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On May 4, approximately one year after he gave up football, Byford, who is down to 225 pounds, ran a marathon. "My quality of life is so much better [now]," he says. "I wish every one of my former teammates could feel like I feel right now."
Linehan, a Portland native who started 25 games for the Ducks, is unlikely to ever complete a marathon; he used to tell his fellow linemen that when football was over he'd never run again. But as Kendall focused on nutrition, Linehan consulted with Harris on new workouts that would help him shed weight and satisfy his competitive urges. He made changes to his diet (swapping chips for carrots, for example), but mostly he obsessed over the numbers that the Bod Pod spit out when Harris measured his fat and muscle. (His body-fat percentage was down to 24% as of April.) He tried any workout that would help him better his marks, and eventually settled on ... running.
"When I started I would jog for a couple of minutes and then have to stop and walk, but I built up my endurance over the weeks," Linehan says. "[Before] every run I'd say to myself, 'Ten minutes more. Ten minutes more.'"
Harris fed Linehan's competitiveness with passive-aggressive comments. On April Fool's Day he posted on the wall of Linehan's Facebook page, "Today is the only day I can say your body looks good." The taunts seemed to do the trick. "If James weren't here, I probably would have eaten the same and gradually worked out less," Linehan says. "We used to joke in the locker room about who was going to be the fattest lineman 10 years from now. I never thought it would be me, but if I hadn't gotten help, it could have been."
On a sunny Tuesday in April, Linehan went for a run on Pre's Trail near campus, named for former Oregon distance runner Steve Prefontaine. He picked up the trail near Autzen Stadium and ran a four-mile stretch along the Willamette River. Early in the run Linehan was passed by Nick Symmonds—winner of the 800 meters at the last U.S. Olympic Trials—who glided, shirtless, as if his feet weren't touching the ground. "Pretty soon I'm going to look like that," Linehan joked.
There was nothing smooth about Linehan's stride; he is still a very large man. But he found a comfortable pace, ticking off a mile about every nine minutes, and he just kept going, one mile and then two and then three. Not long after he turned around for the run back to his car, he saw a familiar figure walking toward him: Nick Aliotti, Oregon's defensive coordinator. "Cole Linehan running?" Aliotti shouted. "I never thought I'd see that!"
"Hey, Coach," said Linehan, who seemed a little embarrassed. Once Aliotti was behind him, the former fat kid smiled and picked up the pace. His last mile was his best.