EAST GRANBY, Conn. --
Senior Airman John Senn, 103rd Maintenance Squadron aerospace ground equipment maintainer, was looking to make a positive lifestyle change, but was having trouble taking the first step.
“For me it was the worst shape I’ve been in,” said Senn. “I was pretty up there in weight, and whenever you’re not healthy physically, you’re really not healthy mentally because it can make you feel horrible about yourself.”
By chance, Senn crossed paths with Meyers Leonard, Miami Heat power forward, in June 2019 while online gaming, a hobby the two share.
“He was just playing with random people and I got into his lobby,” Senn said. “We ended up both having fun and continued playing together. From then on we kept in touch on Instagram, exchanged numbers and started playing all the time.”
A casual conversation between the two became the start of the lifestyle change for Senn
“One day I just said ‘I have to lose some weight’ and he said ‘What are you waiting for?’ and from there he just kind of took me under his wing,” said Senn.
Leonard told Senn that their upbringings in life were similar and that he saw himself in Senn. Senn recalled seeing a video of Leonard and his brother years before they had met.
“When I was thinking about enlisting back in 2013, his brother had just got back from a tour in Afghanistan and hadn’t seen him play college basketball yet,” said Senn. “It was just one of those military homecoming videos that hit you different than you expect. Something about it motivated me; I wanted to be able to make an impact in the military.”
Now as friends six years later, Leonard was helping Senn re-channel that motivation.
“He just knew I needed that extra push, and I definitely did,” said Senn.
Leonard helped give Senn the tools he would need to be successful.
“He set me up with a workout plan, a diet plan, Nike gear, a lot of stuff,” said Senn. “He would text me and ask ‘Are you at the gym?’ just to check up on me.”
Senn, who had lost 35 pounds as of December, described the feeling of his first progress check after beginning his new routine.
“After one week I weighed in 10 pounds lighter,” said Senn. “I got a FaceTime call and expected him to be pumped up, but he just said, ‘See that? That’s what a little discipline will do for you.’”
Senn and Leonard keep in frequent contact for weekly weigh-ins and for meet-ups when the Heat have games in the area. Their friendship, though, isn’t founded on Leonard’s NBA status.
“I never talked basketball with him until a month or two after we met,” said Senn. “His profile on social media says ‘Basketball is what I do, it’s not who I am.’ He’s not just a basketball player, he’s a person.”
What started as an unlikely meeting of two people from seemingly different worlds has led to a lasting friendship and shift in mentality for Senn.
“I wasn’t the happiest, I was feeling overweight, and I just wanted to get back to where I felt way better about myself and looked better than ever,” said Senn. “So I’ve just had to keep going for it.”