The deaths of his former fellow University of Tennessee football players caused Antone Davis to take a good, hard look at himself.
What he saw was a man at nearly 500 pounds who might be the next to go.
"When you look at all the (former) players (who have died) at the University of Tennessee alone, (players such as) Reggie White, Harry Galbreath, Bernard Dafney, all these young players. They were younger than me and weighed less than me," Davis said. "At one point, my weight was 476 pounds. I was 24 pounds away from 500 ... I knew if I didn't do something that I'd be next."
Davis, who played for UT in the late 1980s as an offensive tackle, said being on this season's weight-loss competition "The Biggest Loser" saved his life. After college, Davis played for the Philadelphia Eagles and Atlanta Falcons. His battle to shed the pounds can be seen at 8 p.m. Tuesdays on NBC.
"I know if I didn't do this show that I would be dead from some sort of health complication," Davis said.
The deaths of his teammates caused Davis to re-examine where he was going and his future.
"When you are an athlete and you are challenged to do something, you want to try it. You want to win," he said. "Weight loss was something I tried and tried and tried (to master) but I was not attacking the full problem. I remember calling (former Vol) Sterling Hinton and saying, 'We lost another brother today.' We talked about how scary it was, and how we needed to maintain great health and lose weight and we weren't doing it.
"Those passings literally scared me to death."
Weight has always been an issue for Davis. When he played for the Vols, he was well over 350, and no one thought it was unusual. Big guys were needed, and he fit the bill.
Davis has been in contact with his former coach -- Phillip Fulmer -- after his stint on "Loser." "Coach Fulmer was the first person who asked me to lose weight," Davis said. "When I started (playing for the Vols), I reported at 350 pounds. Coach Fulmer said (to drop down to) 300. Then he walked away from me. I stood there with my hands open and my jaw dropped. I couldn't believe it. I always thought the 'bigger the better.' As a 19-year-old, I never thought about my long-term health."
Though Davis has carried his heftiness for more than a couple of decades, he realized almost a year ago when he revisited UT how embarrassed he was by his weight gain.
"Running through the 'T' is one of those things I want to take another shot at now that I have lost the weight," said Davis. (How much weight he has lost cannot be revealed until the live "Loser" finale on Dec. 13.)
"I came back a year ago for the 'Living Legends' (tribute at UT) and I ran through the 'T' that night. I remember doing it and thinking, 'Just don't fall down and get out of the players' way.' I just hobbled through the 'T' at 450 pounds. It was so embarrassing. I just wanted to do it over."
Now after spending time on "Loser," Davis is back in Knoxville, Tenn., exercising and eating properly. He maintains a 2,200-calories a day diet and is hoping for another chance at running through the "T."