Tim Adams says he was on his deathbed 15 years ago, laying motionless in his hospital room, contemplating the end more so than a new beginning.
“I didn’t know if I was going to make it through,” he said.
The proud body builder and successful trainer could not muster any strength and felt only pain from a serious bout with diverticulitis.
“I was knocked down, requiring two major surgeries,” he said. “With the doctors, through their hands, I had the Holy Spirit come into me.
“Within 40 hours, I walked out of the hospital after being quarantined with VRE.”
Vancomycin-resistant enterococci (VRE) is a bacteria in the intestines that can become resistant to antibiotics and can cause serious infections, especially in people who are ill or weak.
Adams’ background in the Bay area as a 12-year-old meeting a next-door neighbor who was a bodybuilder provided him the kind of strength he needed to get back on his feet from his “deathbed.”
“Mr. Zumbach — Hans Zumbach — from when my family lived in Pleasanton, Calif., while I was growing up, made a huge impact on my life,” Adams said. “He was my buddy’s dad. He trained very few kids, mainly his own. He had a lot of the old-fashioned weights with the standard bar in his garage.
“He took me in, put his arm around me and told my dad, ‘I make him strong. You leave him to me, I make him strong.’ He had a thick, thick, thick Swiss accent because he’s from the old country. Within two years, I was a sophomore in high school and I outran everyone in the high school in a 20-yard dash with pads on and freaked everybody out because I beat everyone by two-tenths of a second.”
Mr. Zumbach’s training regimen in his garage with Adams, at Adams’ young developing age, has proven to be the impetus for “Tim’s Gym,” Adams’ makeshift training facility in the garage of his home on Tucson’s northwest side.
Adams has about 24 clients visit his garage weekly — “I stay busy from 5 in the morning until 6:30 at night,” he said — and a majority of them are young, aspiring athletes.
He trains Salpointe Catholic freshmen football players Jaxson Banhie and Julian Ibarra two days a week, an hour each session.
He administers Ka’Deem Carey’s workouts five days a week. Carey, a CDO alum and record-breaking running back at Arizona, is awaiting word relating to COVID-19 from the Canadian Football League concerning a return to the Calgary Stampeders for his second season.
Adams, who is now 60 but still shows the strength of his younger bodybuilding competition days, also trains Nadi Carey, Ka’Deem’s sister, who recently made the cut to compete in the Titan Games on NBC-TV.
He also works individually with former Palo Verde and Pima College basketball standout Sydni Stallworth, who is preparing for a professional season in Australia, coronavirus permitting.
“I’m glad I got to know Tim; he’s helped me out a lot,” Ka’Deem said. “He knows a lot about training the body.”
“After I got an e-mail from the Titan Games, I called Tim and told him I literally only had a month to prepare for the combine to make the cut, ” Nadi said. “And he did it, apparently, because they picked me after I went through the combine. We were in that gym, pumping and lifting weights.
“I do appreciate him because I don’t know what I would have done. I just know that he got me ready.”
Another one of Adams’ clients is Josh Kimbell, a former Pima football player who was set to join the Tucson Sugar Skulls before their season was canceled because of COVID-19.
Kimbell’s background at Pima while Nadi was playing basketball there generated Ka’Deem’s interest to have Adams as his personal trainer. Adams met Ka’Deem when Ka’Deem was with the Chicago Bears in 2016.
“Josh was training real hard and started putting out videos of what I was doing with him,” Adams said. “Ka’Deem started responding after seeing these videos. Nadi also said something to him about me. I was in super shape competing for bodybuilding trophies and I said, ‘Let’s get Mr. Superstar over here and see if he can make it through a workout.’
“I threw out a challenge to him. ‘Ka’Deem, if you think you can roll through this, come on by.’ He shows up the next day. I put him through a back routine. I’ll pat myself on the back. I smoked this kid at 56 years old. He walked out of here thinking, ‘I found someone who will help me.'”
Within two years of training out of Mr. Zumbach’s garage, Adams, only 14 at the time, met bodybuilding giants Arnold Schwarzenegger and Frank Zane.
“I was done,” Adams said, emphasizing his desire to get into bodybuilding after his college football career.
After earning a scholarship to play football at Phoenix College, he set out on his weight training and fitness career.
His connections led him to Atlanta, where he was hired to be part of the Atlanta Falcons training staff. He co-owned health clubs in Atlanta. He personally trained PGA Tour golfer Larry Mize, who is from Augusta, Ga., before Mize won The Master’s in 1987.
Adams started his mortgage business in Tucson after his father-in-law moved here almost 20 years ago. He also was part of marketing companies that did fundraising for non-profit organizations. He was the co-founder and board member of Miracle’s Inc., a non-profit operation that ran the “Miracle in Marana” in which Adams dressed up as Santa Claus and handed out toys to kids.
It was about this time, in 2005, that he was rushed to the hospital with the viral infection of his intestines.
“After I got really sick, I came out of it in 2006, and I still had my mortgage business, but the housing market went to hell in 2008,” Adams said. “The crash drove me out of that business.
“My son Jacob was about to be in middle school about that time. I was just thankful to be alive. I started training my son to get into wrestling. I started that with my home gym with this equipment, some that I’ve had since Mr. Zumbach was training me when I was 14 years old.”
Jacob’s wrestling career, which later flourished at Ironwood Ridge High School, became impacted by Sunnyside Wrestling Club coaches Danny Vega and Mike Bravo. They met Tim and his son at a wrestling camp. Bravo is the grandfather of Sunnyside legend Roman Bravo-Young. He is also the former wrestling coach at Cholla High School.
“I told my boy, ‘If you’re going to wrestle, we’re going to go over and work with people who know how to wrestle, and that’s Sunnyside,'” Adams said. “I started teaching a lot of the Sunnyside kids how to weight lift, and one of those kids I trained was Roman Bravo-Young. I had Roman and Danny Vega Jr. over at my gym. They would beat my son up on the mat and make him a top 10 wrestler in the state.”
When Adams was coaching his son at a wrestling event in Phoenix, he said UFC fighter John Jones was in attendance and he “gravitated” toward him after observing how he was instructing his son and his teammates.
“He saw how I looked and how our wrestlers looked and how well they were doing. He started helping me coach. He told people he knew that he was helping out the ‘OG’ (original gangster or old-timer),” Adams said.
That OG has won two National Physique Committee (NPC) Terminator Bodybuilding competitions of entrants older than 50 after coming off his “deathbed” 15 years ago.
“It took me a good three or four years to come back from that scare,” Adams said. “The set up I had in the garage was for me to work out on my own after I became sick. I opened my gym to young athletes about 10 years ago, when my son was in middle school.
“Working out with kids like them (he looked over at Banhie and Ibarra) is where it really started for me because of my son. I love helping the kids first. I’d rather work with the young athletes who really want to make something out of themselves. That all goes back to the opportunity I was given by Mr. Zumbach, my neighbor, in his garage. That’s my passion.”
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.