Friday, September 26, 2008
"Mount Cody" sits at the summit of Bama's defense
By Mark Schlabach
ATHENS, Ga. -- Before Alabama nose guard Terrence Cody could become "Mount Cody," he first had to reach the top of a West Virginia mountain.
During Cody's senior season at Riverdale High School in Fort Myers, Fla., Cody was required to complete a 2½-mile run up a mountain on property owned by his high school coach's family. The endurance test was part of his team's preseason camp, which took place more than 1,100 miles from home.
"When he got up the mountain, the kids went crazy because they didn't think he could make it," said Scott Jones, who coached Cody in high school.
Then again, Jones wasn't sure Cody would ever become the player his coach believed he might be one day be. When Cody was only a freshman -- a 6-foot-2, 275-pound ninth-grader -- Jones called Linnea Alexander, the player's mother, and told her Cody was a future football star.
"I told his mom in eight years he could be making $2 million playing in the NFL," Jones said. "I'd never seen anything like him."
Alabama football fans haven't seen anything like Cody, either. It is believed the junior transfer from Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College is the largest player ever to wear a Crimson Tide uniform. And it's certainly not hard to notice Cody's 6-5, 365-pound frame anchoring Alabama's 3-4 defense. Cody has 12 tackles and three tackles for loss in the Tide's first four games.
"He's a beast," said Georgia coach Mark Richt, whose No. 3 Bulldogs host the No. 8 Crimson Tide at Sanford Stadium on Saturday night. "No one's blocked him. No one man has blocked him, and I haven't seen many double-teams block him, either. He's a problem, and probably the reason they are so outstanding against the rush. When you talk about guys who can push a pocket back in front of a quarterback, he can do it."
In the early 1980s, Clemson had defensive tackle William Perry, who earned the moniker "The Refrigerator" because of his enormous frame. Former Michigan State offensive tackle Tony Mandarich was dubbed the "Incredible Bulk" because of his bulging muscles. Offensive tackle Aaron Gibson was the largest player in Wisconsin history at 6-feet-6 and 380 pounds, and he became the NFL's first 400-pound player when he signed with the Dallas Cowboys in 2002.
Now Alabama has Mount Cody.
"He's a little bit of a man mountain," Alabama coach Nick Saban told reporters this week.
In Alabama's 34-10 win over Clemson in the Aug. 30 opener, Cody helped the Crimson Tide hold the Tigers to zero rushing yards. In last week's 49-14 victory at Arkansas, Cody repeatedly beat double-team blocks, many of which were led by Jonathan Luigs, the 2007 Rimington Award winner as college football's best center.
"I haven't seen anybody who's a match for this guy one-on-one," Richt said. "Nobody playing on Saturdays, or Sundays probably."
Jones didn't see Cody's rare combination of size and athleticism until his senior season at Riverdale High School in 2005. By then, it was nearly too late for Cody to pursue a pro football career. Jones said Cody fell behind in classes after his freshman season and was academically ineligible for all but his senior season.
According to Jones, Cody's father was killed in a car accident when the player was 12. His mother was pregnant at the time, and Cody was left to care for his younger siblings while his mother worked as a school bus driver. Jones said Cody grew up in a drug-infested area of Fort Myers, but mostly managed to stay out of trouble.
"I think the drug dealers were afraid of him," Jones said.
Gulf Coast Community College coach Steve Campbell found Cody by luck more than anything else. Campbell said he called Riverdale High School to inquire about running back Chavon Walker's availability. Jones told Campbell that Walker, who has since transferred to Eastern Illinois, was academically qualified and headed to Florida. But Jones also mentioned he had a 400-pound defensive lineman who could dunk a basketball.
|Alabama DT Terrence Cody is a dominating presence inside and moves well for his size.|
Campbell watched film of Cody's high school games and couldn't believe what he saw. Against North Fort Myers High School during his senior season, Cody grabbed tailback Noel Devine in the backfield.
"Terrence got ahold of his jersey, spun him around like a top and fell down on him," Jones said. "He came to the sideline and said, 'Coach, I made Devine throw up.' I said, 'Good for you, Terrence.'"
Cody overmatched his high school teammates so often that Jones was forced to institute a "Terrence rule" during practices. The team's biggest player wasn't allowed to tackle his teammates to the ground.
"He tackled one of our freshman running backs and the only thing you could see was two feet and two hands laying under him," Jones said. "I was just thankful the hands and feet were still moving."
Campbell was amazed by Cody's athleticism once he arrived in Perkinston, Miss., to begin junior college. During the Bulldogs' training camp before the 2006 season, Cody completed agility drills better than most of the team's linemen.
"We had to work with him, but he was in great shape for a 400-pounder," Campbell said. "The first time we did boxes and jumped rope, you could tell he was pretty special. Most 400-pound guys can't jump on those boxes, but he was doing it like a skill guy."
Campbell was so impressed with Cody's athleticism he used him as a tailback in goal-line situations. Against Northwest Mississippi Community College last season, Campbell said Jones carried five or six would-be tacklers into the end zone on a short touchdown run.
"It was like a big rugby scrum," Campbell said. "It took about four or five minutes, but he slowly made his way to the end zone. Three guys hit him, and four or five guys piled on him. Then everybody just fell down. It was unbelievable."
Against Georgia, Cody will line up against freshman center Ben Jones. Jones, a 304-pound native of Alabama, will be making his second career start. He will undoubtedly get plenty of help.
"We've got a freshman [on Cody]?" Richt asked. "That's not good."
Not when you're trying to move a mountain.
Mark Schlabach covers college football and men's college basketball for ESPN.com. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I haven't seen anybody who's a match for this guy one-on-one. Nobody playing on Saturdays, or Sundays probably.