In the case of Hunter Labrada, it doesn’t take a Ph.D. in nutrition to know that the apple didn’t fall far from the tree. Considering the accomplishments of his pop, Hall of Fame bodybuilder Lee Labrada, that’s one mighty large apple.
Not so long ago Hunter’s athletic desires centered around football, where his talents as a 5’9”, 210-pound running back/strong safety at Northland Christian High School in Houston earned him a scholarship to Bentley University in Waltham, Massachusetts. A hamstring injury in his freshman year, however, set the stage for a new, yet very familiar, passion for Hunter, 21, the oldest of the three Labrada offspring (Lee and Robin, married 26 years, are also parents to sons Blade, 17, and Pierce, 14).
These days Hunter has his sights focused on becoming the next Labrada to walk on a bodybuilding stage with the well-known “Mass with Class” standards Lee crafted early in his career, more than three decades back. Though Hunter hasn’t made his debut yet (hold off on the laughter), the kid is clearly a larger, stronger version of Dad.
I caught up with the dynamic duo around 1 p.m. at the crowded Labrada Nutrition booth at the ’13 Olympia Expo in late September. Good timing; we were able to use their lunch break to head out to a quiet (okay, quieter) spot, where Lee and Hunter opened up about Hunter’s long-term goal of being recognized as one of the top professional physique artists in the world.
LT: Hunter, when did you first realize how revered your dad was in bodybuilding?
HL: You know, I saw the Olympia medals, the Arnold Classic medals around the house, but I never thought much about it. I’d say I was around 12 years old, and I went to my first Arnold Classic. I was about three feet behind him, walking through the crowd, and I saw this impressive wave of whispers, people saying, “Oh, my God, that’s Lee Labrada. That’s Lee Labrada!” I was not into bodybuilding at the time, but that got my attention. Eventually I came to realize how incredible a bodybuilder he was. It’s been a blessing to have such a legend in my corner.
LT: Lee, did you talk much about bodybuilding when Hunter, Blade and Pierce were growing up, perhaps suggesting a like-father, like-son scenario?
LL: Not at all. At home I wanted to be Dad, not a bodybuilding icon, to them. Of course we worked out—we have a gym in our home—and since they were little, they’ve seen me and Robin train.
LT: Hunter, when you were in high school a few years back, I wrote about your football exploits. Things have changed.
HL: Yes, football was my first passion, all through middle school and high school. I was head over heels, 100 percent in love with football. But I went through a transition my senior year, when I suffered a hamstring injury. I had to adjust my training, working around the injury, and eventually ended up doing what people would call a bodybuilding-split workout.
It got to the point where I started loving lifting for football more than playing football. I signed a letter of intent to play at Bentley University, just outside Boston. I did go my freshman year but ended up not playing. It was a great experience, but it was a little too far from home—and a little too cold—for me.
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