Mount Cody's Uphill Battle

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Did you know that Terrence Cody can do a back-flip?

Give him a couple steps and enough room to do a cartwheel and he'll nail it.

"No problem," he says.

Did you know that he can dunk a basketball? Or that he played running back in college or can throw a football 70 yards?

"I can do all that stuff," Cody said. "I got a whole bunch of athlete in me. I can do a whole bunch of things people don't know about, things that I tell them about and they think it's a joke."

That could be because for much of Cody's life, his skills were hidden.

They weren't seen while he raised his own siblings as a child. They were buried when Cody struggled academically, was ruled ineligible in high school and had to go to a community college. They were caught underneath an ever-fluctuating weight problem.

But Cody, if you can't tell by now, is unique – especially for a person who stands 6-foot-4 and weighs 360 pounds.

And now that he's on the NFL stage, Cody faces a challenge to never let those skills be hidden anymore.

"I use it all as motivation," Cody said. "It keeps me going and wanting to get better to show people I am who I am."

'EVERYTHING FELL ON HIM'
Cody was so big as a child that he couldn't play Pee Wee or middle school football because exceeded the league's size limitations.

That was the first factor in his life that kept the athlete inside hidden. The other was an upbringing that left him with little guidance in dark, rough surroundings. There wasn't time for improving his skills. Cody was just trying to get by.

Cody's father, Terrence Sr., died in a car accident when Cody was just 11 years old. His mother, Linnea, then took on two jobs as a bus driver and traveling nurse and moved the family into a small duplex in a rough patch of Fort Myers, Fla. to make ends meet.

Asked to describe his hometown, Cody said, "Drugs, shootings, murders."

"It was mostly drugs. I would see them all the time. I just wanted to get up out of there."

Cody, the eldest child, was the mother and father of the house, getting his younger sisters ready for school in the morning and cooking them dinner at night.

"It was tough on him," Linnea said. "Everything really fell on him."

There was little parental guidance or watching over him trying to keep his weight or behavior in line.

So Cody fell in with the "wrong crowd," in high school. He started skipping classes, then skipping school. His grades fell and Cody was ruled academically ineligible for football for his sophomore and junior seasons.

Scott Jones, the head football coach at Riverdale High, called Cody into his office for another meeting at the end of his junior year. This was Cody's last chance with Jones, who was clearly frustrated that Cody's talent could be lost.

"I said, 'Do you want to get eligible?'" Jones remembers. The answer was yes.

Cody, a boy who took responsibility for his siblings, had to start taking accountability for himself.

"I had to stop waiting for people to tell me things," Cody said. "I just had to stop being lazy and do it. I knew I could accomplish it. I just had to do it."

'A FREAK OF NATURE'
Cody's life started to turn around during the summer before his senior year and not surprisingly Cody's athletic potential started to be unlocked.

While sitting out from football for two years, with no parental force over his shoulder and while taking care of himself and siblings, Cody ballooned to 6-foot-4, 405 pounds.

So Jones immediately put him on a diet. That was the first, and most important step, if only for Cody's health.

Then, in order to get him eligible for football again, they had to turn his grades around. Cody, who was good at math but far behind in reading, began getting tutoring from Jones. For four weeks, Cody read Sports Illustrated and ESPN The Magazine aloud to Jones every day for three hours.

Cody then engineered a change of scenery. His mother couldn't afford the rent on the duplex anymore, so she and Cody's siblings moved to an even smaller place where there literally wasn't going to be enough space for Cody.

So Cody asked if he could stay with the family of a school friend, Jason Milliken, for a couple days. A couple days turned into months, then years.

"It was kind of like adoption," said Cody, who still lives with the Millikens when he goes home.

That fall, Cody returned to high school football practice and started to showcase that athlete hidden inside.

After hitting and nearly eclipsing a 145-pound running back in practice, Jones had to institute "The Cody Rule." Cody wasn't allowed to tackle his teammates anymore. He just had to wrap them up and bring them to Jones.

"I was afraid he was going to kill somebody," Jones said.

Cody did everything from making West Virginia star running back Noel Devine puke, to lining up at fullback, running back and even tight end.

"He's a freak of nature," Jones said. "I've coached for 30 years and had kids go to the NFL and MLB and NBA and he's the best athlete I've ever seen."

With just two years of football on his resume, Cody was offered athletic scholarships to Miami and South Florida. But he was still academically ineligible for both.

If he was going to get to the grandest stage, Cody was going to have to take the road less-traveled, starting at Mississippi Gulf Community College.

'NOBODY COULD BLOCK ME'
While his academics were a problem, Cody continued to defy logic that a 380 or even 400-pound lineman could be quick enough to play college football.

Mississippi Gulf Community College didn't have a scale that could weigh Cody. The man who recruited him, Chad Huff, estimated he had reached 405 pounds.

Huff didn't have a problem with Cody's performance at that weight. The only concern was that it made Cody's knees and ankles a little sore. So Cody trimmed down to 380, which is still huge. Ravens nose tackle Haloti Ngata, who is considered a giant in the NFL, is 345 pounds.

"To be honest with you, I like him better at 380 [than 350]," said Chad Huff, who recruited Cody. "He's got so much girth, but he can still move. I always told Terrence, 'There's a lot of 350s out there, but not a lot of 380s. And you can move at 380.'"

That advice set well with Cody.

"When I came in at 380 I was unstoppable," Cody said. "Nobody could block me."

Cody was a monster at Mississippi Gulf Community College for two years, leading the Bulldogs to 12-0 record and the National Junior College championship as a sophomore.

The University of Alabama snatched him up to anchor their 3-4 defense and that was the start of the living legend known as "Mount Cody."

Used primarily on first and second downs as a junior, Cody dominated the defensive front line. Then, in an effort to get into games more on third down, Cody slimmed down to about 360 pounds for his senior year. He was equally as effective.

Cody never yielded to a 100-yard rusher in his two years at Alabama and led the Crimson Tide to last year's championship. He was perhaps the best player on the nation's best defense.

"[The name] Mount Cody is for a reason," said Texas offensive guard Charlie Tanner, who faced Cody in the title game. "He plays like he's 450 pounds but he can move like he's Sergio Kindle."

Cody ended the season as one of the top defensive linemen entering the Draft. That was until his weight once came back to hurt him. Away from Alabama's watchful eye, Cody packed on about 10 pounds and was back up to 370.

It didn't surprise his high school coach, who has seen Cody "eat 50 chicken wings like they were French fries." But it definitely put off some scouts who already had concerns that Cody couldn't control his weight and that it could derail a long-term career.

In high school and college, a career only lasts four years. In the NFL, teams don't want to invest a high draft pick in a player whose career may only last several years.

"The reality of it is he was a good player at 370 pounds," Ravens Director of College Scouting Joe Hortiz said. "Just for longevity and capitalizing on his athleticism and ability, he needs to continue to monitor his weight and work on getting himself into a little bit better shape."

'COMMITMENT AND DEDICATION'
Cody thought he should be a first-round pick. But in order to do that, he knew he had to lose some weight and prove the skeptics, who felt he was just too fat, wrong.

He had to show off that inner athlete, this time in front of hundreds of NFL evaluators.

He started eating breakfast and stopped eating after 9 p.m., which helped his metabolism. He paired that with a hardcore workout regiment where he would do the typical strength workout with other NFL prospects then do two hours of separate cardio afterwards.

By the time the Combine hit, Cody was down to 354 pounds. He slimmed to 349 by his Pro Day and weighted in at 347 when he visited the Ravens' facilities not long after. In all, he had cut 23 pounds in about a month-and-a-half.

"By him losing the weight, it does show a commitment and a dedication to it," Hortiz said. "It's not fun at 190 pounds to get up and run and work your butt off to lose weight. I'm sure it's not fun at 370 pounds to get up and get on that treadmill."

On the first day of the draft, the Ravens traded out of the first round with Cody still on the board. Then they passed on him again at the start of the second round to select Kindle.

Finally at pick No. 57, the Ravens took Cody. He was the 11th defensive tackle taken off the board.

"I felt it was my weight and stuff that dropped me to this late," Cody said minutes afterwards. "A lot of teams missed on a lot of things."

The Ravens have been impressed already through four minicamps. Defensive Coordinator Greg Mattison immediately took notice of Cody's quickness. Head Coach John Harbaugh commented on Cody's intelligence, saying he has quickly soaked up the defensive schemes.

Cody is down to about 355 pounds. He says he's eating healthier and has many eyes on him in the Ravens' offseason weight room programs.

But there of course will be times during future offseasons when nobody's watching over Cody. It will be then that Cody's responsibility will be tested.

Cody is prepared, he says. He's trying to make sure his skills aren't hidden anymore.

"I feel it's more important to me [to control my weight] than it is to [the Ravens] because it's my life," Cody said. "And if I don't get control of it and do what I'm supposed to do, then I'm not going to have a long career or a long life."

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