B.J. Telfer, 26, Maryville
– B.J. is another former athlete who is getting back on track. Joining the marathon team is just the latest step in his life-changing journey. In the past year, B.J. has given up alcohol and smoking, and started trying to eat right. He wants to “give back” to his wife and kids.
One night this past summer, B.J. and his wife Maranda saw a lung cancer patient on TV. The woman was gasping for air and could barely talk. Telfer’s wife turned to him and said something that would prove to be an incredible catalyst for change.
“How are you going to preach like that?”
B.J. weighed nearly 400 pounds and was smoking a pack of cigarettes every day. That night he decided he was going to have to make some changes, for his ministry, for his wife, for his children, and most of all, for himself.
“In high school I decided that God wanted me to be a youth pastor, B.J. says. “God wanted it, not me.” Just like Jonah in the Old Testament, B.J. ran from that calling for years. And just like Jonah, his journey away from God’s will led him through some harrowing times. But the running stopped when he and his wife started attending a church in Lenoir City. He talked to pastor Nick Rains, who suggested B.J. volunteer as an assistant youth leader. “My church is amazing and they’ve stood by me every step of the way in everything I’ve done, from stopping drinking to losing 71 pounds,” B.J. says.
This Maryville High School football alumnus says he was always a big kid, but figured out early how to use that to his advantage in sports. From a fitness standpoint, he says he always did just enough work to get the starting spot, never caring about pushing himself to improve. When high school ended, B.J. lost his motivation to stay fit and the pounds piled on. He got up to 325 pounds, but a personal crisis drove him to the gym and he suddenly became an exercise fanatic, going from one extreme to another.
Telfer says he worked too hard, exercising 3-6 hours daily. It caught up with him one day after a hike to Cades Cove, followed by a trip to Knoxville. “All I remember was blacking out,” B.J. says. “I had a heat stroke that night from not drinking enough water.” And that took B.J. to another extreme. He quit the gym cold turkey. Finally, in July of this year, he tipped the scales at 394 pounds. That’s when his wife, Maranda, made that one comment that turned him around.
So since July, B.J. has given up cigarettes and caffeine, and taken up running. This is in addition to his decision last year to give up alcohol. Some would say he’s gone to another extreme with these new and intense changes, but B.J. will probably tell you that he’s just now finding real balance in his life. He’s just now hitting his stride.
“The most important people I want to inspire are my boys,” B.J. says. “I want to show them that they can do anything in life.” In addition, he wants to inspire the young people in his church, in hopes that they’ll live the kind of life to inspire someone else. “If those two things happen, I’ve done my job,” B.J. says. “Change you, and others will change around you.”