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NIAGARA FALLS – Before playing his final football game for SUNY Buffalo State in 2009, Niagara Falls native Jermaine Rose said, “I am a competitor by nature. Not just on the field, but in the classroom, and eventually in the workplace. It is hard for me to settle for second-best.”

Rose was second to none in his competitive bodybuilding debut last month.

Standing onstage at 210 pounds – 40 pounds lighter than his football-playing weight – Rose presented the most muscular physique at the Natural Muscle Association-sanctioned Mr./Ms. Olympus Championships on Oct. 19 at Nichols School in Buffalo.

Rose won the overall championship, along with the open heavyweight and first-time competitor division titles in the area’s second-largest annual competition after the Mr./Ms. Buffalo competition.

“It was amazing,” Rose said. “I was extremely nervous at first, but once I got onstage, I felt like I belong there. I don’t really have any experiences that were like that.”

“When he stepped onstage, it was pretty much over before it started,” said Rose’s trainer, Ron Primerano, the 2011 Mr. Buffalo champion. “There were chuckles in the crowd, like ‘Are you serious?’ Because he was that much bigger than everybody else.”

Rose’s father put him on a weight-training regimen early in his football career. After college, he kept lifting at the local World’s Gym, where he was encouraged to try bodybuilding.

Over the summer, Rose joined Primerano Fitness on Military Road, began following a strict diet and learned the necessary posing skills to make his bodybuilding debut at the Mr. Olympus show.

“I was actually bigger and stronger when I played football,” Rose said. “But I have more muscle tone right now.”

Primerano said Rose reminds him of another Niagara Falls native, Corrina Booth, who became a professional physique athlete less than two years after taking up the sport of bodybuilding.

“He’s the most genetically gifted bodybuilder that I’ve ever come in contact with,” said Rick Primerano, the 2012 Mr. Buffalo champion, who recruited Rose to Primerano Fitness.

“He’s just a freak, plain and simple. His waist is 28 inches around. His arms are 21 inches around. He’s got a chest like Arnold Schwarzenegger. His quads are huge. For a guy that height [6-feet-2] to put on that amount of muscles mass is really amazing.”

Rose said the discipline and competitive spirit he developed playing football helped with his transition to bodybuilding.

“I love this sport because unlike any other sport, there is no finish line,” Rose said. “There is no rest, you are continually getting ready. If you want to be successful, it’s a full-time thing. Even when you’re sleeping.”

Rose works out six mornings a week at Primerano Fitness, often after working overnight shifts at Community Missions.

“He has insane genetics, a tremendous work ethic, and he’s the most humble guy I’ve ever met,” Ron Primerano said. “When you put great genetics with a great work ethic and a humble personality, it’s the ultimate recipe for success.”

The Primerano brothers believe that Rose has a good chance of winning the Mr. Buffalo title in April, even if Rose continues to pursue natural bodybuilding and does not use any supplements or prohormones allowed by most of the sanctioning organizations.

“One day, I want to compete in an international natural bodybuilding competition,” Rose said. “I would love to be onstage with people from all around the world who do this.

“I have no problem getting ready … [for] competitions that don’t do as much testing, but I’ll always be a natural athlete. I would like to be a source of inspiration for natural lifters.”