A few years ago, bogged down by weight that ballooned after he left professional football, Antone Davis thought he was destined for an early death.
Today, after a reality-show stint that brought him more fame than his years as a football star, Davis is slimmer and healthier, and ready to share his rejuvenated spirit with his alma mater.
Davis was named the new Vol for Life coordinator Monday by Tennessee coach Derek Dooley.
Davis, 45, was an All-American lineman at UT and spent seven years in the NFL. He takes over a program that Dooley started in 2010 to help players in the areas of character education, life skills, career development and spiritual growth.
"I really hope not to make this about me. This is about the young people I'm going to work with," Davis said. "I'm convinced that's why I'm still alive today. I was 476 pounds and living on borrowed time."
The out-of-control weight problem led Davis to "The Biggest Loser," an NBC reality show in which people compete to lose weight under the supervision of nutritionists and fitness experts.
Davis lost 202 pounds, good for second place in the 2011 installment of the show.
"It gave me an opportunity to change my life in a very focused environment," Davis said. "It gave me a second chance."
Davis capped his UT career by winning the Jacobs Trophy as the SEC's top blocker in 1990. He was picked eighth overall in the NFL draft by the Philadelphia Eagles in 1991 and spent seven years in the NFL before retiring in 1999.
He invested in restaurants and real estate in Florida after his football career, but moved back to Knoxville with the goal of getting into coaching. He attended UT practices, met with coaches and spoke to players about his experiences.
Then the VFL position opened up when Andre Lott was let go earlier this month.
"It was the perfect fit," Davis said.
Lott, who made $56,000, was let go in part because Dooley wasn't satisfied with his monitoring of at-risk players, according to documents released to the News Sentinel in an open-records request. The annual salary for Davis was not announced.
Davis said he was impressed with the "level of commitment" to the VFL program from Dooley.
"I hope to impact lives," he said. "I've had plenty of opportunities to be in the limelight. I want to come in and show the players I have no ulterior motives other than being a positive impact on their lives. I believe the vast majority of players are grounded and willing to listen."
Evan Woodbery covers Tennessee football. Follow him at Twitter.com/TennesseeBeat.