In the world of YouTube, the name Cody Paul
is synonymous with youth football.
As a 12-year-old running back, the Los Alamitos, Calif., boy's seventh- and eighth-grade highlight tape went viral
, quickly drawing millions of views online.
He wasn't 5 feet tall, but showcased shiftiness and big-play ability that spawned immediate comparisons to Reggie Bush, who had recently wrapped up his college career at nearby USC. He was dominant, yet adorable, and since 2007 the video has been viewed nearly 8 million times.
"At the time, it was kind of crazy," said Paul, who is now a senior and the starting running back at Los Alamitos (Calif.)
. "I'm used to hearing about it now. My friends still make fun of me for it, they'll call me 'YouTube' or something else."
Paul decided he wanted his own highlight tape when he saw film of a player from a neighboring city. After a friend pieced Paul's together, he posted it on MySpace and it took off.
"I just thought it'd be cool to have," Paul said. "But after (it was) posted on MySpace, all of a sudden there were a million views."
The video still receives several comments a day and has developed a cult following of sorts. Since Paul's highlights went viral, several others videos have popped up challenging Paul's supremacy as youth football's poster child.
A search of Cody Paul on YouTube or Google turns up a staggering amount of relevant results.
There were people who predicted NFL stardom and others who joked he was already committed to USC. One YouTube user went as far as to use the EA Sports video games NCAA Football and Madden to create the Cody Paul Series, which shows a virtual Cody Paul playing for USC and the New York Giants.
Longtime Los Alamitos coach John Barnes remembers exactly how he first came to know about the young phenom.
"My son, Jimmy, was playing (quarterback) at Alabama at the time and one days he calls and says, 'Dad, all the guys were asking me if I knew who Cody Paul is. He's got this highlight tape on YouTube you should check out,'" Barnes said. "I didn't know how to go on YouTube, so I had to have someone get me on there and show it to me, but it was cool.
"We don't recruit or anything like that, so then one day he just showed up as a freshman."
In Paul's last year of prep football, he's off to the kind of start many predicted years ago. Through three games — all wins — he has rushed for 352 yards and six touchdowns on 37 carries.
"He's doing the same thing now that he did back then," Barnes said. "He's special. He can make guys miss, he catches everything, he runs screens well."
He ran for 676 yards and six touchdowns last year and those highlights have been viewed more than 200,000 times on YouTube.
At 5-foot-5 and 159 pounds, college recruiters aren't banging his door down, but Paul said he has fielded some interest.
"The only school that's actually contacted me was (Division I-FCS) Bryant University," he said. "I got some other letters, one from Oregon, but Bryant is the only school I've talked to."
Paul's notoriety has made him the frequent target of trash talk from opposing teams.
"They'll just make references to the video," he said. "Like, 'You won't do that against us' or 'It's going to be a long game for you,' stuff like that."
With 291 wins, Barnes is the fifth-winningest coach in California prep history according to the Cal-Hi Sports Record Book and Almanac, and has coached at Los Alamitos since 1979. Even for Barnes, Paul is unique.
"There hasn't really been anyone else like him (in terms of how he plays)," Barnes said. "Maybe Kerwin Bell, who played for Edison in Anaheim in 1979. He was a similar player."
Bell went on to rush for what was then a Big Eight freshman-record 1,114 yards at Kansas before injuries derailed his career.
College is in the back of his mind, but first and foremost, Paul has high expectations for the rest of Los Alamitos' season.
"We want to go 10-0 in the regular season and then get through the first round of the playoffs," he said. "I think we can do it. We have a ton of playmakers."
The Griffins, who are averaging 49 points per game, host University-Los Angeles (2-0) on Thursday and have a tough nonleague test against Santa Margarita (3-0) on Sept. 29. They'll open Sunset League play at Edison-Huntington Beach on Oct. 13.LINKS - (Note that music accompanying videos may include lyrics some find offensive)
Original — http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fqSV1wnN5oQ
Junior year — http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AhrxeQuZh6Q&feature=related
Cody Paul Series, Part I, college— http://www.youtube.com/user/Nhsportzfreek13#p/u/6/8Gkw7LZlj2Q
Cody Paul Series, Part II, NFL — http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jI3-VNnCYUU&feature=related
Better than Cody Paul — http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SXQhlfBULyI