My Day with Charlie

About 600 women attended Charlie Strong’s Women’s Football Clinic on Saturday. I was among them, and I wanted to share some of my experience with you all.

As soon as my group disembarked the elevators to the PNC Bank Suite (which is the super nice club area inside the new addition to PJCS) we were greeted by Coach Kenny Carter. “I see that some of you ladies aren’t smiling,” he barked. “If you can’t smile, get your little ass out of here!” (I, for one, took his statement as a compliment: he thought our posteriors were “little.")

The ribbing didn’t end there. One woman arrived wearing an Auburn T-shirt (why?) and Coach Clint Hurtt had a lot to say about that. “This isn’t Auburn, this is the University of Louisville.” He then insisted that the woman put on the pink T-shirt that was given to all of the participants. (The T-shirt reads “Coach Charlie’s Angels” on the front, and has a cool graphic of a U of L helmet with a halo and wings on the back. You’ll probably spot a few at football games this season.) Later, during one of his talks to the ladies, HCCS also mentioned the woman in the Auburn shirt and said that we have to get our program to the level of their program.

We all had the opportunity to pose with Charlie for a photo. I snuck back in line for a second photo-op with a friend, (plus I wanted to feel Charlie’s arm around me again).

Charlie opened up the morning introducing his staff and telling us about his schedule during the season (insane, 12 hour work days, 7 days a week). He was very personable and funny and promised that his teams will always work hard. He also mentioned that academics were very important to him and the situation with losing scholarships was “water under the bridge” but he was going to make sure we didn’t lose any more.  HCCS credited the strength and conditioning coaches for a lot of 4th quarter wins last year and said that all but three of the freshman are on campus and working out, and this early start is going to be a great boost to their performance this year.

Different staff members spoke to us throughout the morning, including the trainer, nutritionist and equipment manager. Of note, we will be using new brands of helmets this year because they were concerned with the number of concussions our players sustained last year.

Many of the well-known players were in attendance, including Will Stein, Greg Scruggs, Dexter Heyman, Mario Benavides, Stephon Ball and Josh Chichester. During a Q&A session, we learned that Dexter Heyman’s secret talent is singing, and after much applause he sang part of “I’ve got Sunshine,” including a stunning falsetto. 

All of the players were really cute and well-spoken, and they really made the day a lot of fun. One of the questions they answered was regarding how they deal with UK fans. Stephon Ball took the mic and told a story. He and Greg Scruggs wait tables at the Texas Roadhouse in Shively during the summer. Just a few weeks ago, a woman in a blue shirt was at one of Stephon’s tables. She asked him if he played basketball. He replied that he played football and she asked where. When he said, “Louisville,” the “classy” patron spit her food into her napkin and said she couldn’t eat it. Her husband apologized for her, and after he yelled at her, she apologized. Stephon said it didn’t bother him because she still had to pay for her meal, so why would he care if she actually ate it or not. He didn’t mention how they tipped.

After the player Q&A we had a boxed lunch (sandwiches, fruit, chips and cookies) and then we heard from the coaching staff. Defensive coordinator Vance Bedford was hilarious. He said that he teaches his guys that the ball is food and they are starving. They have to be hungry and chase down anyone with the ball and take it away. He interposed Discovery Channel clips of lions and cheetahs stalking and attacking prey, with clips of U of L defensive plays. When the crowd of women let out a sad “oooooh” when the poor gazelle was killed, he yelled at us, “Don’t ‘oooooooooh’! You got to be huuuuungry!) He explained the different defenses we run and stressed emphatically that we don’t run a “prevent” defense. We are going to be aggressive.

Finally it was time to go out onto the field and as my sore legs can attest today, they weren’t easy on us when it came to the drills. We ran warm-ups in the Trager Center (including a suicide run) and attempted to complete a ladder of more than 80 situps and pushups (“No girlie pushups! Get your knees up!”). We moved to the stadium were we ran drills at different stations, including footwork drills, passing and catching the football, and tackling inflatable dummies. I would like to publicly mention that I caught several passes from Will Stein himself and he told me “Good job.”

It was scorching hot, about 100 degrees. and the turf reflected the heat back up at you. After two hours and 10 bottles of water I was done-zo. I have no idea how the players endure much more difficult workouts in full pads. I definitely gained more respect for the hard work they put in.

Charlie closed out the camp by promising a bigger and better camp next year, and asked us to move up our tailgate times so we can be in our seats 1 hour and 15 minutes before the start of each game so that the players can see us and feel our support during warm-ups.   

Also of note for you fellas, Charlie said they will not be holding a similar camp for the gentlemen because inevitably they would act like 15-year-old boys trying out for the team, and in an attempt to prove how awesome and macho they are, people would end up getting hurt.

There are so many other anecdotes from the day that I could regale you with, but I will stop here. Overall, it was a fun day that further confirmed our football program is headed in the right direction.

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