When personal trainer Monte Sanders first met Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis at a party at Lewis' home some 14 years ago, the two had an immediate rapport.
"We just started sharing and talking and fellow-shipping and he asked me what I was doing [the next day]," Sanders said. "I said, 'I'm working out,' and he said, 'I'm working out too, why don't you come over?'"
Sanders did go to Lewis' house that next day and apparently made a big impression, becoming Lewis' personal trainer and friend.
"Years, later, he told me that one of the things that solidified me for him was I was the only person that could make it through a workout with him," Sanders said.
As Sanders accumulated more experience training the pros - former Ravens safety Ed Reed also began training with Sanders in 2004 - he began thinking about how he could he could apply that knowledge to helping ordinary people and young athletes.
In 2008, Sanders began holding fitness programs several times a week at the Garrison Forest School athletic center in Owings Mills, which is where he met Manchester Mayor Ryan Warner.
"I started going to these morning boot camps with Monte about two years ago," Warner said. "I was 340 pounds and my business partner asked me, 'What are you doing at 5 a.m. tomorrow?' and I said 'sleeping.' He told me he had paid for me for a whole month and I had better get down there to work out and not waste his money."
Warner ended up losing more than 50 pounds and was excited to see Ravens cheerleaders and Ray Lewis show up from time to time.
"Ray Lewis would come and work out and shout encouragement to everyone," Warner said. "His energy was just such that you wanted to do more. That's what drew me to Monte to begin with; he has that same sort of energy and motivation. It's not just a guy yelling at you"
After working with Warner, Sanders decided to stage a new kind of camp for youth athletes in Manchester last year, a week-long that would take the agility and conditioning drills he teaches to elite, college bound football players and teach them to youth athletes.
"Ray and I go down to Miami and train top Florida athletes," Sanders said. "Why can't I provide this same blueprint to the younger kids? The drills we use are the same ones that we give those top athletes."
The pilot youth camp in Manchester was a success and Sanders said he plans to eventually take the program on the road nationwide, but since moving to Carroll County late last year, he sees no reason not to start things off in his new backyard.
"I figured I'm in Carroll County, why don't I start here and share these secrets and knowledge that I've developed with Ray and Ed," Sanders said.
Sanders will hold his second Youth Speed, Agility and Conditioning Camp, based on what he did in Manchester, in Westminster the week of Aug. 19 and more information is available at http://www.sandersoptimumfitness.com.
In the meantime, Sanders is continuing to train elite athletes, having helped undrafted free agent - and Sykesville resident - Brandon Copeland in his continuing push to make it onto the Ravens roster this summer as an inside linebacker.
"He's not just instructing, [Sanders] works out with you," Copeland said. "His pedigree in terms of training with Ray Lewis and Ed Reed was a huge positive in my mind when I started to work with him ... after the first lift I did with him, I could see why these guys were pro-bowl players; they put the work in."
Sanders put Copeland through intense agility, power lifting and endurance workouts, resulting in Copeland's shedding 22 pounds in just three weeks.
"I've always been a strong guy, but I wanted to get lean," Copeland said. "I could only thank him at the end of it, because I could see the results in terms of how much stronger I got while also losing weight."
Sanders said that he has been enjoying life in Carroll County and hope to become more involved in the area and is looking to start a regular group workout program like the one he has run in Owings Mills.
"I would love to start something like that in January, if I could get a small group interested. We're looking at a place in Carroll," Sanders said. "[Carroll] is a great place for us to live ... I look forward to helping the community get healthier."