Michael Jasper has been dropping weight the past few years, and when he embarks on a career as an NFL defensive tackle -- soon, he hopes -- he plans to be quite svelte.
Jasper, a seventh-round pick by the Buffalo Bills in last month's draft, is down to 375 pounds -- still big, even by NFL standards, but nowhere near the 448 pounds he carried not so long ago.
The 6-foot-4½ nose tackle has lost 73 pounds since leaving Middle Tennessee State after his sophomore year to transfer to Bethel, an NAIA school in McKenzie, Tenn., and he has focused on slimming down even more since his college career closed last fall.
Jasper has become smarter about his diet while working out with his cousin, Artis Hicks, a nine-year NFL offensive tackle who played for the Washington Redskins last season.
"I've stopped eating so much and pretty much cut eating beef out," Jasper said. "I've minimized my bad carbohydrate intake, increased my vegetables and greens and water intake to kind of confuse my body so that it wouldn't hold onto so much water. It has started to flush some of the excess off.
"I feel brand new. I sleep better, I wake up feeling good, I enjoy being outside and feel like a kid again. I realize God has definitely blessed me."
The average NFL nose tackle entering last season was 6-3 and 330 pounds, according to the Tennessean.
Jasper, 24, was listed at 394 pounds when he was drafted -- the heaviest player taken during the three-day process -- but Bills general manager Buddy Nix said that number was wrong.
"He's not as big as you've got him listed," Nix said after the draft. "He's down to 378 pounds, so he's drying up to nothing."
Bethel coach Dino Kaklis believes a slimmer Jasper will be a better Jasper. The lineman posted a 5.34-second 40-yard dash time, a 34-inch vertical leap and a 9-foot-5 broad jump in a workout for Bills scouts, and he wasn't as slim then as he is now.
"Everything the Bills and the other NFL guys saw of Michael playing during the year was when he was at 435 pounds, and they were impressed by what he did then," Kaklis told the Tennessean. "He's at 375 now and still as strong and solid as he was. I'd say he has the mobility of a 265-pound player."
Jasper weighed just 240 pounds when he started at Mount Juliet (Tenn.) High School, but he was 380 as a senior.
"When I got bumped up to varsity my freshman year, I started to put on the weight," Jasper said. "I started drinking creatine and protein and didn't know what I was doing. Then once I got to college, the food gets a whole lot better, and I started to get even bigger."
Jasper played two seasons as a nose tackle and offensive guard at Tennessee-Martin, then transferred to Middle Tennessee State but didn't play because of grades. He became a part-time student, and that's when he ballooned to his heaviest weight, before transferring to Bethel, where he played defensive tackle in 2009 and offensive guard in 2010.