Catching Up with Tay Cody: All-American Working to Prepare Kids for College

Growing up about 80 miles from Tallahassee in Blakely, Georgia, Coronta “Tay” Cody watched cornerbacks like Deion Sanders and Terrell Buckley go on to win the Jim Thorpe Award and have All-American careers. After spending five years at Florida State and helping the Seminoles reach three straight national championships, his name was among them.

“Coach (Bobby) Bowden was a big reason I went to Florida State along with the defensive back legacy they had there,” Cody said. “Guys like Deion Sanders, Terrell Buckley, Clifton Abraham, Corey Sawyer — they made me want to go to Florida State.”

After redshirting in 1996, Cody finished with 3 interceptions and as many tackles for loss in 1997 and was named a Freshman All-American by the Sporting News. At 5’11” and only 180 pounds, Cody held his own against some of the nation’s best receivers like N.C. State’s Torry Holt, Florida’s Jabar Gaffney, Georgia Tech’s Dez White and Miami’s Santana Moss, but Cody had one skill that was rarely founds in cornerbacks — he was a great tackler.

“Any time I got out there, I did anything I could to make the team better,” Cody said. “Coming from South Georgia, we had a lot of run-oriented offenses where you might only see five or six passes a game. One of the main things was coming up to stop the run, so I kind of think that’s where it started.

“When I got to Florida State, that was something really emphasized by Coach (Mickey) Andrews,” Cody added. “If you can’t tackle, you can’t play for Coach Andrews. Having defensive backs that can tackle makes the whole team better.”

Cody would become a mainstay in the starting lineup over the next two seasons and help Florida State reach the BCS’ national title game in each. With starting quarterback Chris Weinke injured, the Seminoles would fall to Tennessee 23-16 at the end of the 1998 season, but began the following season ranked first in both preseason polls — a position FSU would never relinquish.

The Seminoles had their fair share of challenges that season, holding off late rallies against top-10 Georgia Tech and Florida teams while coming from behind to beat Clemson 17-14 in Death Valley. After starting 11-0, FSU complete the only perfect season in head coach Bobby Bowden’s tenure by outscoring Virginia Tech 18-0 in the fourth quarter of the Sugar Bowl to walk away with a 46-29 victory.

28 Aug 1999: Tay Cody #27 of the Florida State Seminoles gets ready to move on the field during the game against the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs at the Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee, Florida. The Seminoles defeated the Bulldogs 41-7.

28 Aug 1999: Tay Cody #27 of the Florida State Seminoles gets ready to move on the field during the game against the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs at the Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee, Florida. The Seminoles defeated the Bulldogs 41-7. (Getty Images archive)

“After losing to Tennessee the year before in the Fiesta Bowl and to come back and to get Coach Bowden his second national championship, that’s what you play for,” Cody said. “That was our goal every year was to win the conference, win the in-state battles and win the national championship. That was the biggest accomplishment not just for me, but for our team. That’s what we worked so hard for in the offseason and for us to come through, that was my biggest moment at Florida State.”

The Seminoles’ repeat bid came up short the following season as Florida State fell to Oklahoma 13-2 in the Orange Bowl for the national title, but Cody had one of the best years ever for an FSU defensive back. He finished the 2000 season with a career-high 52 tackles, 6 for loss, and 6 interceptions including at least one in each of his final four regular season games as a Seminole and was named a Consensus All-American. Cody added an interception in the Orange Bowl loss to the Sooners, but bowl statistics at the time were unofficial.

“My senior year to be a consensus All-American and kind of cement my legacy there was always a goal of mine,” Cody said. “Being 15 years removed from it, I can look back and am really proud of my career. I feel like I’m one of the most underrated players for some reason, I don’t know why.

“But look at my track record, I played in the glory days and in three national championships,” he added. “I have a lot of accomplishments that even some of the top defensive backs at Florida State don’t.”

After graduating in 2000 with a degree in political science, Cody was selected 67th overall by the San Diego Chargers in the 2001 NFL Draft. Cody spent three years in the NFL, finishing with a pair of interceptions and 65 tackles in 19 career games.

A father of five boys, Tay Jr., 17, Ty, 14, Montana, 9, Santana, 8, and Tayden, 5, Cody now runs a mentoring firm called 27 College Prep Mentoring which helps prepare kids for college. Cody’s company is based in Blakely, but the former All-American works with parents and students across the country.

“Basically, I educate parents and kids on the process of going to college,” Cody said. “I work with high school kids working on their character. I talk about the consequences of this, the consequences of that and the importance of respect. I try to give kids a heads up on what goes on in college.”

Being a former All-American and NFL defensive back, it’s no surprise that Cody works closely with a lot of high school athletes. Cody however, says the biggest focus is on academics, respect and staying out of trouble.

“I deal with a lot of kids from a lot of different upbringings. There was a lot of life lessons that I had to learn and that might have been different if I had a mentor or a father figure,” he added. “I’m not the same person I used to be. I try to reach these kids and it’s not just going to the NFL, but being a positive member in your community.

“A lot of kids come from various backgrounds and don’t know what to expect when they get to college. One of our big focuses is helping kids stay out of trouble,” Cody said. “A lot of these kids aren’t bad kids, they’re just young kids who make bad decisions. A lot of it is because they’re not prepared.”

Cody said he remains close to his alma mater and helps out with camps at FSU in the offseason. Cody played for the legendary Bowden during his career, but said current head coach Jimbo Fisher has been very welcoming toward former players who return to Tallahassee.

“Coach Bowden was like a father figure to all his players. Coach Bowden would always read us scriptures and talk to us about the importance of doing the right thing,” Cody said. “Jimbo really has an open door policy for former players. I go down and work the camps with them over the summer.

“I like the way Jimbo treats the former players and has a lot of respect for us,” Cody added. “He’ll go down and open the door for you and it kind of makes you feel like family.”

During Cody’s five years at FSU, the Seminoles concluded a streak of 14 straight top-5 finishes that is unlikely to be paralleled. Following his departure, Florida State as a football program saw a significant drop-off, losing fewer than three games just twice over the next 11 seasons. Cody said as an alum and former player, he’s happy to see the team competing for national championships again.

“It’s thrilling because Florida State is my family,” Cody said. “When things weren’t going so good, I heard some criticism. The Wake Forest home loss (30-0 in 2006) was embarrassing, but nothing lasts forever. That’s bound to happen to any program, but with Jimbo’s recruiting and developing players and to see us back on top, I think any alumni or fan would be happy to see where we are right now as a program.”

Though he won’t be forgotten anytime soon by those who watched him play, Cody’s FSU legacy was forever cemented in June of this year as he was inducted into the school’s athletic Hall of Fame.

“I can appreciate it more now that I’m older, but to get inducted into the Hall of Fame, that’s the best of the best,” Cody said. “To be there next to Charlie Ward, Warrick Dunn, Derrick Brooks and Marvin Jones, that really means a lot to me.”

About Mike Ferguson

Mike Ferguson is a Bloguin contributor, the editor of Noled Out and a lifetime Florida State sports enthusiast. Mike vividly remembers watching Warrick Dunn run down the sideline in Gainesville in 1993, the "Choke at Doak" in 1994 and Monte Cummings' driving layup to beat #1 Duke in 2002. Mike has worked as a sports reporter in both print and online. For isportsweb in 2013, Mike gave press coverage of Florida State football's run to the 2013 national championship. Mike has been featured on, and Yahoo Sports while interviewing major sports stars such as 2013 National League MVP Andrew McCutchen. Mike graduated from Florida State University in 2009 with a major in Religion and a minor in Communications. Mike currently resides in Haines City, Florida with his wife Jennifer and daughters Trinity and Greenly. Mike is a full-time reporter at Polk County's newspaper, The Ledger, in Lakeland, Florida. Mike can be followed on Twitter @MikeWFerguson.