Walk into a Boise Gold's Gym in 2004 as a trainer looking for a job, and chances are Brad Duke would have asked you this question: Would you rather earn or be given a million dollars?

The right answer would have been "earn." Brad's emphasis on hard work and dedication was evident throughout the gym all the way up to one fateful day in 2005, the day he won the Powerball jackpot.

Now, Brad's the one who's been given the million -;$220.3 million to be exact -; and he's set out on a journey to earn his way to billionaire status.

Before that May, 33-year-old Brad couldn't have asked for much more. He was out of college and enjoying blossoming success in the fitness industry. Years of hard work and determination were starting to finally pay off.

He lived on his own and was a regional manager of fitness at five Boise Gold's Gym locations. A recent partnership in a consulting firm was starting to take off. Brad had begun to make a name for himself -; in a field he'd always loved -; and it felt great.

The small town boy, raised in a family of six with down-to-earth values, lived a happy life with a $60,000-a-year salary and 60-hour work weeks. He was content to continue on the path toward success he had made for himself.

That changed on May 28, 2005. When Brad woke up to go to another long day of work, teaching spin classes and training other personal trainers, he had no idea that he would end the day $220.3 million richer. The number games that he'd played for years with lottery tickets brought home a winner -; not another $10, $20 or $50 prize like he'd won in the past. It was the big jackpot, the sixth-largest Powerball win in history at the time. Today, it is the eleventh.

Even as Brad sat at work, examining the Powerball site, it didn't seem real. He'd always had "weird luck." He chalked it up to a rare mistake -; just the kind of thing that would happen to only him -; and the Web site was wrong. For a long time whenever strange occurrences struck, Brad spouted, "What are the odds of that happening," followed by, "Why can't those odds go my way with the lottery? "

Things finally went his way. A self-taught numbers theorist struck it big, beating the odds on a fluke win, after five or six years of trying on and off. His homemade numbers matrix worked, and a long-shot of a dream had just become a lot more attainable.

"I always had a feeling that I'd win. It sounds crazy, but I did. I would bring it up a lot when you'd have those daydreaming-type conversations with your co-workers."

Even with uncanny foresight, Brad didn't expect quite as grand a windfall: perhaps only $10,000 or $50,000 was more what he had in mind. But it was enough to keep him playing and trying new numbering systems, clinging to the "just maybe."

"I've always thought like that in my life. As long as there's a possibility, or if there's a will there's a way."

Early plans

With his new-found wealth, Brad had the means to do anything and buy almost anything. In his mind he only knew one thing at first: He didn't want to fritter his jackpot away.

"I started reading about these people who suffer these huge catastrophes (after they hit the jackpot). I said, 'That's where I'm not going to be in 15 years.'"

From that decision was born one of the grandest ideas in lottery winner history. Brad spent the first month or so assembling a team of marketing, financial and legal experts to advise him. These were the people who would help him turn his one-time lump payment of about $84 million into $1 billion in 15 years or less. The task was complicated when Brad paid an additional $10 million in taxes, leaving him approximately $74 million to work with.

Brad knows his goal is huge. But he originally wanted to do it in only 10 years. Less than three years later, his burgeoning empire includes gas and oil interests, conservative traditional investments, his largely expanded fitness consulting firm, real estate endeavors and a charitable entity, the Duke Family Foundation.

Even officials with the Idaho State Lottery admire Brad's lofty ideals.

"You know, from a lottery perspective, Brad is really a model winner," Idaho Lottery Spokesman David Workman said. "Lots of these people have those impulse decisions, those impulse buys. In Brad's case, he had already thought about winning before he did.

"He put a lot of thought into how he would handle the sudden flood of wealth."

The pair teamed up after Brad's jackpot to create a "how-to guide" to help big winners manage their money.

"He's really shown his strength of character, to put that much thought and planning into it," Workman said. "He's actually taken the time to prove that lottery winners can give back to the community."

He splurged on a "fun" vehicle, along with a "dream car" for his father during a trip to Las Vegas last year. The pair road-tripped back to Boise after the big-ticket purchase in style: Brad behind the wheel of an Aston Martin V12 Vanquish, the James Bond model from 2002's blockbuster hit "Die Another Day," and his dad following in a Porsche 911 Turbo.

He lives in his same house in Star. He quit his job at Gold's because of over-exposure. He drives a 2003 Volkswagen Jetta -; he downgraded after giving his 2005 Jetta to his nephew for graduation -; to his new Eagle office nearly every day because it "fits my bike rack." He frequently eats in the same small-town caf that he did before winning. People are sometimes shocked, his assistant Rachel Aldous says, when he waves to them on the streets near his home.

He leads a relatively basic life, preserving a sense of "normalcy," while increasing his net worth by upward of $100 million in less than half a decade.

"The whole point is not to be a billionaire for the sake of being a billionaire," Brad said. "I knew when I put this goal out there. Whether it be 20 years, 10 years, 15 years or whatever, it would be the journey that I would go through in becoming that or getting to that point (that) would make the difference. It's not about the money.

A lot of people ask him, to this day, when he outlines his plan, "Isn't a quarter-billion enough? "

"I still live in the same house, so obviously it'll be enough." But, "it's about the journey, the education ... the things I can pass on to my family, nieces, nephews. (And maybe) leave something behind for them."

The billion dollars, Brad says, is more of just a "measurement tool."

Values cemented early

The penchant for hard-work and his goal-oriented attitude was instilled early on.

He was born in 1972 to a salesman and a waitress in Salmon, Idaho, a town of about 1,500, with two older brothers and a younger sister soon to come. Brad was the middle child by a long shot, several years younger than the nearest sibling and living in the refurbished downstairs of his family's new house. Brad was a hard worker, with a big imagination and a bigger heart, his family said, the kind of kid you don't have to poke and prod toward success.

"I knew I never had to worry about him, because he always did the right thing. He always got good grades; he was always good to others," Brad's father, John Duke, or "Hile," as many know him, said. "'Overachiever' would be the best way to describe him."

Because of the large age difference with his brothers, his sister Patti says the pair tended to be the closest. They shared a slightly competitive but "typical close-aged brother and sister relationship."

"He was a storyteller. Everything was always bigger and grander than it really was," Patti said. "He was always kind of a dreamer."

As Brad grew up, becoming the first in his family to graduate from college, and made his aspirations become reality, the storytelling got interesting though.

Train hard, study hard, work hard

"As he got older, his stories got bigger. It was his mantra for dedication and hard work," Patti said. "When he got older and was in high school, he was really competitive and athletically goaled. It was apparent early on and when he was in college that he was the same for getting out in the real world."

His love for fitness and competition equaled his passion for hard work. Brad's track success took him to the College of Southern Idaho on a decathlon scholarship. He did the pole vault, ran races and always aimed to one-up himself in everything.

"One day I talked to his Scout teacher, and she told me, 'You know, he has more merit badges than I've ever seen,'" his father, John, said. "That's just the way he does everything."

With the support of his father and two brothers, Todd and Terry, Brad pushed himself above and beyond in school and athletics, aiming for medical school when he first entered college.

"A lot of my thought process going into school was instilled in me by my brothers -; work hard, stay in school, focus on your goals -; and I really took that to heart," Brad said. "I've got a lot to thank my brothers for."

After two years at CSI, Brad left for Boise State University. He graduated with a Bachelor of Science in exercise science and health promotion -; regretting sometimes giving up medical school for the more "fast-paced" world of fitness that suited him.

Brad says it is "just bizarre" to even think about what could have happened if his brothers had not led him to BSU in Boise. He'd never have won the lottery or set upon his current path.

Becoming an icon

Dr. H. Roy Kaplan explores in his book, "Lottery Winners: How They Won and How Winning Changed Their Lives," the idea that winning the lottery doesn't change people fundamentally: It leaves the effects on their personality from past influences and ingrained values intact.

"You can catapult people from one economic status to another overnight, but a lifetime of beliefs and experiences change more slowly. ...; People who were outgoing and gregarious before winning took it in stride," Kaplan wrote. "People who were shy and withdrawn before winning became suspicious and paranoid."

Brad is a walking example of Kaplan's theory. As far as his family and friends are concerned, the only thing different about the new Brad is the number of zeroes on his bank statement.

Brad's publicist and close friend Edward Moore of Boise's Marketing Media Group has seen what wealth can do to people in his professional setting. None of the "bad things" that he's witnessed apply to the Brad he sees on a regular basis, personally and professionally.

"What wealth does, it's like a magnifying glass, like putting a glass of water over something. It accentuates all the characteristics of people, and that's what it's doing with Brad," Moore said. "Brad still does things honestly, thinks things through and does them with empathy and sympathy for those around him."

Brad's progressive methods for a "new Gold's Gym era" were featured in fitness magazines. Specialized arm bands for exercising were tested in "beta" version at gyms Brad supervised and then featured on a season of television's "The Biggest Loser."

Brad became a specialist in customer retention and health, and success took off. With the debut of his consulting firm, Synergy Fitness Group, two years before the lottery came knocking, Brad felt that he could make a reality out of retiring in fitness.

"I was really passionate about what I did, really believed in what I did. I had aspirations to be an icon in the field I was in, and that actually started to happen right around the time I won the lottery."

Jay Bates got his start in fitness at the same health club as Brad almost 13 years ago, working with him at Boise's Courthouse Athletic Club and later coming on as a consultant with Synergy. With Brad, Jay said, there was always a successful department or business, and it was this leadership and idealism that really propelled Jay into the industry.

"He was making a name for himself and the fitness departments he was working with. He was making an incredible reputation for himself," Jay said.

"Funny thing is, his infamous question to always ask prospective trainers, trainers that may be hired, was: 'Would you rather earn or be given a million dollars? '

"He always looked for the answer 'earn' because if you earn it once, then you can earn it again, and if you made it once, you can make it a million times."

Even now after the win, Jay said Brad is as smart and goal-oriented as ever. "He doesn't take it lightly. It just shows his character."

A different kind of day

When Brad finally realized the Powerball ticket was real and all the numbers matched up, he knew his life had just changed. It was time to make a decision.

After a futile attempt to remain anonymous, Brad decided to make an impact in his own way.

"That's just kind of Brad's personality. He's either kind of on the down-low or he's very out in the open," Patti said.

Knowing he didn't want to become a stereotypical winner, Brad set out to do something amazing: Not squander all the money on lavish luxuries.

Jokingly, one of the first things Brad said to his father was, "I bet you never thought we'd retire on the same day," John said. "I always knew he'd do something, didn't think it'd be the lottery though. (I) just figured he'd win a few bucks."

Brad set out to make more than that. He brought on a staff that numbers about 20. He experimented with different ventures, leaving a large portion of his millions in "conservative" investments. He dipped his toes into mountain bike race event management and promotion but later moved to more of a "sponsor-type" relationship with the sport. He attempted to stay on as a manager at Gold's, even after forfeiting his salary, but to no avail. He's now involved in a fledgling "family, fitness-centric" community in Eagle to complement his other investments.

In all, John says his son has spent very little but given away plenty. Estimates from publicist Edward Moore show that Brad has spent less than $1 million since the win, giving away more than $2 million to friends, family and charity through an endowment to the Duke Family Foundation.

Brad planned for fun, too. When he first won, he announced intentions to splurge on a new house, car, mountain bike, a trip with friends and a meeting with his favorite band, Metallica.

Two years later, Brad still lives in his 1,400 square-foot house in a Star subdivision, sharing a fence with neighbors. Seventeen bicycles fill his garage -; the only reason he says he might "need" a new house -; but he drives an older car now than he did before winning the lottery.

He has his 13-person team, most with staffs of their own. He employs a personal assistant, accountants, attorneys, a publicist, vice presidents of operations and sales at Synergy, several sales people and consultants, and even a bike mechanic. He had security staff for a while after a broadcast news station released the cross street near his home. These days, Brad's neighbors look out for him when he's out and away from the house on business.

He has spent a significant amount on travel, usually flying first class with groups of 10 or more friends and family members. Metallica has yet to meet with Brad, only offering to charge him a $3 million fee for a private concert, which Brad said "put a damper on things." The band has so far turned down Brad's offer to attend a recording session in return for a donation to its favorite charity.

Overall, he's overjoyed with his accomplishments, relishing the time spent with his girlfriend in his favorite travel spot, Tahiti -; he's been three times with large groups of friends. He also met long-time cycling hero Lance Armstrong -; for free. Brad also looks up to Richard Branson, billionaire Virgin CEO, for his undying quest for success and ambition to change the world.

Complementary to his humble attitude, Brad's girlfriend stays out of the limelight that follows him nearly everywhere, and he works hard to protect her privacy.

Embracing his "normalcy"

Perhaps it is because of his humbleness or over-the-top frugality. Maybe it's because of the connection with his roots and values that he's been able to maintain. It could be that Brad is just a nice guy, but Brad's friends and family agree that people identify with him as a "perfect person to win."

"He just does everything for everyone else and never does much for himself," John said. "It just speaks volumes about him."

Patti Duke sees the same thing and commends her brother on the progress he's made so far.

"He hasn't changed very much. He's down to earth, rooted," she said. "He's got this mentality that money doesn't have to change you. It can change what you can do, but it doesn't have to change you."

After growing up in the same town as Brad, his executive assistant Rachel was transferred to the same gym he worked at before winning. With a renewed friendship, Brad "stole" her from Gold's. Since then, Brad has opened up a world of "possibility" for her that she never knew in her personal or professional life.

Brad does amazing and creative things for people, and to experience just some of that with him, as his assistant, is eye-opening, she said.

"People just see that there's something very normal about him," she said. "I adore him. He thinks complexly about how it affects everyone involved and long-term.

"Recently he did this thing with the Boy Scouts, a group of four of them. He gave them money to go out and buy groceries for the food bank. And it was such a cool thing, a small thing but a cool thing, for the troop and the people who received it. Could he have just given the money to the food bank? Yes, he could have. But this did something for the Boy Scouts. It was such a great experience for those kids."

Plans for the future

Brad shares his luck through the Duke Family Foundation, emphasizing health and fitness "where it's appropriate." The foundation's mission places emphasis on the principle that "strong minds, bodies and spirits, combined with integrity, tolerance and determination, create a positive long-term impact on a diverse society."

So far the foundation has donated to the Children's Home Society, Boys & Girls Club of Nampa, Hope House, Project Patch, The Lance Armstrong Foundation and the CASI Foundation for Children, placing certain concentration on issues affecting kids. He even gave money to his hometown of Salmon, rebuilding its stadium and dirt track, which "weren't even legal for an athletic event."

It's not nearly enough for Brad's grand plans, though.

Brad's ambitions involve attaining "significant wealth," a status that he believes he will achieve with no less than $5 billion. Knowing it will likely take him until his 50s or 60s to make it to that point, Brad is not deterred, saying, "Once I hit $1 billion, it'll only be that much easier to get to $2 and then $3 (billion)."

Even the credit and housing slump that have affected the nation's economy have not weighed down on Brad's success, as he says his investments remain "surprisingly profitable."

"The research I did said I was a prime candidate for disaster (when I won)," Brad said. "I think that since I did the research and I had begun to live my life to make the most of my opportunities, I'll avoid that."

He doesn't plan to let loose on a crazy spending spree once he gets there either. He has dreams, sure. As he likes to put it, he "pulled the trigger," on the nice cars for him and his dad last year. He enjoys the annual family trips, but despite that, his hopes for the future don't involve many extravagantly priced purchases.

He'd like to learn how to do a back flip on his bike to complement his win last year in the 30-39 year old "expert" downhill category in the Wild Rockies Mountain Bike Series.

"I'm happy. ...; I mean I'm going to get a house, but I have a hard time upgrading the house just for the sake of upgrading the house. I really have a hard time with that.

"I looked at houses, but when it came down to making the decision, pulling the trigger or even seeing myself in a mansion, it was just uncomfortable for me. I just stopped looking."

The attention and publicity that follows Brad constantly is just "part of the deal, part of the responsibility."

Calling it his biggest life lesson so far, Brad also has learned "that perception is reality to most people, even if that reality opposes factual circumstances."

Now 35, Brad is reveling in the success he's had in escaping the "hard part," the initial phase after the lottery win where much of the "deceit" and "problems" should have shown their faces, he said.

"I want to reflect on how good everything's ended up. My family's the closest it's ever been, my relationships are tight, I haven't made any real bad decisions. Part of the goal now is to reflect back on and not deviate from what's worked."

When he gets older and has "significant wealth," Brad wants to positively affect a community, state or even nation, helping people somehow with either "what I have learned or what I have at that point." He'd also like to write a book and maybe go into space.

Until then, Brad's "very rich" status continues to defy reality. Experiences like the one he had with his dad -; speeding across hundreds of miles of Nevada in two overpriced European supercars -; don't help.

"Dad, he went into the restroom, I was in the gas station paying for the gas," Brad said, when a girl approached him during the trip.

"She goes, 'Are you driving that Porsche? '

"I said, 'No.'

"She goes, 'Well is it that older guy? '

"I say, 'Yeah.'

"And she goes, 'Aw, why do all the older guys have all the money? ' and leaves.

"I didn't respond to it, but I walked out of that gas station thinking you know this never, ..." Brad said, trailing off. "It's just going to be so surreal the rest of my life."

Jon Meyer is a reporter for the Idaho Press-Tribune. He can be reached at jmeyer@idahopress.com or 465-8117. On the Web: www.idaholottery.com.

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