The following was written by former Louisville kicker and 2006 Lou Groza Award winner Art Carmody
We are about to hit that lull in the sports world where no Cardinal news is usually good news, (unless it's us getting invited to the Big 12) and where we have to start reading about Mike's softball team, so I figured now was as good a time as any to post something for Carmody's Corner.
I first want to apologize for not keeping up with the posts over the past year. My job, other community boards and activities, as well as playing in a church basketball league during the spring and summer (and yes, you better believe anytime I make a good pass or shot, I yell out "Nice pass, Art") kept me from writing on a weekly basis. Also, it's been almost 5 years since I last donned a Cardinal uniform, and I don't want to be that old guy who keeps writing about old stuff, memories, etc. that might not be relevant in 2012. However, if I feel that something needs to be said or if I can share a story that appeases the people, then you will see it on Card Chronicle.
The point of this post is to inform you all about what the summer program is like, and what the actual requirements are for the players, coaches, etc, as well as other thoughts that I have. I dedicate this post to my good friend CardsFan922 who I have never officially met, and who still owes me a ride after refusing to stop the car when I was walking by myself in the freezing cold after a Cards game two years ago. I haven't forgotten.
After spring ball there is usually another week that follows where players will work out, go through post spring meetings with strength coaches and position coaches, and then be dismissed for the period before finals. This was sometimes a tough week for guys because this was when you re-signed your scholarship papers for another year. A list would be posted in the locker room with the names of guys who were to go upstairs and sign. Scholarships are a year-long guarantee (not four years) and have to be renewed year each. You cannot have your scholarship pulled for athletic performance, but there would be another list of guys that were on scholarship that needed to see the coach. A majority of these were academic related, but there were a few players each year that, for whatever you want to call it, just were just not going to play the following season. The coaches would meet with them, discuss their previous seasons and spring practice, and let the player decide if they wanted to stay or if they wanted to transfer somewhere else. About 99.9% of the time the players (who want to play) end up transferring to another school. The coaches help any way that they can, and some guys have gone on to have great careers at other schools. It is just part of big time college football.
After finals, the weight room is usually be open if guys wanted to get an extra lift in, but for the most part the football facility is relatively quiet. The first summer school session starts in May, and some players that live in town or who want to get ahead in classes (or catch up if they are behind) will stay. Everyone is given a two-week lifting program to maintain what gains were made in the spring, as well as a two-week conditioning program to prepare them for the summer. I am not quire sure what the exact NCAA rules are (I don't think anyone really is), but the school must give the player a certain amount of time off from their respective sport. Therefore, the football program would give us about 2 to 3 weeks in May, a week in the summer (usually scheduled around the 4th of July) and then usually 2-3 days before camp starts in August.
On Memorial Day I would fly back to Louisville from Louisiana and we would usually have a team meeting that night to go over summer workout times and other details (summer school, days off, guys that did well in the classroom, etc.) I always looked forward to this meeting because it was great to see everyone that was returning, and it meant that the season was somewhat close. I've broken down the summer into certain categories, which should help clear up what goes on in the summer.
"VOLUNTARY" SUMMER WORKOUTS
We lifted and ran four days of the week (Mon, Tue, Thurs, and Fri). Monday and Thursday would usually be speed work days, while Tues and Fri would be heavy conditioning days, usually broken into four quarters.
Not going to lie, I hated every heavy conditioning day.
The offensive and defensive lineman would run together, the defensive backs, running backs, and wide receivers would run together, and the quarterbacks, tight ends, linebackers, and kickers would run together. There were usually four workout groups, 6 am, 8 am, 11 am and 1 pm. They would usually group you into groups based on your summer school schedule and position work schedule. The key word in this paragraph is voluntary. If you don't show up to a workout, by NCAA rule you can't be punished. However, there is an unwritten rule that if you don't show up, you won't play. Also, the majority of the guys on the team have too much respect for their teammates and the program to be skipping workouts.
Nowadays, almost all of the freshmen report for the start of the summer to take classes and get acclimated to college football. It's fun to see these guys come in as freshmen, go through workouts, and produce on the field. I vividly remember meeting Eric Wood on his first day as a Cardinal, he was so nice and polite that I was convinced there was no way he was going to be able to compete with the other linemen. But what I didn't know was that he was a beast in the weight room and on the field, and the rest is history.
The coaches are busy during the month of May recruiting and getting ready for the summer football camps that the school has in the summer. The position coaches can't have a lot of contact with the players unless it is in the complex, they cant be out coaching on the field or in the weight room, so usually they will take a couple of weeks for vacation with their families. This is why having good strength coaches is vital because of the amount of time spent with the players. They are a big, big reason for a team's success. Also, this is where a lot of the work for game plans for opponents will get their starts, especially if there is a short week during the season (ex: playing on a Saturday morning and then turning around and playing a Thursday night game). The coaches will put in base stuff for teams based on who is coming back, what the opposing coordinators like to do, etc. Then they adjust based on film throughout the season. That maximizes time spent with players during the game week. Don't worry, if you haven't noticed already, Charlie Strong and staff are very, very good coaches.
Like I said before, all of the scholarship players take summer school. Other than getting ahead for the next school year, one of the other reasons you take summer school is in order to get a scholarship check to cover rent, food, etc. The NCAA allows for this to cover costs associated with being in school, and this is needed, because unlike most college students, it is very, very hard to maintain a job throughout the summer with workouts, classes, and position work. Players get two checks, one in June and one in July.
I am about to sound really dumb here, but two of my favorite classes were taken during the summer: "History of Rock & Roll" and "Acting For Non-Majors." Both of them counted towards arts credits for my finance degree.
This is where all of the work that goes in can be translated into what you see on Saturdays. It was my favorite part of the summer and where I got all of my work in. No coaches can be on the field in the summer time, so these were run solely by the players.
The position work was done on Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday. There was a lot of trash talking in these drills and a lot of competitiveness. They are always competitive, but it really turns up a notch in July. Each position group would do drills to start, working on individual techniques, etc. Then the o-line and d-line would work on moves against each other while the skill players would go 7-on-7. Eventually the whole team would be watching 7-on-7. It didn't matter which year it was, but It was especially fun to watch the 2004 team during summer workouts, not just because of how good the offense and defense were, but for just how deep we were as a team.
This summer would be a lot of fun to watch with Teddy Bridgewater and those receivers going up against Hakeem Smith and the rest of the secondary. That competition is great for getting everyone ready for the season. After that the kickers and punters would get their work in while everyone else left. This is why Harry Douglas is my favorite football player: after doing 7-on-7 he would stay for as long as I needed him to hold. And I would make the freshmen kickers and punters shag the footballs.
EA SPORTS NCAA FOOTBALL
This is pretty much a national holiday for division one football players, as almost everyone has pre-ordered the game or will wait until midnight and go to Best Buy to get it. It's fun to hear guys talk about the new features, the stadiums, graphics, how realistic it is, etc., but my favorite thing is listening to them talk about how they are rated in the game. The universal response is something close to, "man, they got me rated way too low, who comes up with this shit, I am going to call or write a letter, or something."
For about two weeks this dominates most of the conversations amongst the team, and I am sure still goes on today. You also have to hear about the guys who somehow are already in year 9 of their dynasty and how they aren't happy with their recruiting class, or their teams prestige. One of my favorite memories of playing NCAA was when Brian Brohm and I played a game and he played as himself. I intercepted three of his passes and he went into a rant about how "this game is not realistic, that would never happen," and Blake Williams, a Louisville baseball player commented, "no, looks pretty realistic to me."
One of the beauties of college football is that each year you have a new team, new leaders emerge, roles are filled, and come August 1st after all of the freshman and walk-ons have arrived, you have the guys you will take the field with. Throughout the summer the strength coaches would have a team competition where they would draft up teams to compete in timed obstacle style workouts. This would usually be right before the 4th of July break at 5 in the morning. The teams were usually evenly matched, with the main point being that you are only as strong as your weakest link. I was never really good at the feats of strength obstacles, like flipping way too big tractor tires, or dragging a sled with what seemed like 800 pounds on it, but was a first round pick in stadium running. Also throughout the summer we would have team runs early in the morning, where the whole team would go through conditioning together.
All in all, the summer is a two-month grind that gets the team ready to go before August camp. Once camp starts there is no time to get in shape, learn the plays, or learn to compete. That has to be done in June and July. The games that are won in the 4th quarter are won during the summer. This is why a dropped pass, blown assignment, missed tackle, or any other mistake is tough to swallow as a player because of the time spent during the summer and camp getting ready for the season.
I don't plan on writing something every week, but will pop up every now and then with stuff. I plan on trying to get some former players to answer questions, guest post, etc. And I am still waiting on Eric Wood to take over at some point, because quite frankly he is the man.
A few quick thoughts before I exit.
Enjoyed seeing everyone down in New Orleans for the Final Four. My college roommate, Justin Deeley (now a television star on 90210), flew in from Los Angeles and we made the trip down on Saturday. I was so happy to finally be around my people, especially former Cards athletes. As I am sure many of you can attest to, it can be depressing being a Cards fan in another state.
Great seeing everyone, and hope to see all of you again in Atlanta next year, and Dallas a year later. Thanks to Mike for re-activating my CC Corporate Card, my expense report is in the mail.
Speaking of people I saw down in New Orleans, I ran into Jack Sisterson, former Cards soccer player, and who also was a member of the 2007 football team as a backup kicker. We loved having Jack on the team, mainly because he was an awesome team player, and wouldn't smoke the rest of the kickers and punters in conditioning drills even though he could run for days. Anyways, he is now the assistant trainer for I'll Have Another, who is hoping to make history next weekend at the Belmont Stakes by winning horse racing's Triple Crown.
I am always excited for any Cards football season, but this one feels different. I feel that Coach Strong has firmly put his signature on the program and that as fans we are about to see just how hard this man has worked to get the program back to where it belongs.
Last year's team was fun to watch because of a "what if" curiosity about the young players and how they might look on the field. This year's team has another "what if" curiosity about it, but this "what if" has to do with just how great they can be. The fall in Louisville is a great place to be, and this fall should be extra special.