When Lee Roy Selmon Jr. first played football at age 13, he weighed 230 pounds. Five years ago, in his final season at USF, he played at 295.
Today, he has to convince people he really played defensive tackle in college.
"That's my biggest challenge nowadays," he said. "They say, 'What position did you play? Defensive back? Safety? I must have had it wrong.' "
Today, Selmon weighs 190 pounds. Gone are the size-44 football pants, replaced with size-32 slacks.
"It's a huge difference," said Selmon, 28, one of several former USF linemen who have been able to shed considerable weight after their football days. Once there's no practical benefit to being huge, there's good reason to get down to a healthier weight.
"It melted away fairly quickly once I changed up my diet," said Selmon, who had three knee surgeries as a player and wanted to lighten the burden on his joints. "You look better, you feel better, so it acted as its own incentive."
The son of Hall of Famer and Bucs legend Lee Roy Selmon estimates his daily intake as a player was more than 4,000 calories over five meals.
"The hardest thing was getting that appetite down, getting that stomach a little smaller to where I wasn't hungry all the time," said Selmon, who started eating more grilled chicken, fish and seafood. "Steamed vegetables instead of french fries."
Selmon can laugh now about his football years, when staying big was a deciding factor in what he and his linemates ate, especially at team meals.
"We'd just smother everything in ranch dressing," said Selmon, now an account executive with Ultimate Staffing in St. Petersburg. "Instead of a little cup of ranch dressing, we'd have a whole pitcher at our table. We'd drench spaghetti, potatoes, prime rib, everything, all coated in ranch. So just not doing those type of things has really helped a lot."
Derrick Sarosi started 44 games on the offensive line at USF, and when he finished trying to make an NFL roster in 2005, he weighed 335 pounds. Seeking a new challenge, he took up weight loss, buying into the Atkins Diet and weighing himself twice a day. He lost 110 pounds and now has settled in at a healthy 250.
"I'm a different person," said Sarosi, who works in Tampa in construction for a remodeling company. "I just looked at myself and thought, 'There's no reason to be 335 pounds.' I wanted to feel better, and it was addicting. I just thought, 'It'd be great to get a shirt off the rack and know it would fit.' "
Not all college linemen are meant to be that big. Nick Capogna struggled for five seasons to add weight — and his family owns an Italian restaurant in Clearwater — topping out at about 275 pounds as a senior center in 2007.
Less than two years later, he's down to 225, having had his uniform with the Clearwater Police Department resized twice in six months on the job.
"My job used to be to push people around, but I knew that now, I need to be able to run people down," said Capogna, who recently updated his Facebook status to say he "is sad to say goodbye to XXL and enter the puny world of XL."
Capogna took a Brazilian jujitsu class and found the workouts helped him drop weight, but a change in diet is the biggest reason.
"I'm not saying everything I eat is healthy, but I go into the grocery store looking for fruits and vegetables," he said.
Capogna remembers seeing teammate Mike Lube, also trying to gain weight for football, melt a gallon of ice cream and drink it from the box. Lube, whose playing career was cut short by a knee injury, is now a program assistant with USF football and has dropped 50 pounds since his playing days.
Dr. Denise Edwards, an assistant professor at USF who runs the college's Healthy Weight Clinic, said dropping to a more normal weight has health benefits all over the body — less susceptibility to high blood pressure, heart and liver disease, and joint problems such as arthritis.
"It's obvious that it can take away a lot of the risk," Edwards said. "As soon as you can get extra weight off the joints, you'll notice the benefits immediately."
That's true for former Florida State center David Castillo, now a medical student at FSU who has dropped about 35 pounds to his current 285.
"As an offensive lineman, you always get picked on by the backs and receivers: 'Oh, you're the big fat guy,' " said Castillo, 27, who regularly runs 5K races. "We get the last laugh, because all the linemen thin out after football and all those little guys get heavy."
Greg Auman can be reached at [email protected] and at (813) 226-3346. Check out his blog at blogs.tampabay.com/usf.