Former LaGrange College football player finds new lease on life as a cheerleader after devastating injury

Published 8:30 am Saturday, October 7, 2023

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It has been a long and winding collegiate journey for Daniel Cody. The once football player and current cheerleader at LaGrange College has had quite the journey on the gridiron.

“Five-to seven years ago, I would have been in high school and if you asked me if I would be a college cheerleader I would have told you no and laughed,” Cody said with a chuckle. “I had no interest in cheerleading, and it was never really a thought in my mind.”

Cody arrived on LaGrange College’s campus in 2020 wide-eyed and ready for life on the football field. After the 2020 season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Cody remained optimistic about his football outlook.

Unfortunately, not long after his arrival at LaGrange College, Cody was involved in a devastating car accident.

“I was driving back from campus for my mom’s birthday and I don’t remember what happened from there as one thing led to another, and I was in a helicopter being life flighted to Atlanta,” Cody said. “It was a single car accident, and I broke my femur in half and dislocated my knee and my other leg was shoved about six inches up into my hip.”

He fought and fought and fought to get back on the football field, but it always seemed like he had a setback right as he was on the precipice of being healthy.

“After the second knee surgery, I was pushing weights with the guys and Coach (Wes) Dodson and had my knee buckle,” Cody said. “I went to the doctor, and he told me I would have to have another knee surgery if I wanted to play again.”

Eventually Cody came to terms with the fact that he would never feel 100% on a football field ever again. It was a difficult period in Cody’s life.

“I’m the type of person that if I can fight through the pain, I won’t worry about anything else,” Cody said. 

Eventually he had to make the decision to hang up the cleats.

“It was very hard to let it go,” Cody said. “At the end of the day I had to look at it and say I was just doing this for fun and connections and there was no future in it and decided not to do any sports.”

Acceptance for Cody meant that one door closed and another one opened. He was not fully prepared for the door that would open, but it has been a welcome surprise for the senior.

“I had a friend ask me to come try out for the cheerleading team, and I was really unsure of that because I had never done cheer in my life and saw no real reason to do it at that time,” Cody said. “As a joke, I said ‘I will join the cheer team’ and they gave me coach Nicole (Joseph)’s number and I was like sure, I will entertain it.

“I expected her to tell me that I didn’t have the right body type, and my knee injuries would limit me, but that’s not what happened at all. She won me over and next thing I know I’m showing up to practice the next day and I’m a cheerleader.”

Cody had a light background in tap dance and gymnastics from his youth but so much time has passed between then and now that he could not rely on the experiences of his youth. Once he got into the training room with the cheerleading team, practicing tumbling and stunts, he began to realize what he got himself into.

“I didn’t know what I was getting myself into as I hadn’t done gymnastics since I was 7,” Cody said. “First day they started doing general tumbling with me, and it was off from there.”

The learning curve has been steep but enjoyable.

“I had no idea what I was doing with stunting at first,” Cody said with a laugh.

Cheerleading also comes with its fair share of benefits for Cody.

“I have way more upper body strength and a lot of my workouts now centered on my chest and shoulders,” Cody said. “I have way more flexibility than I used to. That is definetely the big thing. Even though I’m not doing the flipping or getting thrown, I’m still doing all the stretching exercises.”

One of the trickiest aspects for Cody was trust. He was unsure if the girls would trust and accept him as the only guy on the team, especially as an ex-football player. The reception he received has been nothing but welcoming.

“I really didn’t know what to expect at first because I thought a lot of them might feel uncomfortable with a guy there,” Cody said. “It is a very up close and personal sport, and it can even make me uncomfortable because I want to be respectful and not cause any issues. The girls said ‘we’re comfortable, you can be comfortable. There are no issues, let’s hit the next stunt,’ which is not something I expected at all.” 

Cody enrolled at a different school when he eventually recovered from his injury, but eventually found his way back to LaGrange College, where he is a proud Panther cheerleader.

“You can leave LaGrange, but you will alway find a way to come back here,” Cody said. “Once you come here, it is a big family.”