SALT LAKE CITY — In junior high, Jake Steinfeld was overweight and stuttered.
When teachers called on him in class, he cringed.
"I didn't say a lot," said Steinfeld, an internationally known fitness entrepreneur, actor and trainer, addressing students at Clayton Middle School Tuesday.
But "life is about moments," said Steinfeld, better known for his Body By Jake brand.
At age 13, Steinfeld's father bought him a set of weights, which was the start of his journey out of adolescent awkwardness.
"Not only did it build my body, it built my self-esteem," he said.
The opening of Clayton's Don't Quit Fitness Center was yet another transformative moment, he said, this time with the potential to positively impact the lives of the middle school's 770 students.
Clayton Middle School was one of three Utah schools selected to win a $100,000 fitness center from the National Foundation for Governors' Fitness Councils program. The student body gathered in the school auditorium to celebrate the gift.
Steinfeld, the foundation's chairman, said Clayton's fitness center was made possible through a partnership with companies such as Nike, the Coca-Cola Co., and Amerigroup Foundation.
TuffStuff Fitness International provides the fitness equipment for Don't Quit Fitness Centers in schools across the country.
Fitness and academic success go hand in hand, Steinfeld said.
Someone who is physically fit "can look in the mirror and be proud of what you are," Steinfeld said.
In introducing Gov. Gary Herbert, Steinfeld said when he reached out the governor's office to propose to placing fitness centers in Utah schools, Herbert returned his call within 24 hours.
"This is a really good guy," said Steinfeld.
Herbert told the students that despite being a "small, skinny kid," he played quarterback, point guard and third base on his high school's football, basketball and baseball teams.
The governor said his father taught him a principle he still lives by: "Work will win when wishy-washy wishing won't," which he asked the students to repeat.
"You can wish you have a body like Jake. But you know what, wishing won't get it there. But going to the gym and exercising will help you," said Herbert.
"You may wish you were the smartest person in your class and you can wish and wish. But if you apply yourself — read your books and do your homework and listen to your teachers and your parents — you can, in fact, become much better in your intellectual pursuits than you would be otherwise. It all starts with applying yourself," he said.
Herbert said Clayton's new fitness center was made possible by a public-private partnership, which is a great example of one his favorite acronyms, TEAM, short for Together Everyone Achieves More.
The governor described Clayton students as "the rising generation." He urged them to stay in school and complete college or post-secondary school job training to help ensure success in the future.
"I'm thinking the future of Utah is very bright indeed because of you," he said.
Like Herbert, Steinfeld said he is also believes that a wish changes nothing, but a decision changes everything.Comment on this story
"When you decide to make a change, that's when things happen," he said.
Steinfeld told the students he still relies on a poem given to him in childhood titled "Don't Quit."
"The last two lines I use like my Bible verse, quite frankly," he said.
"So stick to the fight when you're hardest hit. It's when things seem worst that you must not quit."
He added: "Don't quit on you. Don't quit on your school. Don't quit on your families. Don't quit on this great state of Utah and don't quit on the United States of America, everybody."