About one year ago, a great group began a nightly congregation at a small gym in eastern NC. The four lifters were relentless, showing up every night regardless of the weather to push each other to the maximum limits. Though all four were from totally different backgrounds and all four had totally different goals and aspirations, their group found a common denominator that allowed it to become one powerful unit.


First, there was Johnny Perry (left) – who was determined to be the Strongest Man in the World before his career was over. Sporting 24 inch arms, a 42 inch waist, and standing 6’6″ at 375 pounds, he was the lead dog. Johnny knew what it took to add the size and strength to become a champion – and what type of work ethic to which one would have to surrender…

Next was Ronnie Shirley (back), who fought in all the statewide Tough Man battles and has a nasty one-punch knockout reputation both inside and outside the ring. Usually training for one night of pure domination, Ronnie was the professor at our gatherings always designing the workout, exercises, weight amounts and reps using what Johnny had taught us. By using his observance techniques, he was able to determine what worked best for each one of our bodies.

Jason Hocutt (right) was our former All-American linebacker that had battled through a severe knee injury and wanted to become a bench press powerhouse. He was our motivator who knew just what it took to reaise each one of our intensity levels and push us past exhaustion. Jason was always the positive influence in each one of our corners and the reason many night that we never quit.

Bringing up the rear was me – Amy Vaughan (center). I was the one that everyone looked at funny when we entered a gym – until the weight began to move. I always carried a smiley face and laughtener around the group and focused on the positives of each situation.


The group became a tight knit unit, growing both in and out fo the gym. We all hung out together nightly and went to each other’s competitions and never let any of the group falter. Our bond became tighter than any I have seen between four members of such diverse lives, and it spilled over into every aspect of our daily living.

We grew and eventually needed a larger space to train, so we took our little family Planet Fitness in Clayton, NC where the owner, Kevin Bunn, welcomed us with open arms. He made it a point to make sure that wht ever might be lacking in the facility for our needs, he would take care of for us.

Each of us began to hit new peaks and pr’s and our careers began to really take off. About six months ago, another friend approached us and wanted to join our group. His name was Brooks Ray. He was a Bubba Ray Dudley look-alike, but such a nice guy that we gave him a shot. We told him if he would show for one month, then he was in. Thus, a month later, the four had become five – and we each had a destination that we were determined to reach.


The Lizard Lick Powerlifting Club Mascot

Then a month after the World Strongman Finals in Malaysia where Johnny took fourth place in the world, tragedy struck. Johnny was called away to heaven’s gym. I guess God needed another Strongman to compete in the greatest arena of all.

The group still lifts, but things are just not the same. Some are heading tehir different ways and others are taking a break. But for that all too brief moment of time, there was a group of people that amassed more power, friendship, camaraderie and determination than this world has ever seen. For just that short while, there was the infamous “LIZARD LICK POWERLIFTING CLUB”

And I am so much more than I was – just by being allowed to be part of it….