The Good Word | by Jon Cooper
Parting is such sweet sorrow.
It’s especially hard for Kodie Comby, who has established a special bond with Georgia Tech.
The Houston, Texas, native couldn’t wait to get to campus, arriving in Atlanta during the fall of 2016 and enrolling early.
Leaving has been harder. She’s doing everything in her power to avoid leaving.
Academically, it’s all over but the shouting — actually, the walking. She has completed her course study in Business Administration and Saturday afternoon will join 23 other student-athletes, including teammate Coral Kazaroff, in receiving her diploma.
Athletically the job’s not finished. Comby will take the floor at O’Keefe Gym with her teammates Saturday night and try to extend her career and the Yellow Jackets’ season in the semifinals of the National Invitational Volleyball Championship (NIVC), facing TCU.
It promises to be quite a unique day and an ending to four years of unique days.
“It really would make for a unique day, for sure,” said Comby with a laugh. “I have some of my family coming in for graduation and so they’ll get to see me play for the first time if we keep it going so that’s also a little incentive that I have.
“It will be nice to kind of wrap up and think about my past four years with volleyball and with school and just seeing and understanding the person that I’ve seasoned to. It’s a really cool thing to acknowledge,” she said. “As an individual, being more comfortable and vocal with myself. I don’t think I would say I’m a natural born leader but I think that having been put in the leadership role helped me be more comfortable with being vocal and understanding that I set the example for everybody else. I had to be careful about what I did and how I did it and make sure that I came in every single day ready to bust my butt in practice.”
Comby has been a centerpiece her entire career, starting as a building block on the powerful 2016 team, which won 24 games, the 10th-best mark in school history and the winningest season in 12 years. The next two seasons she was a foundation for the reloading teams, then she capped off her career — actually, she’s still capping it off — as the leader on this year’s powerhouse which is gunning for the NIVC championship, after somehow being ignored by the NCAA Selection Committee. She certainly saved her best for last, earning first-team all-ACC and all-region honors, one of four Yellow Jackets to do so, and one of six Jackets to be all-ACC.
“Volleyball-wise, my all-ACC selection was really, really exciting for me,” Comby said. “I think I’ve worked really hard these past four years. I’ve done extra reps, I’ve watched extra film, I’ve done what I can and seeing it translate onto the court was really exciting for me.”
Seeing the payoff was rewarding for head coach Michelle Collier.
“It’s just her journey,” said Collier, the 2019 ACC and Region Coach of the Year. “I’m proud of the person that she is. She’s a kind-hearted individual and has meant so much to our program — not only from the volleyball end. You can look at all those things. But I think that having somebody like her in our program has continued to allow us to focus on the kind of people that we want to surround ourselves with. She’s become more and more confident with how great she is. She’s a fun person to have around, she’s a positive kid, she doesn’t take herself too seriously, so she added an ease to the group. To see her go from role to role, every year, it’s one of the fun things that we get to do with our job. I’m super-proud of the leader she has become.”
Of course, she did produce on the court. This season Comby led the nation in hitting percentage for much of the season — she heads into Saturday fourth, with a career-best .439.
But Kodie was never about numbers. The number that mattered most was the number 1. While it was coincidentally the number she wore on her back, No. 1 had nothing to do with ego or self-promotion. Instead it had everything to do with the team being one unit. Fittingly, the number she wore on her back was symbolic of her carrying that unit emotionally on her back as a leader.
That leadership was obvious everywhere she went.
It was obvious in the weight room during summer off-season training sessions.
“When you’re a senior, you know what to expect, you know what you’re doing because you’ve been through it. So you’re able to come in and help the way those upperclassmen helped you when you came in,” said Scott McDonald, Director of Olympic Sport Player Development. “Seeing her helping other players and trying to take a little leadership and take charge on certain things, where I don’t have to be the one that’s constantly saying things or doing things, she’s able to see things and she knows what I expect. So she was able to correct those things before I have to.”
It was obvious on campus, where she was involved in the Student-Athlete Advisory Board her final three years.
“At the beginning, I was like, ‘It’s something else to put on my resume and that’s always good,’” she recalled. “Then, as it kind of progressed, it’s been fun. It’s always good to give back to the community. Being able to do that in a small way is really nice. We found ways to stay connected with other student-athletes, with the other students on campus. That effort is really there and just trying to do that and stay connected as one community is always really important.”
Her impact even became obvious off campus, as she made an instant and lasting impression at her summer internship at CBRE.
“We were looking for someone, student-athlete-wise who had the discipline, not just on the field but also in the classroom, that we could take and begin to introduce them to our world, commercial real estate,” said CBRE vice chairman Tony Kepano, Class of 1984. “Being at Georgia Tech, being a student-athlete really does prepare you because it forces you to have to develop skill sets that you will carry over into the working world. So in the case of Kodie, for example, she’s doing a lot of spreadsheet analysis along with (football player) Tyler (Cooksey) in running numbers on large commercial projects around the country that are under construction. They’re helping us with site selection around the country, they’re interfacing with the architects and the engineers as well as with the customers, they’re interfacing with other consultants in how we all work together as a team to solve problems for our customers and clients.”
Comby credits her GT volleyball experience in making her a candidate for the real world.
“As I’m going through interviews and as I’m talking to people and networking — like even today, I was talking to someone — I was comfortable saying that I’ll work harder than the next person and that I will put in extra time and I will be more disciplined and hard-working than the person next to me,’” she said. “I think I have those qualities of being a student-athlete that I think a lot of student-athletes do have.”
Comby has had interviews in Atlanta and hopes to do so in Dallas and Houston, where CBRE also has offices. She’s grateful for the helping hand of CBRE executive vice president Brent Woodruff.
“Brent Woodruff has been really, really helpful with my networking, connecting me with other people. Hopefully something will come from that,” she said. “Starting out, I want to go into commercial real estate. That really interests me. Maybe being a financial analyst somewhere, doing the grunt work then running the numbers and learning more about the industry than I already know.”
While Kodie doesn’t necessarily know where her first real-world destination will be, she is appreciative of where she has been. She not only would not change a thing she’s done, but is actively encouraging prospective Georgia Tech student-athletes to follow her path.
“I actually recommended it to a recruit that’s coming in soon,” she said. “She asked if I liked it, if she should do it and I totally recommend it! I think school-wise it will help and I think volleyball-wise it will help. So I don’t think there are any cons to coming in early. Getting used to the team and getting more connected for the fall season was really important and helped me a ton. So, for sure, I’d recommend it.”
As she heads into Saturday and prepares to move on into the bright future ahead, there’s one thing she still needs to do.
“Moving would help,” she said with a laugh. “I have to move out of my apartment, soon.”