As linebacker Steve Cody ’12 lay on the grass at Lehigh in September 2010 during the first game of his senior season, the damage to his leg was so gruesome that his father, Mike, felt compelled to lean over and block his son’s view.
“My next-biggest job was to make sure he didn’t see the terror on my face,” recalls Mike Cody. “I told him he was going to be all right.”
Dad had enough experience to believe that the elder of his two sons had broken only a leg, not a dream. Steve had missed half his junior year at Governor’s Academy in Byfield, Mass., with mononucleosis, and then was sidelined from football during his freshman year at Princeton with a tendon tear in his toe. By the time he was a senior, Cody was accustomed to bouncing back from injury or illness.
“Good thing it happened in the first game — otherwise I would not have gotten another year,” says Cody, now a member of the Class of 2012. Cody was left with a titanium rod in his tibia, but his doctors gave a promising prognosis. He says he was “never doubtful” about returning to football.
To be eligible for another season, Cody had to withdraw from school. During his year away, he interned at the marketing firm Rosetta in New York, exploring one potential career path. First, however, he will market himself as an NFL player. “I’ve put a lot of time into football and still would like to make a career of it,” he says.
Returning to football has not been easy. Coach Bob Surace ’90 noticed that Cody was “not quite planting and driving through tackles” early this season, so he rested his best defensive player for parts of Princeton’s first two games. But after the Tigers’ school-record 10th straight loss, to Bucknell Sept. 24, Surace said, “I can’t have him standing next to me anymore if we’re going to win.” Against Columbia the following week, Cody didn’t leave the field when Princeton was on defense, and the Tigers left with a victory at long last.
Brenda Cody, Steve’s mother, says that when someone raises the bar for her son, “he leaps right over it.” This became apparent to her soon after her husband told 14-year-old Steve that if his grades slipped, his parents would stop making the long drive from their home in Richmond, Va., to hockey practice in Washington, D.C.
“Studying in the back seat, getting home at 1 a.m, he still took care of business,” Mike Cody says. Steve later went off to prep school in New England to attract hockey recruiters. By junior year, the football recruiters, including those at Princeton, showed more enthusiasm, so Cody focused on football.
Surace, who spent more than a decade as an NFL assistant coach, believes that Cody will get at least a free-agent invitation to chase his pro-football dream. Cody understands that to play on Sundays, he’ll need to regain his quickness and get bigger and stronger. But he is ready to work, if given the opportunity.
“I would be open to spending a few years on [an NFL] practice squad,” Cody says. “School and job competition cause a lot of Ivy League players to lose interest in sports. I’ve been fortunate to never have a question about whether I really love football.”