The Natural: Local two-sport prodigy T-Bone Codd makes it look easy

David Goricki
The Detroit News
T-Bone Codd

Brighton — Davis “T-Bone” Codd dreams of one day becoming a two-sport pro athlete – the next Bo Jackson.

But T-Bone’s sports are not football and baseball. T-Bone wants to play in the NHL and on the PGA Tour.

Codd, who turned 15 this past summer and is a sophomore at Brighton High School, is right on pace. He is a champion golfer and can hit the ball 320 yards off the tee. In hockey he plays for the Little Caesars AAA 16U Midget Minors Tier 1 team – the No. 1-ranked team in the country – coached by former Red Wings forward Kris Draper.

Ironically, Codd got his start in both sports by chance, with Red Wings general manager Ken Holland being indirectly involved in both situations.

T-Bone, who is 5-foot-8 and 155 pounds, has already been offered scholarships to play both golf and hockey at Michigan State and Arizona State. Michigan hockey coach Mel Pearson offered him a scholarship in December and MSU coach Danton Cole offered him two days later.

Natural-born swinger

T-Bone’s father, Tim, who owns a health care consulting company, was preparing to travel to Ireland and Scotland on a golf trip that Holland, a family friend, planned when T-Bone was 4.

T-Bone wanted to tag along with his father.

“I go on these trips with Ken Holland, who organizes these fabulous, competitive trips, really exciting, and I remember T-Bone was 4,” Tim said recently. “I was going to Europe and he didn’t want me to go. So he says, ‘Dad, take me,’ grabs my golf clubs and starts swinging in the yard. I drop a couple of balls and he swung my wedge and he hit them into the woods. He’s pumping it.

“He had never swung a club before so I looked at my wife Lisa and said, ‘Take him to the range, he could be a natural.’”

T-Bone Codd won the Golf Association of Michigan 14U Match Play Championship.

Tim went on his trip – and T-Bone went to the range with his mom.  When Tim returned, he was delighted to see T-Bone hitting golf balls long and straight.

T-Bone remembers this well.

“I started playing golf because of my dad and I wanted to go on that trip,” T-Bone says. “I played all day long, just loved it.”

Eventually, T-Bone became so good at golf that Tim thought his son should get lessons from a teaching professional. At age 12, T-Bone began working on his game under the guidance of Jason Guss, of the Jason Guss Golf Academy in Bath Township, just outside Lansing.

“All we tried to focus on was fundamentals and the mental part of the game,” said T-Bone of working with Guss. “I had something good going so we didn’t try to reinvent the wheel, just a tweak here or there, and I’ve been going back to him ever since.”

T-Bone was in love with golf. In the summer, his parents would drop him off at Oak Pointe Country Club in Brighton in the morning and he would play until the sun went down.

“Every day in the summer when I was little I’d start at 8 in the morning and leave at dark,” T-Bone said. “I’d wake up, go and play 18 holes, then practice and play another 18 when my dad came.”

T-Bone became such a good player that, according to Tim, MSU men's golf coach Casey Lubahn told a then-12-year-old T-Bone that he would recruit him if he could beat him.

T-Bone recalls the match: “We played from the same tees and I was down one going into 18, and I birdied it to tie him, and he started recruiting me.”

At age 13, T-Bone won the Golf Association of Michigan 14U Match Play Championship, then became the youngest player to reach the semifinals of match play at the Michigan Junior State Amateur, falling to Ben Smith, who is now playing for Georgia Tech.

Then, in a local U.S. Open qualifier at Knollwood Country Club in West Bloomfield this past summer, T-Bone shot a 71 at age 14 and was an alternate for the next round.

‘You have to play hockey’

T-Bone had no interest in hockey until Thanksgiving weekend in 2010 when he was 7 and his family attended a Red Wings game as guests of Holland.

After the game, the family was waiting to thank Holland for the tickets.

“We were waiting in the family room, or wives room,” Tim says. “We were with Kenny’s family. We just wanted to say thank you to Kenny and be on our way.”

Henrik Zetterberg’s wife, Emma Andersson, was in the room, as well, and T-Bone’s long hair caught her attention. Zetterberg had long hair at the time, too.

“Zetterberg’s (wife) asks T-Bone if he plays hockey and he tells her no,” Tim says. “She says, ‘You don’t play hockey? You have hockey hair and a hockey name! You have to play hockey!’”

T-Bone Codd quickly overcame a "Bambi" moment in hockey.

Tim finishes the story of T-Bone’s start in hockey: “The day after the game, T-Bone wakes up and says, ‘Dad, I want to play hockey.’ He’s never skated before and I’ve never skated before. We called a friend of ours, Jay Storm, and he tells us there’s a learn-to-skate event this Saturday in Howell, show up at 10.

“T-Bone goes out on the ice, falls down, boom. He gets back up and falls down again. He’s like Bambi, and I’m thinking this is a one-and-done deal. I mean, he skates a bit, you know pushing a chair and stuff, but that’s it.

“Well, that morning skate goes by and Jay asks if T-Bone can go to his home – he has a tiny rink at his house. Jay sends me a picture later that afternoon and says, ‘This kid is going to be a stud.’ He went from Bambi in the morning to skating all afternoon and looking great. Then, at 4 o’clock I get another picture and T-Bone has a hockey stick like a pro player and he was flying around.”

T-Bone was now in love with hockey, too.

“A week goes by, two weeks go by, and then someone from the (Livingston County Hockey Association) saw him skating and asked Jay about him,” Tim said. “They asked me, it was during the Christmas holiday, if he could play on the Livingston Lightning Mite team. They started him at center and in his first game at Chelsea Arena, they dropped the puck, T-Bone wins the faceoff, pokes the puck ahead, splits the defense and scores.”

“I was 7,” T-Bone said. “It was great to be out there, to split the D and score like that on my first shift.”

Learning from the best

Holland and Draper are impressed with T-Bone’s talent, but also appreciate his personality.

“I’ve known Tim for more than 16 years, know him very well,” said Holland. “T-Bone is a tremendous young man, very respectful, always upbeat and positive. T-Bone has the confidence to engage in a conversation, always has a smile and you can sense, you can feel, that he’s got a passion certainly for hockey and golf.

“Obviously, he’s gifted and he’s very, very talented in hockey and very, very talented in golf, and probably at some point he’s going to have to make a decision as to which way he wants to go. I just think it’s hard to be a two-sport athlete in the world today because you’re almost going year-round.

“I’ve seen him on the range and he’s 15 years old and he hits the ball 290, 300. I’m not a college golf coach where I could tell you where he’s at for his age group, but I do know in seeing him that he’s incredibly talented.”

Said Draper of his T-Bone: “He’s fit in good with our group and that’s easy to do when you’re a good kid and you’re competitive and have good work habits. He’s a smart player with good hockey sense, shows good skill with the puck. You can tell he wants to be a great hockey player.”

T-Bone has taken advantage of many opportunities that have come his way, including watching Red Wings practices when invited by Holland.

And when former Red Wings coach Mike Babcock talked, T-Bone listened.

“I heard a lot growing up close to that organization,” T-Bone says. “I was able to watch practices, listen to Mike Babcock and learned a lot from just being around there and learning the environment. It was awesome.”

From left, Tim, T-Bone and Lisa Codd. “I couldn’t do this without my family sacrificing all of their time," T-Bone says.

Center of attention

Tim had a chance to see what type of leader T-Bone was this past spring in the World Select Invitational Championship in Philadelphia.

“We won the first game, but struggled since these kids are all all-stars from all over North America,” said Tim. “We struggled in that first game but one of the assistant coaches says, ‘We might win this thing.’ I asked him why he felt that way and he told me, ‘Your kid just cut the ice in the locker room, assigned everybody a nickname, and I’ve never seen a locker room come together that quickly.’”

T-Bone’s outgoing personality brings his teammates together.

“I usually try to be a leader,” T-Bone said. “Nobody knew each other and all these kids are the best player on their team and some guys have an ego. But we just came together as a team, played like we had been playing for two years together and won.”

Draper’s Little Caesars team plays 60-65 games a season, practicing during the week, then playing tournaments on the weekend.

“He’s playing U-16 so he’s playing against some players who are a year older than him and are physically more developed, so it’s going to be challenging for him,” Draper said.

T-Bone has 18 points through the first 16 games for Little Caesars this season.

“One area he wants to improve on is getting to the net, getting to the harder areas, trying to be a little more greasy around the net,” Draper says. “But he’s skilled with the puck, good on the power play, so it’s fun to be around those types of players.”

T-Bone centers a line of 6-0, 180-pound Ryan Kirwan from New York, who has an offer from Penn State, and Garrett Szydlowski. T-Bone is also teammates with 16-year-old Kienan Draper, Kris’ son, who has an offer from Western Michigan.

T-Bone Codd honors his older sister with the label on his golf balls.

About that name

T-Bone got his nickname from his dad.

T-Bone explains: “My dad said he had nicknames growing up, so he said that when he had his first son he would call him T-Bone.”

For the first five years of his life, his dad called him T-Bone and his mom called him Davis.

When T-Bone was about to start kindergarten, his mom advised him: “You had better introduce yourself as Davis so you don’t get bullied.”

But after the first day of school, Tim says, “He ran off the bus and we were waiting for him, and he couldn’t wait to say he introduced himself as T-Bone, then told us there’s a Jack-Bone in his class, there’s a Jim-Bone. They all wanted ‘Bone’ at the end of their name.”

While T-Bone has a unique moniker, it is his sister’s name that resonates with the young star athlete.

When he plays competitive golf he marks his golf ball with the name “Morgie,” in honor of his 25-year-old sister Morgan.

“My oldest sister is very low-functioning autistic, and I try to do everything I can in her name, to just kind of live with her because she’s such an angel,” T-Bone says.

Despite his athletic success at such a young age, T-Bone has kept a level head.

“I’m extremely blessed, grown up in a house with a strong faith and just want to thank my Lord for giving me the blessings that he’s given me and the opportunities that he’s given me,” T-Bone says. “I couldn’t do this without my family sacrificing all of their time.

 “I know I haven’t accomplished anything yet. I’m just a 15-year-old kid from Brighton.”