Whether running the ball or hamming it up, ‘Great Codini’ keeps Zips charged


Whether in costume inviting fans to attend a game or shaving half his head, Cody Grice knows how to keep the atmosphere around Akron’s football program rather loose.

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In advance of the Zips’ Halloween game against visiting Central Michigan, Grice and Cathy Bongiovi, Akron’s assistant athletic communications director, went shopping for a costume that could be used in a spot plugging the game.

The result was the “Great Codini” appeared in a video on the school’s athletics web site, on billboards throughout town and in print ads inviting fans to wear costumes to the game.

“I am an outgoing guy and I like to do silly stuff,” said Grice, a 5-11, 287-pound nose tackle. “When Ms. Bongiovi came to me about doing a little skit for Halloween I was like, ‘Why not do it?’ We went to the costume center and had a good old time.”

Grice then had a good old time in front of the camera and enjoyed the finished product.

“I definitely liked it,” he said. “I am from Akron and everybody told me they saw it and they liked the laugh. The laugh was hilarious.”

Grice provided many laughs in preseason camp last year when he showed up with half his head shaved. Former Akron running back Jawon Chisholm referred to Grice as ‘half man, half amazing.’ Like the Halloween spot it was about having a good time, but also keeping things loose.

“I picked the half-shaved head because I knew we had freshmen coming in that were going to be nervous,” said the fifth-year senior. “They needed something to laugh at and I don’t mind being the guy that you laugh at. I don’t mind loosening up the tension on the team because that is what is needed sometimes.”

Grice’s play is anything but a laughing matter. He heads into Saturday’s game at Miami (Ohio) having started all 45 career games. He earned first-team All-MAC honors last year and has been a disruptive force again this season. Not bad for somebody who started his college career on the other side of scrimmage.

A star running back and defensive tackle in high school, Grice was a 260-pound fullback on the scout team while redshirting his first year at Akron. When Terry Bowden took over the program following the 2011 season he installed a spread offense, which was not a fit for Grice, who was asked to move to defense.

“I was hurt because I loved running back,” he said. “That was my favorite position. There is nothing like scoring a touchdown.”

Defensive line coach Todd Stroud, who joined the staff after Bowden was hired, told Grice changing positions could mean more playing time and that he could be a difference-maker at nose. Those words helped ease Grice’s disappointment even though he felt he may not have the desired size.

“If I could get some playing time, cool,” said Grice, recalling the conversation. “That’s how I looked at it. I was always going to work hard, but I thought maybe I was too small to play nose. Coach Stroud kept reassuring me like, ‘You can do it. You have the size for it. Don’t worry about your height, you just have to have heart.’ The biggest thing I have is heart.”

Touchdowns proved not to be a thing of the past for Grice. Starting last year Bowden used him in short-yardage and goal-line situations. In 31 carries the past two seasons Grice has scored seven touchdowns, including three on 11 totes this year.

Pounding the opposing defense is something he gets a charge out of.

“Oh, man, bless us,” he exclaimed. “(Carrying the football) is something that I am very grateful for. Every defensive lineman wants to score a touchdown.”

Grice, who is scheduled to graduate in the spring, would like to score a career in the NFL, or at least CFL. Regardless of how things turn out on the gridiron after leaving Akron he would like to have an impact on youth as a teacher.

“I have friends that tend to get into the wrong things,” said the father of a 4-month-old boy. “A lot of them feel like they do not have a lot to live for and turn to the streets. I want to be the one to talk to them, let them know there is another way to go and that you have a chance in this world. A lot of kids just don’t know because they don’t have the guidance.”

Grice could provide that guidance — and a laugh when the timing is right.

Above: Akron defensive lineman Cody Grice, aka “Great Codini” likes to keep things loose for his teammates, even if it means shaving just half of his head. (Courtesy Akron Athletics)
Tom Layberger

Tom Layberger

Tom Layberger is a freelance writer based in Glen Mills, Pa.