There are many moments that can hit you upside the head with how quickly time passes, and one of them happened in the last month: Cody Paul, the 12-year-old whose amazing moves on the football field became the Internet’s first sports viral video, completed his college football career.
The video above, produced by Paul’s brother and posted in July 2007, not only had millions with mouths agape at the kid wearing No. 5 from Los Alamitos, Calif., but it’s launched its own genre, with seemingly thousands of other “NEXT CODY PAUL” highlight videos. By the time Paul reached his senior year of high school, however, he was being recast as a cautionary tale, or as Bleacher Report bluntly put it: he was “all washed up” at age 17. The issue was, Paul grew up to only be 5-foot-5, and though he rushed for nearly 1,300 yards as a high school senior, being 5-foot-5 was not attractive to big schools.
However, Tim Keown, who interviewed Paul for a 2012 ESPN story, noted that, despite what you might expect, he didn’t seem so affected by his early fame, and wasn’t weighed down by great expectations because of it. And, as it turned out, Paul wasn’t washed up, and in fact had a college football career most high school players would envy.
Paul just finished his fifth and final season at Chadron State, an NCAA Division II school in Nebraska best known as the alma mater of another famously undersized running back, Danny Woodhead. After redshirting his freshman year, Paul established himself as a strong all-around player, a big-play threat, and an amazing athlete. He was generally considered, at 170 pounds, the strongest pound-for-pound player on the team, and he also set a team record in the shuttle drill, a test of speed and change of direction. The previous record was held by… Danny Woodhead.
For his senior year, Paul (for the second time) was his team’s second-leading rusher, with 514 yards on only 79 carries, a 6.1 average. His 16 catches for 89 yards led Chadron State’s running backs. His biggest gig, though, was as a kick returner: he returned a team-leading 24 kickoffs for 561 yards (a 23.8 average), and also led the team with 21 punt returns for 351 yards (a 16.7 average) and two touchdowns. Paul led his team and was fifth in the Rocky Mountain Conference with 1,515 all-purpose yards, and he was named first-team All-Conference as a punt returner.
And if that wasn’t enough, after the final home game of Chadron State’s season, he proposed on the field to his girlfriend, Eagles homecoming queen and cheerleader Kayla Morgan. She said yes, or else I probably wouldn’t have mentioned this.