Tiny’s BIG challenge

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 21, 2013

John ‘Tiny’ Likely began a fitness program Tuesday with Klint Short as his coach. Both men work at Zaxby’s. Tiny has already begun losing weight, and was down to 469 pounds last week.

John ‘Tiny’ Likely began a fitness program Tuesday with Klint Short as his coach. Both men work at Zaxby’s. Tiny has already begun losing weight, and was down to 469 pounds last week.

Local man wants to get fit, become spokesman

“Tiny” is one thing John Likely has never been, but most everybody uses the moniker.

And these days, Tiny, who is about 5’10” and weighs 469 pounds, is both depending upon community support and looking to inspire people as he works to become a smaller version of himself.

Tiny, who works at the new Andalusia Zaxby’s, said getting the job has helped him change his life, and his future. He has had a desk job before, but he loves the kitchen.

“I was looking for an opportunity when I applied,” he said. When he met co-owners and brothers Troy and Scott Brown for an interview, he wasn’t sure he’d get the job because of his weight.

The Browns asked him what he could bring to the Zaxby’s team, and Tiny’s attitude won him the job.

“I told them, ‘I’ll be here every day, and I’ll give you 100 percent every day,’ ” he said.

And it is that attitude that will make him successful with his new goal, his bosses agree.

Before the restaurant opened, Tiny was given the largest shirt available – a 3X. It was too small.

“I have always been a big kid, a little chubby, husky kid,” Tiny said. “When I signed up to play Tiny Might football when I was 6 years old, I was weighing close to 200 pounds.”

The weight limit was 100.

“They had me play with the PeeWee boys,” he said. “When I got to that age, I was too big to play with Pee Wee.”

He played football for Red Level High School, but in the years since, with his snacking habits, he piled on the pounds.

“My life used to be a snack feast,” he said. “I gave up sodas, and I used to drink the 20-ounce ones by the dozen. For breakfast, I would just want to get to McDonalds. I would eat two sausage, egg and cheese biscuits, and two orders of hash browns with sweet tea.”

In the afternoon, he’d snack on chicken strip dinners, and for supper, order pizza or eat whatever his sister prepared.

When he started to work at Zaxby’s, he said, he couldn’t fasten his seatbelt.

“I would just tuck it in my stomach so I wouldn’t get stopped,” he said. “I would have my steering wheel up and my seat all the way back.”

But after a few weeks at work, he started to feel as if he might be losing weight.

“Working, I didn’t have time to snack or play videos,” he said.

Soon, he could move his car seat closer, and he could fasten his seat belt. He was delighted when he grabbed that 3X Zaxby’s T-shirt by mistake and found that it fit.

Meanwhile, he had moved from Red Level into town, was enjoying Zaxby’s salads, and was working at eating healthier at home.

As he started to make progress, Scott Brown and Klint Short, a member of the Zaxby’s management team who earned a degree in sports and fitness management from Troy University, took notice. If Klint would work with Tiny as a trainer, would Tiny participate in a fitness plan that Zaxby’s fans could follow?

“I was like, ‘Oh my God, are you for real?’ ” Tiny recalled. “I had to keep some composure a little bit so they couldn’t see how excited I was. I finally had the opportunity to lose weight, be healthy. I was like walking on air for the whole day.”

First, they had to get a starting weight. Finding scales that would weigh him was a challenge. Officially, he was 473 pounds. Given the changes he had already observed, he guesses he weighed more than 500 pounds when he started.

Now cleared by a doctor, he and Short have joined the gym and Short is helping him with a fitness plan. Tuesday, he worked out for the first time, and logged 1.4 miles on the treadmill in 32 minutes.

“I had jelly legs when I was done,” Tiny laughed. “I sort of fell in Klint’s arms and said, ‘Hold me, man.’ ”

Short said he was impressed that Tiny did so well his first day.

“I did an internship training athletes at Troy University,” he said. “If those guys had had Tiny’s attitude, we could have played Alabama last year.”

Tiny said a program like this is something he has envisioned for a long, long time.

“I never knew the way,” he said. “God put me with a group of people to show me the way. The path was already laid out.”

He weighs in on Thursdays, and lost four pounds the first week – before he started working out. He has studied Jared Fogle’s story of losing 242 pounds with Subway. He’d like to top that, and get under 200 pounds.

His trainer, Short, thinks that’s a great goal, and believes Tiny can reach another one – running – before the new year.

Tiny said he loves the support and motivation he’s getting from Facebook followers.

“And I hope I’m motivating the community,” he said. “No matter what condition you are in, you can get up and do it.”

His main goal is to be healthy, he said.

“This could have been my last year,” he said. “I would like to add 30 years to my life.”


You can follow Tiny’s success on Facebook at Andalusia Zaxby’s or Zaxby’s TeamTiny.