know me. He didn't know me from Adam's apple. He was forced to bring me there because I had my pro card for World's Strongest Man. He just didn't bring me there until the last minute. It's just like Terry Brannend. Terry Branned should have been competing. But he was the one with Svend, the bodybuilder. He should have been in it. He probably would have come in third place. No doubt about it, he would have been in third place. He's strong. There's no telling. You just don't know. He could have won. Terry is good in his own way. He talks with me two or three times a month. We all got along in Nevada. They are all a bunch of good guys. They all hung together. Those guys are good guys. They are all good guys. To tell you the truth, there isn't one bad one in the bunch.

ASL: Who were your heroes and idols when you were growing up?

The Chief: Jim Thorpe.

ASL: He was a great athlete. Native American from Carlisle, PA. Gold medal Olympian, great track and football player in college and great man.

The Chief: Oh, you know about him. Great. Isn't that great? I know about Jim Thorpe and I thought it was horrible what they did to him.

ASL: You mean when they stripped him of his medals?

The Chief: They took his medals.

ASL: He didn't even know what he did was wrong. That's the tragedy.

The Chief: All over $25 a month. Twenty-five dollars a month for playing baseball during the summer when he was at college. And for that, they took away his medals.

ASL: What amazed me was that the $25 a month was for food and shelter, not for wasting on movies, drinking or whatever.

The Chief: That killed him right there. That ended him right there when they took them away. He was a great man crushed by them. As far as other idols, I can't leave out the other great chiefs too like Geronimo, Red Cloud, and all of those chiefs. I have all of those chiefs in my gym, here. I got a picture of each one of them individually in a frame with me in the middle. All of those chiefs are great, but out of all of those chiefs, I am the strongest by far.

ASL: Besides the American Strongman Finals and the World's Strongest Man Contest, do you have any other contests or events coming up?

The Chief: Well, I am getting ready to go to Finland. Have you heard of it?

ASL: Yeah.

The Chief: I'll be there in two weeks. It is called the Snowman competition. It's on television. I'll be there. I've got a lot of things I have to do between now and the world's strongest man. I've got to be in California for a Guinness Book of World Record event.

ASL: Oh really? What are you going to attempt?

The Chief: I am going to overturn a 3500 pound car in about nine seconds.

ASL: Good luck.

The Chief: Thanks. On March the 18th, I'll be in Finland. You know that's way up by the North Pole. Yeah way up there. They are making all of my clothes for me up there. We don't have anything like that down here that will keep me that warm. Then, I'm going to be in Hungry to do the EuroSports thing. I am going to do that. That's about it. You know there's a lot of other little stuff. They are calling me now and I am about to get ready.

ASL: Is there any message or greeting that you would like to give to your many, many fans out there?

The Chief: Yes. For whatever you plan in life, if you plan toe a weightlifter, a lawyer, a doctor, set your goals high. Keep your mind focused on those goals. Believe. You've got to believe in God because He is the one who makes this happen. If you believe in him and believe in yourself, there is nothing that you cannot do. Tell all the kids out there, believe, first of all, in yourself. Believe that you came to this planet for a purpose. You did not come here to be a bad seed. You were sent here for a reason. Everyone of us is here for a reason. Not everyone one of us is here to be this great big hero, strongman or great man, but all of us can be good in the things we do.

ASL: Thank you so very much for the interview. It's been really great to learn more about you. I know the fans on the internet will like this interview too.

The Chief: Sure, no problem. Keep in touch.

WPSE Interview with Chief Collins