C.J. Senter may or may not be the next Tony Horton or the next Barry Sanders, but he is definitely the next 10-year-old to watch.
Granted, when most people hear "child prodigy," they rightfully raise an eyebrow and wonder who is pulling the strings. Add a workout DVD by a fourth-grader with sculpted muscles to the mix and "cute" can turn to "concerning." But it turns out the story behind "C.J. The Workout Kid" is a lot more inspiring than insidious.
C.J. started working out five years ago when his football coach told him and his teammates to go home over a weekend and get some exercise. He did some push-ups and sit-ups and loved it. Not too long after, he saw a P90X infomercial and loved that too. He's been working out ever since. C.J. does his own routines three times a week, after school and homework, and he's given new names to some old and boring moves, like the burpee, which involves a squat, push-up, and jump. C.J. calls that one the "shredder." He even teaches a class of (mostly older) kids at the gym near where he lives in Locust Grove, Ga.
"It feels great," C.J. says by phone from his Georgia home. "I love staying fit and healthy."
But wait a minute. Research shows kids shouldn't be touching weights until at least age 15.
"I don't use weights," C.J. says.
Not even bench press?
"I don't bench press," he says. "It's not good for kids."
Surely he's on some insane diet, right? His dad feeds him wheat grass and cow brain, perhaps?
"I'm not on a diet," C.J. says. "I eat everything."
Disbelieving? So is Carlos Senter -- C.J.'s dad. Carlos has spent most of his son's life in shock, ever since C.J. somehow climbed out of his crib -- at seven months old.
"It was two, three o'clock in the morning," Carlos says, "and boom! My wife would go look in his room and here he comes, crawling out. He would go into the refrigerator, too."
Carlos can't quite figure out how his son got to be so fit. He says his relatives put on muscle easily, but not this easily. C.J. has an older brother and a younger sister who don't really love sports as much. And Dad isn't exactly chiseled like Terrell Owens. In fact, he admits C.J.'s work ethic has shamed him and his wife into getting into better shape.
"He doesn't really eat candy," Carlos says. "I have no idea why."
And for that matter, Carlos has no idea why his son doesn't have an attitude. "This kid will score a touchdown, take the football to the ref and act like nothing ever happened," Carlos says. "If it was me, well, I probably would be a little different."
But as much as the "Workout Kid" routine is working -- C.J.'s DVDs are in so much demand that his dad hired a PR rep -- Carlos says he gives most of the DVDs away for free and the primary objective is to help kids get off the couch.
C.J.'s primary objective has always been the same thing: make it to the NFL. He's a running back and safety, modeling his game after another C.J. -- Titans speed demon Chris Johnson.
C.J.'s already been named MVP for the state of Georgia as an 8-and-under, and last year he played in the 10-and-under group as a 9-year-old. Carlos says that the team run by former NFL running back Jamal Lewis expressed interest in having C.J. commute to Atlanta to join up, but the drive was simply too far.
High school coaches are already aware of C.J., but Carlos, who runs a local barber shop, insists on not looking too far ahead.
"As long as he's happy," Carlos says, "I'm happy."
C.J. does seem happy, even though he's a little bit tired of when kids come up to him at school and ask, "Are those your real muscles?"
The next generation of Atlanta prep football players is about to find out.