If you happen to be strolling around Lee County on a Sunday afternoon and see a 6-foot-2, 250-pound behemoth pedaling a bike, shirtless, sweating and smiling, then you’ve seen Henry Roop.
Roop, a 52-year-old sales director from Tupelo, has dedicated much of his life to physical fitness and physical activity. Roop plays basketball twice a week – physical basketball if you ask many of his friends who’ve received cuts and bruises from him. He rides his bike for more than 20 miles a day and he lifts weights regularly.
But come Jan. 9, Roop will start a new hobby that is going to be a challenge even for him. He will enter a Toughman competition in Tunica.
Toughman pits everyday Joes against one another in a boxing ring to duke it out for three one-minute rounds. The competitions, which regularly air on Fox Sports, feature people with little skill but lots of heart and punching power. There’s usually one strategy in Toughman: punch, punch, punch.
“I signed up for Toughman because it will be a challenge for me,” said Roop, sweat dripping from his brow after an intense sparring session. “I think I will be the oldest person ever to compete in Toughman. To have a chance at doing that, man, I couldn’t pass it up.”
It’s hard to believe a man with bachelor of arts degrees from the University of Mississippi in microbiology and secondary education would sign up to be punched in the face, but you’d have to know Roop to understand.
To say he’s intense is an understatement, according to his friends. When playing basketball, a blocked shot by Roop leads to a primal roar that hurts the ears and sends chills up one’s spine. If he knocks you to the floor, he considers that good defense.
Despite his tough play on the court, Roop always will help the man he knocked down up but probably only to knock him down again, joked a friend.
But even with a reputation as a tough guy, many still question Roop’s ability to compete in Toughman against guys half his age.
“You’re going to have doubters no matter what you do,” Roop said. “You’re never too old to live your dream and that’s what I’m doing. Sometimes people limit themselves because of fear or what they think others will say. If I lose, so be it. At least I had the courage to try. Losing has never scared me; not wanting to try has.”
With a current bench press max of 350 pounds and a workout regimen that most 20-year-olds couldn’t keep up with, Roop doesn’t expect to be on the losing end of the jabs. His conditioning is second to none. For the past 10 years, he and a group of colleagues have made yearly bike rides from DeSoto County to the coast to talk to people about diabetes. The 500-mile trip takes five days.
“I’m in great shape and no one will train harder than me,” Roop said. “I’ve never boxed but my progress is coming along very quickly. History is filled with underdogs who’ve overcome the odds and won, so add Henry Roop to that list.
“With hard work, the right attitude, repetitive training, heart, determination and the power of God and friends, I don’t see how I can be stopped,” he adds. “My strength is in my power. When I connect, it can be deadly.”
Contact Danza Johnson at (662) 678-1583 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Danza Johnson/Daily Journal