Former Eagle Antone Davis eyes comeback on The Biggest Loser
Compared to his almost-30-year struggle with his weight, playing
professional football in one of America’s most notoriously
demanding sports cities felt like a cakewalk.
In fact, Antone Davis has only positive memories of the fans in
“Everybody always said that the Philly fans were so tough, but
the people were just so passionate about football and all their
sports,” says Davis, who was selected by the Eagles in the first
round of the 1991 NFL Draft and spent five seasons (1991-95)
playing offensive tackle under coach Rich Kotite. “I just remember
getting out in the community and meeting people, shaking hands, and
I’m thinking, ‘These people aren’t so bad. These people aren’t just
tough fans, they’re good people who are passionate about their
Davis’ passion for competitive sports and, really, all things
physical, died with his NFL career. A native of Fort Valley Ga.,
Davis suited up for his home Atlanta Falcons in the 1996 and 1997
seasons. But the following years were filled with steady weight
gain, until the issue he’d been battling since age 15 completely
took hold of him.
On Tuesday night, viewers will see Davis, 44, weigh in on “The
Biggest Loser” at 447 pounds. He is one of 15 contestants on Season
12 of the hit reality weight-loss show, which premieres Sept. 20.
at 8 p.m. Eastern on NBC.
Davis says his weight ballooned to 476 pounds before he was cast
on the show. Watching a number of former teammates — many of them
younger and lighter than he — die over the years gave Davis a
brutal wake-up call.
The married father of four began making small changes in his
diet and level of activity, but his first “Biggest Loser” weigh-in
still stung worse than surrendering a sack on the football
“Standing on the scale at 447 for all of America to see was just
one of those humbling experiences where it all just hits you in the
face,” says Davis, who lives with his family in , .
“You see that, not only have you done this to yourself, but you’ve
done this to the people around you for so long, and now this is the
true role model you’re providing for your children.
“So [weigh-in] was an embarrassing moment, but it was also a
time that I knew that ‘Hey, I’m going to make a change for the
better, and I’m not looking back.’ “
Davis realized very quickly that in order to succeed on the
show, he’d have to shed any preconceived notions about diet and
fitness and give himself over completely to the tried-and-true
“Biggest Loser” process.
When he was instructed to lose weight during his playing days –
and this was a frequent occurrence, dating back to college at the
University of — Davis remembers sweating it out in the
sauna or hot tub. That kind of thing doesn’t cut it at the ranch;
contestants must learn about proper nutrition and portion size, not
to mention log long, grueling hours in the gym.
Speaking of exercise, Davis says the intensity of a pro football
practice doesn’t compare with the intensity of “last-chance
workouts” with “Biggest Loser” trainers Bob Harper, Dolvett Quince
and Anna Kournikova.
“I was so naive about ‘The Biggest Loser’ ranch,” he says. “I
didn’t understand their method of weight loss. I didn’t understand
how it was done. I really thought it would just be a couple of
hours a day, and I remember telling my wife prior to leaving, ‘I’ll
treat it like two-a-days. I’ll go out and I’ll work out twice.’ Lo
and behold, I go there and realize I’m going to be working out all
day long, and I think the thing that was so eye-opening for me was,
the way the trainers treat you.
“The best way I can describe it is, we typically in [the NFL]
used to run the two-minute drill for about 10 to 15 minutes toward
the end of practice, and we would use that for conditioning. For us
at the ranch, a workout with these trainers is like a two-minute
drill for two hours, or 2 1/2, because you don’t stop. You don’t
get a break. Your heart rate is up, and it stays up. You don’t
believe you can go that long, but you just manage to just keep
going. And that’s the best way I can compare the show to the
Davis, who got a job working for Chili’s after a short-lived
stint as a restaurateur in , says his goal when he started
on “The Biggest Loser” was to learn as much as possible so he could
apply it to his own life. But his trusty old competitive nature
won’t let him ignore the possibility of claiming the show’s
$250,000 grand prize.
In fact, the show helped Davis rediscover the competitive side
he thought he’d lost under all that excess weight.
“I’d gotten to the point where doing anything that required me
to be active or to run or just be outside, I just kind of rejected
it,” Davis says. “It was all about work and staying in my
restaurant [called "Gridiron Grill"] and running the business.
“Getting to the ranch and having people around me that wanted to
compete against me, and they see me as the NFL lineman, all of a
sudden I’m the guy they have to beat, and it definitely brought
back my competitive side.”
Even though he reached the highest level of professional sports
earlier in his life, Davis thinks TV viewers of all backgrounds
will relate to his story.
“I think the viewers will see themselves, if they’re my age or
similar to my age,” he says. “A lot of people in general are
competitive. It might be football, it might be tennis, it might be
golf, but I think there are a lot of people out there who are
competitive, and those people with that nature tend to feel like
they can do anything and they can take any challenge. But when it
comes to losing weight, a lot of us just aren’t successful.”
“It’s harder for a person who’s competitive and who’s been
competing at a high level for a long time to say, ‘Hey, I need
help.’ That’s just very, very difficult to do, and I think there
will be a lot of those people who will say, ‘You know what? If
Antone can do it, if Antone can admit that he couldn’t lose the
weight, then I can, too,’ and hopefully, it will inspire people to
just reach out to someone to say, ‘Hey, I’m not getting this done
on my own, and I need an accountability partner,’ or something of
Davis would love it if fans of “The Biggest Loser” treated him
the way he was treated by Eagles fans at Veterans Stadium back in
the day. That doesn’t necessarily mean cheering. It just
“Honestly, a good boo in that stadium could mean, ‘We love you,’
” he says. “It is what it is when you’re playing in Philly. It was
tough some days. When we didn’t play well, they let us know about
it, but when we played well, they also let us know about it.”
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