2009 Football: Carson’s Billings played the weighting game
By Ronnie Gallgher
Travis Billings is a really good guy. Such a good guy, in fact, that he helps his friends out when they need it.
Like, for instance, whenever they have trouble recognizing him.
“You can tell when they’re looking at me that they don’t know who I am,” Billings chuckles. “They’re like, ‘Where do I know him from?’ ”
So he tells them.
“Yeah, yeah, it’s me,” Billings says. “Same person.”
It’s hard to believe its the same person. Since last June, he has lost almost 200 pounds.
“What’s amazing is, they’re people who’ve known me all my life,” Billings said. “I have to introduce myself.”
On the football field, Billings is all about winning as one of Mark Woody’s assistants at Carson. Off the field, he’s all about losing. He currently looks as if he could strap on the helmet and compete.
“My ribs are poking out now,” Billings laughed. “There was a time when I knew they were there but I couldn’t stick my fingers under them.”
Used to be, big meal after big meal was nothing for the former South Rowan offensive lineman.
He’d go to Brian’s Grill in China Grove and shove down 12 hotdogs in one sitting.
“Oh yeah, it was no trouble at all,” he said.
He’d go to Gary’s Barbecue and order two or three Big G’s, which are supersized burgers.
“I’d just hammer ’em down,” Billings shrugged.
But the most he’d eat was at Stag ‘n’ Doe, a popular South Rowan restaurant.
Billings said he’d have Gary Martin prepare a three-pound ribeye.
“He’d cut that joker about two inches thick,” Billings remembers. “He’d actually bake it in the oven before he grilled it to get it done. It was like a roast.”
Billings said he never thought about the effect of eating large quantities of food.
“I just got used to it, I guess,” he said.
Billings was always a big boy. He weighed 235 in elementary school. He was 275 in the eighth grade and he had to lose down to 250 so he could wrestle.
But he carried the weight well. He was good enough as a 268-pound senior at South to earn a chance to play football at Western Carolina.
After college, he knew he wanted to coach and eventually hooked up with Woody when Carson opened in 2006.
The eating continued, even though Billings said he tried dieting.
“I lost weight, I gained weight, lost weight, gained weight,” he recalled. “Every time I gained it back, I gained a little more.”
Sweets became a passion and with Type 2 diabetes running in his family, he began thinking about gastric bypass surgery. After mulling it over for three years, he decided to do it.
He weighed 427 pounds.
On June 23, 2008, at 31 years of age, Billings had the surgery.
“That moment you’re ready to go into the operating room ó when it’s crunch time ó you question it a little bit,” he said. “It’s pretty dangerous.”
Billings said his stomach was cut and stapled, making a pouch about the size of his thumb.
“It seals your stomach off so you can’t eat as much,” he said. “You get hungry, but you get full faster.”
That was just the beginning. The next two weeks went by slowly. Billings was on a liquid diet of protein shakes and water. He then went a few weeks of eating soft, mushy foods.
“It took six to eight weeks to get back to normal food,” Billings said. “That first egg I ate was awesome. And it wasn’t but enough to fill the palm of your hand.”
Fourteen months later, Travis Billings weighs in at 235 pounds. He eats a protein bar for breakfast, some snacks during the day and then supper.
The cash registers at southern Rowan County restaurants may take a hit, but there will be no more nights of multiple Big G’s. No more three-pound ribeyes. No more dozen-hotdog sittings.
“A kid’s meal hamburger? I’d do well to eat all of it,” Billings said in all seriousness.
His blood pressure is low. He’s doesn’t get tired as easily. He has much more energy.
Travis Billings looks great. Better yet, he feels great.
“I’m happy,” he said.
The people in the Carson family who have seen Billings on a regular basis have taken his weight loss as a gradual thing. But he knows there will be old friends in the stands sometime this season, gazing quizzically down at the sidelines at the Carson coaches.
The slim assistant patting kids on the head, encouraging them, and coaching his tail off?
That will be Travis Billings.
“Yeah, yeah, it’s me,” he’ll have to tell them. “Same person.”