Jailed for four years after one punch led to the death of a young man in Cookstown, Arboe man Ryan Quinn said he thinks about the family that was “destroyed” everyday.
Determined to give something back for the pain he caused, the 34-year-old has gone from a 21-year-old “Jack the lad” to a personal trainer, fitness model and business owner who delivers motivational talks to prison inmates about how they can do the same.
But he said the journey was not an easy one, and that he still regrets what he did every day.
“I still remember what I did,” he said. “There was a family destroyed... the family has to go and visit a grave and I take that into consideration. I regret it everyday.”
After his release from prison in 2008 Ryan said, that despite laying the foundations for what he does today, he “was all over the place” and didn’t know what he was going to do.
He just knew it had to be something as “I always had this thing in his head about what I did”.
“Jail made me worse at the time,” he explained, “but looking back now, I learned a lot of things. It made a man out of me, but it’s not a nice place.
“I got out and I didn’t know what I was going to do.”
But instead of continuing in a spiral of nightmares, depression and panic attacks, he decided he had to do something, because taking his own life, moving away or disappearing was “not going to change anything”.
“At times it did get very tough,” he went on. “I was called a ‘murdering b*****d’ - all these things were put to me and they were things I had to deal with (but) I don’t want anybody to take pity on me.”
After hitting rock bottom, he said he realised that he had to “stop making his thoughts reality” and forgive himself.
“One day I just looked at the food in the fridge, the car I had, the friends and family I had and said, ‘this is all I need’.
“I had to forgive myself because other people were suffering because of me, not being me.”
And that is the message he shared with offenders during his visit to a prison on Tuesday - volunteer work he hopes to continue through motivational talks, training camps and nutrition seminars.
Ryan, who earned his level two and three personal training qualifications while in jail, said: “Every time I visit these places, if I can get one or two people and change their lives, I will feel I’ve done a great job.
“When I spoke to those young lads (in prison) you could have heard a pin drop. I was told before I came in, there’s boys could walk out here, be prepared for it.
“But every one of them came up and shook my hand, took some advice off me and asked the prison guards if I could come back in.”
“Even the prison guards said ‘this is an astonishing story that you’ve gone from that to this’.
“I will never forget what I did. I don’t want patted on the back for where I am now.
“I have not covered over what I’ve done, I have said I was totally wrong. I held a grudge, and I have told young boys not to hold grudges.
“I wish I never did it. It shouldn’t have even happened. If the family want to come and see me I will speak to them.”
Asked if he thought he would be in the same position today had the tragedy not happened, he said: “Quite possibly, it’s an awful thing to say, but quite possibly. It took 13 years for me to turn things around.”
As well as this new prison work, Ryan is also in training for the WBFF finals in Boston in June, with the hope of winning a pro-card and becoming an ambassador for the sport locally.
“My passion would be fitness modelling,” he said. “I am going as an amateur to try and earn a pro-card.
“My reasons for doing this is because I want to be a WBFF ambassador in this area to help young ones to do the same thing as I do. There’s a lot of discipline involved.”
But as well as his own training, Ryan also runs busy gym franchise LS Results.
With around 600 members at its gyms in Dungiven and Ardboe, he now plans to expand into Cookstown.
Through the gyms he hopes to help people with addictions, low self esteem and depression to improve their lives through exercise.
“A healthy body is a body mind,” he said.
“We want all those people to feel welcome. It’s not just a body building gym. It’s place you come into and really feel it’s yours.
“We have clients who have been with us a really long time, who were in a really bad place when they started. Now the gym is where they go to feel safe.
“Young ones now-a-days, see the likes of drink, drugs and anti-social behaviour. I want to see them in the gym rather than out drinking.”
But while promoting the gym, Ryan said he is very much against the use of steroids and enhancement drugs, a message he brings to everyone he speaks to - especially young people.
“I always trained from I was young,” he added. “But I didn’t feel that I had the skills to run a gym until when I was in prison - that’s where it all began.
“I’m not perfect, I’m just trying to do my best and I’m not as silly as I used to be.”