Pro Bowl Player
Joined: April 19th, 2005, 2:10 pm
Nice article on Shaun Cody and the Lions!
A Coast-To-Coast Winner
Lions' D-Tackle Cody Hopes Talent, Work Ethic Will Define?Rookie Season
By Jay Clemons
May 31, 2005?
Blessed with good speed, great size and excellent agility, Lions defensive tackle Shaun Cody hopes to make a strong impact during his rookie season with Detroit. (AP Photo)
ALLEN PARK, Mich.?-- With two consecutive national championships, a?stunning array of prep All-Americans on their roster and a fertile recruiting pipeline perpetually streaming to Los Angeles,?some college football observers could argue the USC Trojans are experiencing a "dynasty" phase in today's game.
In fact, this success?could potentially eclipse the program's other era of dominance from 1967-78 -- a period?which wrought four national titles and nine conference championships.?
Although the Trojans are currently ruling college football, it's important to note their rekindled?brilliance took shape?just four years ago?-- with the hiring of head coach Pete Carroll and?his first blue-chip recruit, defensive end/tackle Shaun Cody.
Cody, the Lions' No. 2 pick in April's draft (No. 37 overall), was an All-American defender at Los Altos (Calif.) High School. He was heavily recruited by Notre Dame (his favorite program as a child), Miami, Washington and UCLA. And he was considering USC at a time when the program seemed rudderless and devoid of premium talent.
"A lot of guys,?some who were (also) All-Americans, wondered,?'Why are you going there?'?recalls Cody, the older of two brothers (along with Paul) while growing up in Hacienda Heights, Calif. "There were some question marks in the beginning."
Call it gut?instinct, but Cody was immediately intrigued by Carroll's?positive attitude,?boundless energy and aggressive defensive philosophies. And he was especially enthralled?with the commanding presence of line coach, Ed Orgeron,?the always-active, no-nonsense leader?of the Trojans' trench defenders.
"Coach O is probably the reason I'm playing professional football now," says Cody, who lists 'The Bag Drill' (where players?must bulldoze through four heavy bags -- standing 3?yards apart)?as his favorite Orgeron-inspired practice?exercise at USC. "He took my game to that next level of where I needed to go."
Cody, indeed,?admired USC during recruiting. But Carroll needed?him even more. For his arrival to Troy exemplified to?other major?recruits the?Trojans'?renewed commitment to winning.
"There's some truth to that," Cody defers modestly. "But Coach Carroll did a great coaching job...it just wasn't me coming in there and doing anything special. He's a great recruiter, too; it's not I just came in and built the program."
History shows just how fruitful the Cody-Carroll relationship was to USC.?After?signing in 2001, the Trojans have since landed such All-American performers as: Defensive tackle?Mike Patterson, defensive end Kenechi Udeze, wide receivers Steve Smith, Dwayne Jarrett?and Whitney Lewis, running backs LenDale White, Hershel Dennis and Reggie Bush and quarterback Matt Leinart (the 2004?Heisman Trophy winner who could repeat the feat?this season).?The above list does not mention the countless number of supporting players at USC, many of whom possess perhaps the greatest tangible quality in football: Speed.
In Cody's freshman year in 2001, the still-developing Trojans displayed glimpses of?excellent play?-- overcoming close losses to Kansas State, Oregon, Stanford, Washington and Notre Dame, before reeling off impressive wins against Arizona, Oregon State, California and cross-town rival UCLA (27-0). But this young corps of playmakers still needed to learn one more lesson before taking a substantial leap forward: Humility.
On Christmas Day, the 6-5 Trojans were to face 7-4 Utah in the Las Vegas Bowl. And though USC had the poorer record, the Utah players reportedly complained about the Trojans' arrogance and indifference?during pre-game festivities. Consequently, USC seemed listless in?a 10-6 loss.
Former USC Trojans Shaun Cody (left) and Mike Williams toured Ford Field on April 24. The playmakers were the Lions' top choices in the 2005 NFL Draft. (Photo By Steven Kovich)?
Cody acknowledges the Trojans' possible lack of passion for that game and their opponent. But?the defeat also?served as?the proper attitude adjustment the team craved. "We knew we could be there as a program; we just had to take that extra step."
With A Little Help From The Trojan Family
In?2002, USC cruised to an 11-2 record, a Pac-10 Conference title and a decisive Orange Bowl win over Iowa in the No. 2 BCS bowl. In fact, the?Trojans rummaged through four bowl-bound teams by an average margin of 26 points to close out the successful campaign. But halfway through the season (against California), Cody suffered a season-ending knee injury.
"Up to that point in my life, everything had become smooth sailing for me; I didn't have any hardships or struggles," recalls Cody, who actually preferred basketball over football at Los Altos High. "That was the first time I had faced adversity."
During?this brief?period of self-loathing, Cody would?realize the true power of the Trojan Family. One day while rehabbing his injury, he received?sage counsel from USC alum and Pro Football Hall of Famer Ronnie Lott, an all-world safety with San Francisco, the Los Angeles Raiders and New York Jets.
"He told me, 'A true champion will step up whenever he faces adversity,'" says Cody, who ironically lists his favorite movie as "Made."
Lott's motivational words soothed Cody; but the NFL legend also shared some physical evidence of how to mentally?overcome injuries. Lott showed the young defender his surgically altered pinkie. (According to reports,?in 1985, Lott was suffering from?a nagging injury to his pinkie finger, which had been crushed earlier in the season.?The doctors suggested Lott have season-ending surgery. Lott?hatched a different plan:?Removing the mangled portion of his finger. So, doctors then amputated at the third knuckle -- thus allowing Lott to immediately return to the?49ers' lineup.)?
Playing with?increased fervor, Cody?rebounded from injury to post a stellar 2003 season,?tallying six sacks and three blocked field goals in 13 games. On a personal level, he was named to the Pac-10's first team and the Associated Press's All-American squad (third team). From?a group?standpoint, the Trojans went 12-1 and clinched a share of the national championship (along with LSU) with a 28-14 victory over Michigan in the Rose Bowl.
For his senior season, Cody again wreaked havoc on defense and special teams, helping the Trojans go 13-0 and earn the undisputed national championship. In the end, Carroll had essentially fulfilled his grandiose promises to Cody from 2001. "Yeah, three conference titles and two national championships," beams Cody. "After that first year, things really got rolling...and I see nothing but good things for us for the (foreseeable) future."
With little time between the Orange Bowl euphoria and the April draft, Cody quickly readied himself for the next level, impressing NFL personnel men with his combination of size, speed, power and agility.?On Draft Day, the?Lions then traded up to nab Cody in the second round.
"I thought that was an outstanding pick...I thought what this kid would do for is give us great flexibility -- inside and outside. He has great hands; he's a good pass rusher on the inside; he can get outside; he can play the left side strong, both tackles," said Lions President and CEO Matt Millen last month.?"I was really pleased, obviously, because we went up to get him. We saw him dropping on the board...I am as excited about this pick as I was (with first-rounder Mike Williams). I just think it helps us in a lot of fronts."
Where Hollywood And The Midwest Converge
Making the transition from southern California to southeastern Michigan during springtime?has been relatively smooth, says Cody. But he is blissfully aware that he'll have some interesting decisions?come winter?-- namely his choice of vehicle, winter jacket and ice scraper. Bridging the gap between the glitz of Hollywood and the Midwest, Cody can soon be viewed on Spike TV's "Super Agent," a reality show?chronicling?his pre-draft search for an agent. (The show debuts on July 22; and Cody coyly declines to reveal the winning agent.)
According to Spike TV, a different agent will try to impress Cody and Kansas City Chiefs tight end Tony Gonzalez -- the show's host and Cody's trusted advisor --?throughout each episode. The winning agent will then be selected at the show's conclusion -- which was filmed during NFL draft weekend.
Detroit rookie Shaun Cody (center) will star in a reality show on Spike TV this summer called "Super Agent," where he chooses his NFL?representation before a national audience. (Photo Courtesy of Spike TV)
Sure, Cody could be a TV star in the not-too-distant future. But he maintains a passionate,?relentless approach to his regular profession, NFL defensive lineman. In fact, he immediately heeded the post-draft advice from the Lions veterans: 'Keep your head in the playbook; and keep your mouth shut.'
"It's like being a freshman (in college) again," regarding the adjustment?from collegiate to pro. He then recounts the?many hours he's already spent inside the team's film room. "I don't consider myself (a great athlete), so I've got to keep myself in that film room as long as possible."
Game films are an invaluable resource for players and coaches, especially rookies. But Cody -- listed at 6'4 and 293 pounds --?says nothing compares to the thrill of live competition.
"Even at this little mini-camp (in May), you have 300-350-pound guys running around like cats," says Cody, who?identifies former Oklahoma offensive tackle Jammal Brown (drafted by the Rams in April) as the strongest player he's ever faced. Conversely, he lists USC running back Reggie Bush as the fastest player he's ever seen.
In-between the game-film viewings and being awestruck by?graceful NFL offensive linemen, Cody has allowed himself to dream -- albeit briefly -- about his own personal utopia.
"Winning the game with a sack...(then) picking up the ball and scoring a touchdown," says Cody, exhibiting his competitiveness during heated moments. And would the quarterback be unconscious after the dream hit? "No," says Cody, displaying his easygoing nature and bright smile. "I don't like to hurt anybody...it's all about the ball."
Apparently, it's all about winning for Cody, too. With Detroit, he joins?a roster stocked with younger, faster and stronger offensive and defensive playmakers. And if everything goes to plan, he should play an integral role in the Lions'?own period of?sustained success --?featuring?league championships and?major bowl (as in Super)?appearances.
In other words, it'll feel like college again.