Q&A: Damien Woody
After playing football at Boston College, Damien Woody went on to play 12 seasons in the NFL for the Patriots, Lions, and Jets. But, after retirement, Woody found out the hard way what comes next: weight gain.
Woody, 36, who currently works as an ESPN analyst, stepped on the dreaded scale during the first episode of Season 16 of The Biggest Loser, and after seeing 388 pounds light up on the big screen, his heart sank. Although offensive lineman are known for being big guys, this was just too much. “I noticed not long after retirement that here’s the deal: When I was playing, I could eat,” Woody says. “I would eat so much. I didn’t have a number as far as calories go. I could just eat and eat, and it didn’t matter because I could burn it off. But once you retire, all that activity goes away. In my case, I didn’t change my eating habits. When you take away that activity but you don’t change the nutrition, you start packing on the pounds.”
That’s why this season of the hit NBC show is called “Glory Days.” The cast is made up of former Olympic and professional athletes who have let themselves go physically, and want to get back into shape—and, of course, vie for the $250,000 prize.
We caught up with Woody to see how the season is going so far, what we can expect from him, and how The Biggest Loser ranch compares to an NFL training camp.
What’s harder: A Bill Belichick workout or a Biggest Loser workout?
[Laughs] A Bill Belichick training camp was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever been through. When I was with the Pats, the league was different then. Practices were longer, and there was lot more contact. Coach Belichick is very demanding, and the practices were very physical. But, I’d say [The Biggest Loser] is harder because this type of training and workout goes against everything I learned in football. In football, everything is about short bursts. The average play is four seconds. You take a break, you huddle. But The Biggest Loser is about endurance. Here, I train about six to eight hours a day.
What’s harder: Protecting Tom Brady or a Biggest Loser workout?
There’s tremendous responsibility in protecting the “golden boy” Tom Brady, but [The Biggest Loser] is harder, being in a competition with a lot of other competitive people. The only thing about competing on the show is you have to compete every day. At least in the NFL you have a mandatory day off. Here, you have to compete every day if you want to stay in the game.
You have two Super Bowl rings with the Pats. How would winning the show compare to that?
You know, I always said that when you win the Super Bowl, that’s the pinnacle of your career. There’s nothing like holding up the Lombardi Trophy. But when you are talking about your health, you only get one body. So if I won the whole thing it would be tremendous. Coming here has been the best opportunity, and winning the show would be the greatest accomplishment in my 36 years. The biggest obstacle for me was dealing with and working through the emotions. To know that it’s OK to be emotional, and it’s OK to be vulnerable. That’s been the thing that I’m most proud of throughout this whole process. That’s why people relate to this show.
Who’s a bigger pretty boy: Tom Brady or new trainer Jessie Pavelka?
[Laughs] That’s a toss up. The great thing about both those guys is that they are both very humble. I don’t know if [Jessie] knows that women think he’s so gorgeous. He’s new to the scene. But Tom’s been in the spotlight for more than a decade. To answer your question, it’s a toss up.
Did you know before the season started that you’d be sharing the ranch with other professional athletes?
We knew that this season was “Glory Days,” and we knew that it was athletes competing on the show. I knew that it would be tough. We have athletes ranging across the spectrum, and any time you get a bunch of competitive people together, it raises the stakes. You have to bring your A-game. It’s a battle of attrition…who can withstand day after day. I call it “groundhog’s day.” You’re just working out day after day. At the ranch, I’ve come across the most competitive people. We’re talking about life. When your competing for your health and wellbeing, the stakes are raised.
What can viewers expect from you this season?
I think you’re going to see a lot of different things from me. You’re going to see my competitive side, and you’re going to see humor. I like to keep things loose and fun, it’s how I interact with different contestants and different trainers. You’ll also see the emotional component. People tend to look at football players as gladiators, as tough guys. But this is an opportunity for people to see me in a different light. I’m dealing with issues that everyday people are dealing with. Hopefully it resonates with people.
This interview has been edited and condensed. You can watch The Biggest Loser Thursdays at 8 p.m. on NBC.