Comeback Duty: Matt Poe

By Jon Bossley, Athletes In Action


After a football career at Tennessee that led Matt Poe to 3 bowl games and notoriety as a 3-year consecutive weightlifting record holder on the team,  the Volunteer became a successful sports performance specialist.

The busyness of his success was not without cost, however, as it took him out of weightlifting competition and, ironically, later led him back into it. He says, “I kind of was out of the loop for 10 years. I got back into the loop at age 33.” It was an unexpected call from powerlifting phenom Josh Bryant that led Matt back into the sport.

Known for his skill in overhead lifting, Matt was sought out by the powerlifter, who was training for the Atlantis 2005 Strongest Man in America contest. Matt entered the contest himself and turned some heads with a 4th place finish. Even all-time great powerlifter Ed Coan took notice, asking Matt, “Where have you been!?”

The following year Matt won the overhead event in the Strongest Man in Texas contest, with his closest competition 40 lbs. behind. He says, “I started getting this reputation of being able to do overhead lifts. They call me a specialist in overhead lifting, but I don’t call myself a specialist. I just think God has given me a talent. At age 33 He kind of woke me up to use it.”

In the process, God revealed some hidden anger over unfulfilled dreams of playing in the NFL that Matt had been holding onto. “God spoke to me and said, ‘You need to let that anger go. You were meant to do this.’” The divinely inspired comeback not only led Matt into competition, it also led into demonstration lifting, including some rather unique events.

“I lifted a Burmese python that weighed 300 lbs. and put it on a bar that weighed 67…I pressed it over my head 4 times…I lifted a motorcycle over my head. I did some crazy stuff!” In spite of the success Matt found himself assigned to comeback duty once again after a weightlifting accident in 2009.

“I was pretty much rockin’ and rollin’ with my powerlifting career…I had a name built up pretty good…Well, I was doing a demonstration and hurt my back – blew a disc out…got a hematoma on my spine…I couldn’t walk for about a month. The doctors didn’t think I’d ever do overhead press again.”

Remarkably, though, Matt has come back once again. “Just through the grace of God,” he says. “God’s been with me the whole time.”

Rather than a favorite verse, Matt claims the entire book of Job as his favorite. Famous for his iron faith in God in spite of great adversity, Job’s story is one to which Matt can relate. “I was living it,” he says. In the end, God completed Job’s comeback and Matt now pursues the same outcome.