I had the pleasure of interviewing Abe Cruz for this blog. This is the story of an athletic, smart and ambitious man who came back from adversity and is now giving it his all to use his testimony to inspire others. Abe has spent time with us at the Shields of Strength booth during our fitness expos and I have had the pleasure of getting to know this man. I hope that you all enjoy reading this story as much as I enjoyed hearing it.
Abe was raised by a single mother in LA County (East LA- California) and he has a brother and a sister. The family struggled to make ends meet, but his mom did the best she could and she is the reason that Abe is a strong young man today. He developed a love for sports at an early age, and by 7 years old people started noticing his talents. By the age of 11, Abe met Oscar Cepieda who coached him and brought a new opportunity to his life and his brother’s life. Oscar became a father figure in his early life, and Abe views him as one of the many Angels sent by God. He then went on to play basketball for a private Catholic school in Alhambra, California. During his 7th grade year, his Football team was the Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) Champs with 109 Touchdowns, and a 38-0 record. That same year Abe also played Basketball. His team lost in the Finals, but were CYO Finalists Runner-Up. All of this was the 1st time in school history. During his 8th grade year, Abe was the MVP of his team in Basketball and the team won the CYO Championships. Every year during the middle school years, Abe was the MVP for his teams.
During Abe’s Freshman year of high school, he attended St. Paul High School where he made the Varsity Basketball Team as a freshman. He eventually became the Starting Point Guard. The team won the Division 4 CIF Championship (1st time in school history). They went to the State Quarter Finals where Abe started and played against Barron Davis who went on to the NBA. He also played freshman football, where the team went 14-0. Abe loved lifting weights in high school and that passion still continues to this day.
During Abe’s junior year in football, his team went on to CIF Championship but lost to Hart High School. This was the school that produced Kyle Bower and Jerry Owens – Cal Berkeley & UCLA Products. Abe had 13 interceptions in 10 games that year, and was voted on to the Long Beach Pre-Season All-American Team.
University of Wisconsin
During Abe’s Senior year, he was recruited and went on to play for the University of Wisconsin- Stout as a Defensive back. Abe started as a true freshman, and the team won a Conference Championship (1st time in school history). Some lucky girl out there has both of Abe’s Championship rings and varsity letterman jackets. On the side during his freshman year, Abe started doing personal training and cutting hair in the dorms for extra money.
Abe studied Business Administration, and minored in Psychology. After the freshman year when Abe went home for the summer, he received an opportunity to join his first Network Marketing Company, where his eyes and mind were opened to an entirely new world of Power all in self-development. The money started flowing in fast. Abe’s business partners were all bringing in up to $100,000 a month. Abe started making $5,000 and up a month at 19 years old while still in college, living the good life and quickly forgot about the difficult times he grew up in!! Abe was told he would never make more unless he left college and pursued the business full-time. So in the middle of football season, with the teams record at 3-0, Abe made the tough decision to leave school and his love of football to pursue the business full-time. Abe lived in the Midwest for the next year until the Network Marketing Company crashed and folded.
Abe moved back to California and got a job as a personal trainer in the mornings and a real estate loan officer during the day. He was also a night club promoter on weekends, all while still trying to build his acting career. After one late night of club promotion, Abe drove from Orange County to Pasadena at 4:00AM for a 5:00AM client session at the gym. He fell asleep behind the wheel, and crashed into a Mercedes. That was the beginning of some major money trouble. He soon found himself in a desperate situation and made a huge mistake during these tough financial times. Facing these huge challenges for his entire family, he made some decisions that he regretted, and ended up in prison in Oklahoma. Abe was told and believed that he would be in-and-out within a year for good behavior, and because he was a first time offender. In reality, Abe ended up spending almost 4 years in prison. Abe immediately went into depression. After a few months and phone calls with his mom who told him to pray and fast, Abe got down on his knees in prayer and fasted for 40 days and asked God for a second chance in life. Abe started a mission of inspiring and motivating his fellow inmates through self-development classes and encouraging them to improve their lives by following Christ and taking up physical fitness. Abe said that he “felt like God was always watching over him” in his life and he didn’t want others to make the same mistakes.
Weights were removed from this prison, due to inmates using them as weapons, so Abe had to get creative. He would use his inmate shirt and put several trash bags inside to create weights once they were filled with water. He filled the shirt with weight bags ranging from 10 lbs to 100 lbs. Broomsticks or plunger sticks served as the handles as the bags were tied to the ends. Other exercises included: a thousand pushups a day, lunges on the stairs, two hundred pull-ups and body squats using someone on his shoulders.
A Future and Forever Faith
In the middle of playing a game of spades, Abe told his fellow inmates he would start a clothing line to move the world and motivate and inspire people. Abe decided the name of the company as “Forever Faith” right there at the table. His message to other inmates while in prison was, “If you don’t believe in yourself, no one else will.” Abe believes that his faith was what turned his life around. Abe started what he calls “A business plan in prison” – a simple to-do list. He included: starting a clothing line, land on the cover of fitness magazines, pursue his acting work in TV and film, write a movie script, create a comic book, and also become a motivational speaker. Abe felt that there are many people who are on the edge of desperate survival in our country today, and through this clothing line he communicates his story. “One must have faith to survive.” That’s the “Mindset of a Champion!”
Once Abe was released from prison, he went to live at a Christian Sober Living facility in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He had to wear an ankle monitor upon being released. He went out looking for jobs, and for 2 weeks was turned down each time. His parole officer gave him just 2 more days before he would be sent back to prison. After crying and getting down on his hands and knees and praying, he was blessed with two jobs the next day. Abe was hired as a personal trainer and a second job at a supplement store. He traveled to work on the city bus almost 3 hours each way, and quickly moved up in the company to Fitness Director after 3 months. Because Abe is bi-lingual he was blessed with many other opportunities at the gym.
While working at the gym, Abe stayed focused on making his dream become a reality, and started selling Forever Faith Tee Shirts out of the trunk of his car. While pursuing his dream, Abe met an Angel sent from Heaven that changed his life forever. This Angel’s name is Fred Bassett. He immediately saw potential in Abe and offered to help him because he believed in him and his vision. Fred and Abe became very close while working together, and Fred also became the first major investor in the company. He became a business partner and the father figure in Abe’s life.
Tragedy to Success
Abe says that he is determined to turn his tragedy into a success in order to save people from making the same mistakes that he has made in the past. The Forever Faith clothing brand then grew, and Abe was beginning to become noticed in the fitness industry as well. He then met a powerful, well-known and incredible fitness photographer, Noel Daganta. They shot photographs together and they found success by landing two magazine covers as well as work in 12 other publications.
Abe now spends his days being grateful for the basics of life. He realizes that eating at his own time, talking on the phone, and showering at his own time is a blessing, not a privilege. What we don’t even pay attention to in the world were luxuries while incarcerated. Abe has accomplished quite a bit since his release, but he treats every day like it was his first day out of prison – He’s Just Grateful!
You can’t help the world being broke and not at your best, so Abe still strives for greatness in everything he does. He believes the greatest service to mankind is finding a way to serve many people.
Abe’s story was also featured on the Bravo Reality T.V. Show “Millionaire Matchmaker,” and Abe had a great role in the movie “Woman Scorned,” (Writer / Director Eriah S. Howard)., which has been nominated and won numerous awards across the country. Currently Abe is the Face of TC1 Gel – Topical Pre-Workout, and has shot the first episode of a new TV Show, The TREND Talk Show, as their Fitness Segment Host , plus been the Featured Guest on the TV Show Up Close with Corey Taylor — and the Journey Continues…
God has a Plan
In conclusion, God has a plan for all of our lives. Never lose hope even if you feel that you have hit rock bottom. Even when we make bad choices or take a path that leads us astray, Christ will always be there for us. In fact, he has never left! We all have our own free will to make choices.
Blake Bradley & Abe Cruz