Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low
One of the most compelling stories of the 2008 SEC football season was Alabama nose tackle Terrence Cody.
Most people know him now simply as Mount Cody.
He's a mountain of a man, the ultimate run-stuffer and returns as one of the most dominant interior linemen in all of college football. The 6-5 Cody says he's down around 365 pounds again after getting up close to 375 when last season ended.
His progress was impeded by a sprained MCL in his right knee that caused him to miss two games. When he returned, it took him a while to regain confidence in the knee, and he wasn't nearly as effective.
This is Cody's first spring practice at Alabama, as he came straight from Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College a year ago. Nobody really knew what to expect out of him. He only played two years of high school ball in Fort Myers, Fla., and wasn't recruited by anybody out of high school because he weighed more than 400 pounds.
Even out of junior college, there was only passing interest in him, but Alabama coach Nick Saban loved his agility for such a big man and felt like he could be a dominant nose tackle in the Crimson Tide's 3-4 scheme if he got his weight down.
Sure enough, Cody lost about 30 pounds before he ever arrived at Alabama (per Saban's orders), and a legend was born.
Here's our Q&A with Cody, who says he's in even better shape now than he was a year ago when he earned consensus All-America honors for the Crimson Tide:
How did you lose all that weight, and what was the highest you ever got?
Terrence Cody: I was 385 when I came to Alabama, but I actually lost a lot of weight before I got here. I got up every day and did my own program and worked harder than I ever had in my life. I knew I wouldn't make it here at 400 pounds. I gained too much weight in junior college. The most I was up to was around 420.
Do you have a target weight you want to get to?
TC: At least 350 by the time the season starts and hopefully 345.
When's the last time you've been under 350 pounds?
TC: Probably my junior year of high school, but I wasn't too far off from 300 when I was a freshman.
How much difference can you tell now that you're nearly 40 pounds lighter than you were in junior college?
TC: Just how I move and that I'm much more agile. I'm not nearly as stiff as I was when I was carrying that weight.
Will the knee limit you this spring?
TC: I'm full go this spring. My knee is a lot stronger than it was, but I can get it even better.
Did you exceed your expectations last year?
TC: When I came in, I didn't think I was going to do what all I did last season and dominate like that. But my mentality when I got here was that I wasn't going to let anybody block me. I wasn't going to let anybody block me one-on-one. I wasn't going to let anybody drive me off the ball. I just kept working, and when the season started, I came out with that same mindset. I wasn't going to let anybody beat me, and I used that as my motivation every game.
How many double teams did you face?
TC: Pretty much every game. But my first game back against LSU after I got hurt, I really didn't feel comfortable on my knee. Once I started playing in that game, it felt weird trying to do the things I was doing before I got hurt, and I know I wasn't as hard to block.
How much better can you be in 2009, and what can fans expect to see from you?
TC: They can plan to see me on third down. They were taking me out on third down and passing plays last year. That's one of the main reasons I worked so hard this offseason, getting in better shape, getting better at pass-rushing and sustaining it the whole game. Instead of playing on two downs, I want to play on three downs this year.
Fans love the big guy, especially one who's as dominant on the field and as good-natured off the field as you are. You sort of became a cult hero at Alabama, didn't you?
TC: Any store or restaurant I walk in, everybody knows me. I sign autographs and take pictures and stuff. Everybody thinks it bothers me, but it really doesn't. I like the fans here and the way they've treated me. I wasn't really used to that at junior college. But then I got up here, and it was crazy. Everybody started calling me Mount Cody.
What's the funniest encounter you've had with fans?
TC: The funniest ones are always after games, because you've got the fans there who've been doing a little drinking and they'll say anything. They're already acting crazy, and then when you autograph something for them, they go even crazier. I've had a few people come up to me and say, 'I can take you on.' I look at them and laugh.
Losing Rashad Johnson at safety was a big blow, but can you guys take it to another level defensively next season?
TC: I think we can be even better next year than we were this year. We've got a lot of good players returning and a lot of younger players who didn't play as much who're going to be a year better. They've been working hard this offseason, and you can tell they're ready to show what they can do this year. You saw it in the first practice of the spring.
In your eyes, who will be some of the younger guys to watch on defense next season?
TC: Marcel Dareus, Courtney Upshaw, Jerrell Harris, Chris Jordan and Robby Green. They've all been looking good this offseason. We've got a lot of guys hungry to get on the field, and that's going to make us all better.
How did you come to settle on Alabama?
TC: Coach Saban was what sold me. I know some people think he's a little bit crazy, but the way he coaches is that he wants to bring out the best in you. That's why we go through this tough offseason. It teaches you not to give up, because you never quit playing if you're going to play for him.
Did you ever seriously consider turning pro last year?
TC: I told Coach Saban I didn't even want to get (an evaluation from the NFL draft advisory committee). He asked me if I wanted to, and I said, 'Nah, because I already had my mind made up when I signed that I was going to stay both years,' and I didn't see any reason to change. I know some people had me going high in the draft, but I didn't think I was ready yet.
Is it true you can dunk a basketball?
TC: Any way you want me to.