A native of West Memphis, Arkansas, Willie Austin first joined the greater Seattle community in 1980 when he came to play football for the University of Washington. Following his career as a defensive back for the Huskies, Willie chose to remain in the Pacific Northwest and continue pursuing his love of health and fitness. He began focusing on strength training, and by 1990 was the World Drug Free Powerlifting Champion.
Willie was a well-respected strength coach and personal trainer who coached national and world champion weightlifters and trained both amateur and professional athletes. He has worked as a trainer at the downtown YMCA and as manager of the West Seattle health club. In 1988 Willie founded the Gym of Seattle, in 1992 he founded the Gateway Athletic Club and in 2004 he founded the Now Is Fitness Center and home of the Austin Foundation.
Willie first began giving back to the community by serving as a guest speaker on physical fitness and drug-free living. During his on-campus presentations at area schools in 1990s, Willie began to recognize the growing need for accessible youth fitness programs. He saw first hand youth struggling with diabetes, obesity, and asthma, many of whom weren't comfortable in regular gym class settings. He saw kids who couldn't afford the cost of athletic programs or didn’t have safe access to physical fitness activities.
In addition to his work with the Austin Foundation, Willie has served as an instructor and coach for the Washington State Special Olympics and as a consultant for the Seattle Public Schools Physical Education department. Willie received many recognitions and awards. In 1998 the Seattle Times recognized Willie's contribution to the community by listing him as one of "20 Northwest people who have made a difference". In 2008 Washington State Mindful Mentor Award by the Guiding Lights Network. He received several awards from the Seattle Police Department and Seattle Parks and Recreation Department.
Tragically and unexpectedly Willie passed away in April 2014. We now are committed to serving the purpose that Willie started. Even after his passing many are honoring his legacy and his work. At his funeral service Willie was called an "Angel" among us.