• Josh Anderson

Broken Into Something New

Intern Evan shares the story of how Derrick Lail went from a rising star in law enforcement to transforming lives in the midst of brokenness. Even his own.

Derrick Lail has to constantly remind himself where he started on his journey.


Weights slam off the mats. Barbells vibrantly ring. Bodies flop onto the floor with muscles shrieking in agony. Heavy breathing keeps in rhythm with elevated heartbeats like a symphony. Drops of sweat relentlessly trickle down each face, each stream on a mission to scorch the eyes.

The body frantically bargains with pain for any ounce of relief. Worst of all, it’s only been a hot minute into the workout. There are still 19 minutes left.

You can say this is the normal workout for CrossFit, although, it can be worse. Much worse. The workouts are designed to maximize the expenditure of energy through blending various fitness regimes such as weightlifting, interval training, aerobics, and even acrobatic exercises.

Athletes are challenged to the point of physical exhaustion, however, the real battle is fought within the mind. It is a standoff where comfort and pain duel to a victor. Gee-whiz that sounds brutal. Who would want to do such a thing, right?

Derrick places great emphasis on what he calls "functional fitness." He believes this fitness platform inspires ordinary people to lead radical, healthy lives in community.

Broken Crayons Still ColorDerrick Lail is one of the masterminds in Boone who is in the business of crafting these rigorous workouts. He is the owner of a local gym he established in January 2015. This has led to him recently launching a non-profit that serves those who are battling addictions.

"My dream for the gym went beyond the improvement of the individual’s health and fitness," Derrick said. "It serves as a platform to sharpen iron, to build community, and to develop leaders."

Derrick admits that he did not want to create a place where individuals simply fit in. Rather, he wanted to create a culture where people belong. "As humans, we relate to each other through our brokenness," he explained. This realization has led him to adopting the mantra, "broken crayons still color."

Brokenness is a plight that plagues humanity, yet it also paradoxically unifies us. It builds our resiliency and our sincere need for each other. Derrick aims to connect individuals by our falls in order to build a positive and accepting atmosphere. So why does he emphasize community and brokenness so much?

"The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit."–Psalm 34:18

Rising Star

Before we jump forward, we must trace back through his path.

Derrick graduated from App State with a bachelor's degree in Criminal Justice in 2006. He then moved to the Queen City, Charlotte, in hopes of working for the FBI.

His career started as a local police officer, where he served as a task force agent on the federal and felony level. He hunted, apprehended, and investigated many crimes revolving around home break-ins. Derrick was the cream of the crop of case agents.

He possessed all the right traits to be a great success. He had the diligence, the intelligence, the tenacity, the charisma, and most importantly the youth. He blazed through the ranks. He earned multiple awards. At one point even the chief of police called Derrick seeking advice about a case. Derrick was on track to being a captain on the force and to a promising career. So why would he leave his job?

Quite simply, he started to realize that his career was becoming his identity. The job he seemed poised to own started to control him. "The job required more and more of my time," Derrick said. "It took me away from my family and my true mission."

Then in an instant, everything changed. Derrick suffered an injury on the job that became a turning point of his life.

Crash and Burn

Derrick was working an undercover case when he apprehended a suspect. Trying to wrestle his suspect into submission, the suspect reached for Derrick’s gun. Fortunately, for Derrick, his fellow officer darted onto the scene just in time. He tackled both Derrick and the suspect, slamming them both onto the cold, hard cement.

The collision dislodged a disc from Derrick's vertebrae causing an excruciating amount of pain, the lingering effects of his injury still plague him to this day. Derrick’s department would not cover the cost of back surgery claiming it was the result of wear and tear from high school football.

Ultimately, it was the final straw for Derrick. His injury coupled with his desire to more fully live out his true calling led Derrick to leave law enforcement and explore new opportunities.

Iron Sharpening Iron

Derrick emerged from the shadows of undercover work to teach criminal justice at the University of North Carolina–Charlotte. He also dedicated himself to getting himself into the gym in order to rehabilitate his back and strengthen his core.