One word that doesn't come to mind is "skinny," but compared to last season, that term actually applies to the 2009 version. A year ago, Spears ballooned to as much as 330 pounds — a weight Dallas coaches deemed unacceptable for the upcoming season.
"They prescribed me a weight," Spears said. "I was supposed to come in (at) 309 — I came in at 307, and it was (a weight) they felt I could perform better at, and move better at. (Head coach) Wade (Phillips) emphasized to me through OTAs and mini-camp that he wanted me to be quicker, and the only way you get quicker is you lose weight, or you try something else. But the only thing that I saw was to drop weight, and to become a better performer as far as my quickness goes — that's starting to show up."
Spears always has been a good athlete who did his offseason conditioning work, so in order to shed the 21 pounds from his body, Spears spent the offseason overhauling what he put into it.
"I changed my eating habits — I learned how to eat," he said. "I learned that I could eat a lot — just a lot of different things. I got with my trainer in Louisiana, like I've been doing the past four years, and we just put in a lot of work. That Louisiana sun will do a lot for your weight loss, and we did that — we worked hard.
"I've actually been doing two-a-days for the last month, so I have a lot of energy for these practices, because I literally tried to kill myself this summer, working out, and it's paying off. It feels good, as a player, to know that you can put your work in and people recognize it, but at the end of the day, it has to translate on to the football field when we're playing some guys in another jersey."
Spears clearly likes to eat — a lot — and enjoys what he calls some "traditional Southern" dishes. But to get lighter and pick up the quickness Phillips asked for, he learned some valuable lessons about nutrition and how the human body processes food.
"Stay away from fried foods — (that's a) message to everybody in the world," he said. "I cut out on carbs — bad carbs — things like that, and (I'm) drinking a lot of water. Water is like the key to life, I think now. I may have obscured vision, but I drink a lot of water. It flushes you out, it keeps you healthy. And then, I hired a chef for this season, hired a chef for the summer
to prepare meals, and it's been working out.
"Fried catfish," he said when asked what meal he misses the most in his new eating regimen. "I grew up on it, I love it, my uncle makes the best fried catfish in the world, and when I got to Baton Rouge, I told him to stay away from me. I've learned it's like being an addict — you can't totally give it up — but I'm down to once a month. Once a month, I'll kind of binge, per sé, and get back on it, but for the most part, those (other) 29 days out of 30 days, or 31, you need to be trying to do the right thing."
Now Spears finds himself eating things that hardly make up the menu most would imagine for a young defensive end still on the north side of 300 pounds.
"I actually fell in love with grilled shrimp salads," Spears said. "I'll kill 'em — I will kill them — and with vinaigrette dressing and tomatoes … I throw all the toppings on there. I learned that you have to put down fried foods, and you have to get rid of the potatoes and stuff like that late at night … and then my nutritionist and my chef tell me ‘you know, you can still get fat on salads.' I said, ‘now what can you possibly eat to lose weight?' You've just got to learn how to put enough calories in so you can burn more — that's the key."
Having reached his goal in terms of body size, Spears now faces the goal of earning a contract extension from the only NFL team for which he has played. But Spears said that although he is entering the final season of the deal he signed when he was drafted in 2005, his focus is not on his next deal.
"I'm not putting any added pressure on myself, to be honest with you," he said. "I just have to go out and play, and perform, because I think when you get to thinking about money and contract situations and things like that, it really takes away from the things you have to do. I'll cross that bridge when I get to it, and hopefully my play already has and will speak for me in the future."
You are what you eat
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