C.J. Cummings is kind of a big deal.
Here’s some perspective; last week we unveiled the 2015 Players Choice Awards/Superlatives and Harry Giles III, the No. 1 overall high school basketball player in the country, was named Most Likely No. 1 NBA Draft Pick.
If we had an award for Most Likely to Appear on a Wheaties Box, Cummings, a 15-year-old weightlifting phenom, would’ve won in a landslide.
Though, as former USA Weightlifting President Dennis Snethen said, the “phenom” reference may even be underselling Cummings’ talent.
“There’s never been anybody that strong at that weight and that age that ever lived in America. Ever,” said Snethen, who was an assistant coach for the U.S. men’s team in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics and head coach for the U.S. women’s team in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. “If you related it to basketball, C.J. would be Michael Jordan.”
Yes, that Michael Jordan.
Cummings, who stands 5-foot-2 and weighs 152 pounds, certainly lived up to that appointment on August 14 at the USA Weightlifting National Championships in Dallas, winning gold in the overall total with 306 kilograms (674 pounds). His clean and jerk of 175 kilograms (386 pounds) was a kilogram ahead of the American men’s record set last year.
Alex Lee, who finished second in all three categories in Dallas, was 27.
“I want you to understand that this is against grown men,” Cummings’ coach Ray Jones said. “That was the very best in the U.S. Everybody was coming out of the woodworks because of the Olympics next year and he beat all of them.”
Naturally, you’d expect an athlete as accomplished as Cummings to be self-assured, polished and, at times, downright overconfident in his abilities, but Cummings has a boyish innocence and shyness that’s refreshing.
You get the sense that he’s completely unaware of the magnitude of what he’s done.
“People have come up to me and asked for my autograph and I’m like, ‘Me? For what?” said Cummings, who only turned 15 on June 6. “All of this is crazy to me. I’m just like any other 15-year-old kid.”
Aside from the whole “once in a lifetime talent” thing, Cummings does lead a very normal life in Beaufort, S.C.
He loves walking his blue-nosed pit bull Duke, keeping up with friends and current events via Twitter and Instagram and dominating the competition on the sticks in NBA 2K.
No, he’s not the guy who’s waking up before the sun rises, chugging raw eggs and training three hours before heading off to school.
“Oh no, I definitely drag out of bed all the time,” Cummings said.
And his diet? Not exactly Weight Watchers worthy.
“Why are McDonald’s fries so good!” Cummings said with a laugh. “I’m working on getting better with my diet though.”
Still, Cummings isn’t completely oblivious about the probable trajectory of his athletic career path.
He gave up football after averaging 15 yards a carry as a running back because he didn’t want to risk injury.
“I was pretty good,” Cummings said. “I miss it, but I just love weightlifting more than anything else, and I only want to concentrate on being the best that I can be in that.”
Currently, Cummings is No. 9 on the Men’s World Team rankings; the top eight make the team.
His next shot at moving up is at the Youth Pan American Games in Mexico next month.
“I definitely want to boost my total up to qualify for the IWF World Weightlifting Championship in Houston in November,” he said. “We’ll see what happens; I’m not putting any pressure on myself.”
He’ll have it coming from all angles soon enough; especially since the current Olympic medal drought for the U.S. men is in year 31. The Olympic Trials crank up in April where the team will be picked to compete in the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
“He’s definitely on the right track to accomplish his goal of competing in the Olympics,” Jones said. “He’s making believers now. I don’t put pressure on him, but the fact is that he’s on a path that’s uncharted.”
Cummings, at least on some level, is aware of that much; still, he’s resolute in his desire to “stay a normal kid,” whether that’s realistic or not.
“People tell me all the time that I’m the future and USA Weightlifting is depending on me,” he said. “I don’t even think about that kind of stuff. I don’t get ahead of myself. Of course I want to be in the Olympics next year, but it’s not the only thing that I think about. I work hard and I try hard, but I’m just a normal kid.”
Who just happens to be abnormally strong.
Follow Jason Jordan on Twitter: @JayJayUSATODAY