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Former athlete starts journey to lose 355 pounds
Davenport has set his goal at 215 pounds
Randy Davenport’s weight loss chart is posted, along with others, inside the J.A. Walters Family YMCA pool. Davenport has already lost nearly 100 pounds and the former NFL football player plans to keep losing more.

The Rev. Randy Davenport wants to get his swagger back.

The last time the former athlete stood on a scale, he weighed 485 pounds. That's nearly 100 less than he weighed in January 2010, when he was 570 pounds.

It's all part of his journey to reclaim the life he
almost lost.

When his journey began last year, Davenport had high blood pressure. His joints could not support his weight. His mobility "shut down to only a crawl."

"When you've been athletic and are used to eating and then you stop sports ... obesity is inevitable," he said. "You have totally lost any kind of perspective on portion control. I just didn't even care anymore."

Davenport started playing football with the Cedar Town Bulldogs in Cedar Town.

He later went on to play left tackle at the University of Georgia from 1983 to 1986, and his career culminated with two years on the Cincinnati Bengals National Football League team.

But though his football days ended, his habits did not.

"A lineman is not subject to eating in moderation or eating salads. They want them to be big and massive so you can move the fort," Davenport said.

"My reckless eating habits caught up with me. I found myself after football tipping the scale a decade later at over 500 pounds."

What finally changed his mind about weight loss was seeing the effect it had on his family. He was sick of being sick and tired, and he wanted to live.

"Either I'm going to eat my way into an early grave, or I'm going to do something about it," Davenport said.

It took him a little while to figure out exactly what to do about it. He was considering gastric bypass surgery partially because he didn't want to face the intimidation of working out.

He had a membership to the Georgia Mountains YMCA, but Davenport let it sit around for a while. The day he finally went last year, he intended to sit on a bench for a few hours, come home and tell his wife he just didn't like working out.

Instead, Davenport met Reesa Dawkins, a personal trainer.

"She introduced me to water aerobics. It's basically everything you're doing on land but in water because it's lower impact on your knees and your joints," Davenport said. "You're able to be mobile and get around. ... You're not sweating profusely, but you're sweating."

It didn't take long for Davenport to realize this was exactly what he needed.

"When I got out here and got into it, my athletic instinct kicked in. I started noticing I could get up, move a little easier," he said.

Davenport's weight gain, and subsequent weight loss, is not rare among athletes, said Amy Roark, a registered dietitian and diabetes educator at the Northeast Georgia Diagnostic Center.

"We lose 2 percent of our resting metabolic rate every decade. We need less and less calories as we age," Roark said. "Athletes often require a lot of calories, 3,000 to 4,000 in season. They get so accustomed to eating these large amounts of food, it's hard to scale back."

Davenport struggled with that, too.

He went from eating protein-packed meals — a breakfast of six eggs, bacon, four pieces of toast, grits and a quart of juice, for example — to eating about 2,000 calories a day.

"To go form that to a small bowl of oatmeal and fruit for breakfast, for lunch a salad without dressing and dinner of a piece of meat that fits in my hand, Brussels sprouts and a small baked sweet potato, the first few weeks withdrawals were so bad," Davenport said.

What got him through that was his faith. He said for others who struggle with obesity, be they former athletes or not, they have to get their mind in the game of losing weight before their body will obey.

Now, he works out at least four days a week. He spends two or three hours with water aerobics, an hour in the sauna and whirlpool and weight-lifting for an hour.

Davenport said his health has already improved. His blood pressure is stable and his sleep apnea, a result of his obesity, is becoming less of a problem.

He wants to lose 100 pounds in full by Thanksgiving and thinks he'll be at his goal weight in a year.

"I want to be down to 215 (pounds)," Davenport said. "I've only been that weight once, when I was in high school in the ninth grade. ... The doctor said 200, but I need a little skin on my bones."