Cedric McMillan: August 17, 1977 – April 12, 2022
I didn't know Cedric McMillan personally. However, I met him once or twice and what I could see is what everyone could see that he was a great bodybuilder. But after his death, given the public outbursts of emotion from those who knew him, it was obvious there was more to him. Much more.
Bodybuilding is one of those pursuits where we can easily separate the outside from the inside of an athlete. Most of us only know the outside. In Cedric's case, his incredible physique earned him eight pro wins and four Olympic top 10 finishes. Many pundits, trainers, and various industry insiders I spoke to all agreed that this guy from Maplewood, NJ could easily become the Mr O one day. This is not an easy assumption; not everyone has Olympic potential. In fact, few do. The potential is really that rare. And it should be. This earned Cedric the nickname "The One".
But beyond his stellar genetics, genetics that hark back to the classic physiques of yesteryear, and his ability to bring tears to your eyes with his exquisite posing routines, it was evident that Cedric had an even rarer gift. When people die, it's easy to find good words. You have to be a mighty bad person for someone to slander your way after your ultimate demise. It's what people say when they walk among us that speaks volumes. In Cedric's case, I've never heard a single bad word about him. From his peers, his friends and acquaintances, to industry insiders, trainers, experts and the half million+ followers on Instagram, everyone agrees that Cedric was a man as great as his physique. Maybe even bigger!
As if that wasn't enough, his service to our great country in the US Army adds a layer of selflessness to a sport known for its selfishness. In an interview with Fitness Volt, he said: "I think the army is a part of me. I think the army made me the man I am. I think it's something I'm also a little bit proud of that I've managed to get to where I am while continuing my military career.” A little? Yes. That's like saying the Great Pyramid of Giza is just a tombstone. But downplaying Cedric's awesomeness was one of his trademarks.
Courtesy of cedriccmcmillan/Instagram
For me, not only as an observer, but also as a bodybuilding fanatic and bodybuilder, perhaps the most touching element of Cedric's career has to be his 2017 Arnold Classic win. Arnold typically interviews the winner on stage and asks some rudimentary questions about his preparation, how many hours a day he trains, and what else he puts into the cause. It's pretty much his anticipated questioning. Well, Cedric wasn't going it alone. After being crowned, he dragged the rest of the top six with him and closed in on Arnold. He made a point of bringing them together because for him it wasn't just about him. It was about them all. He loved her and he said so too. He stood there and asked the audience to applaud with him for all the guys on stage. "It's about all of us," he said.
Then Cedric, in the most jovial – almost boyish – yet respectful way, said, “Mr. Schwarzenegger” and turned the tables on his bodybuilding idol. He asked Arnold how it felt to be back at the Arnold and how many hours he had trained to fit into his beautiful suit and about his beef with Donald Trump. To say the crowd loved it is an understatement. And from what I've heard from Cedric's friends, fans, comrades and competitors - that was classic Cedric. And you can clearly see from the 4×6 smile on his face that he was in his natural element doing it. Even half naked in posing trunks!
Cedric's emphatic reverence for those around him extended far beyond the stage—beyond bodybuilding at large. I asked Chris Aceto, Cedric's good friend and once his prep coach, if he could explain that a bit. While Chris loved Cedric's body, he said it was his heart and mind that stole the show. "He was kind to people and genuine," Chris said. “In 2015, at the Arnold in Brazil, an elderly cleaning lady was stationed backstage and constantly cleaning around him; his tanning paste and oil ran all over the floor around him - it was a mess. When we got back to the hotel, I asked him where that ridiculously expensive watch they gave you at the show was?” Cedric replied, “I gave it to the little old lady who cleans up behind me.” She'd have a go at it can buy a house.
"Cedric was like that," Chris said. “He always put others before himself. I used to beg him, 'Dude, you've got a show on your hands, you can't take care of this and that person and let so and so come over and dump all their problems on you. You have to protect Cedric.” Cedric's answer: 'I can't do that.' He was one of the greatest people I've ever known. Cheerful, kind, funny, caring and full of empathy and compassion. He influenced so many people. I know it sounds cliche, but in my case it's not. I will never forget him. I will continue to pray for his soul and his family.” Chris' feelings are shared by all who remember him today.
Bodybuilding has lost another icon. A potential Mr. Olympia. A protector of our great nation. After all, a great, great man. Someone I would have liked to have met.
Thank god Cedric. Thank you for shining a light in our world and thank you for your service to our country. You touched us all. Undoubtedly your name is one that will forever be in our hearts and minds and on our lips.