by Jacki Mick
Orlando-born Vanessa Hayden-Johnson is competing in the latest season of NBC's The Biggest Loser, which premieres 8 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 11. Hayden will be joining 19 other former athletes on a special season of the weight-loss show called The Biggest Loser: Glory Days.
Retired from the WNBA in 2010, Johnson is currently employed as a Child Welfare Intake and Placement Specialist. Before her professional basketball career, she attended Boone High School, where she played basketball for the Boone Braves. from there, she received an athletic scholarship to the University of Florida, winning SEC Defensive Player of the year in her senior year.
In 2004, she selected seventh in the WNBA draft by the Minnesota Lynx, playing for them until 2007 when she took a year off for the birth of her first child. In 2009, Johnson was traded to the Los Angeles Sparks, who released her in 2010.
According to her bio on NBC, "Johnson believes the Sparks let her go because of her weight gain. Her weight problems accelerated after her retirement as a result of poor diet and lack of exercise. Now 32 years old and 366 pounds, Vanessa suffers from severe back and joint pain. She is engaged and wants to get healthy so she can be there for her seven-year-old daughter and one-year-old son. Her daughter has expressed an interest in sports, and Hayden looks forward to teaching her the game of basketball after she loses the weight."
Hayden-Johnson is joined in her weight loss quest by fellow athletes Damien Woody from the New England Patriots, Zina Garrison, a former professional tennis player, Olympic gold medal-winning softball player Lori Harrigan, retired NFL player Scott Mitchell and more.
Here's a preview of the new season: