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Carmody's Corner: On offseason workouts

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The following was written by former Louisville kicker and 2006 Lou Groza Award winner Art Carmody

Hope everyone had a safe and happy new year. 

It's hard to believe the college football season will come to an end on Monday night.  The games may end, but for the Cardinals, the goals for 2011 will begin.  This starts with recruiting and off-season workouts.  For this week’s post I will touch on the beginning of off-season workouts.

The off-season was something that I hated and loved at the same time.  There are no games to prepare for, it's cold, and you are constantly in the weight room or running.  The fun part is being around your teammates and knowing that what you put in is going to pay off down the road.  The best part about the game of football is that you can honestly break it down into the four seasons.  There is winter off-season, spring ball, summer workouts, and then the actual football season in the fall.  The winter is the best time to make strides in becoming a better athlete and a smarter player. 

We would do all of our heavy lifting in the winter and make tremendous gains as a team in strength, speed, and flexibility.  Players would also use it to get together with each other and watch film from the previous season’s games and practices to find weaknesses that they wanted to improve on whether they were physical or mental.  It was well documented about the film study that Eric Wood would do in the off-season to become a better football player.  He is a prime example of how using the off-season can push you from being a good player to being a great player.  You would also find different position groups (wide receivers and defensive backs; o-line and d-line) watching film together to help coach each other up. 

Here are some of my favorite memories from off-season workouts.

T-Shirts in 2005.  When we would come back from winter break (or lack thereof) there would be new workout t-shirts in our lockers.  They would usually represent our off-season motto that the strength coaches would come up with.  For example, in 2006 the t-shirts had "Finish" on them to represent us not finishing games we should have won in 2005.  In the 2004 season we went 11-1 and showed the nation that we were a team that had the ability to beat anyone.  Going into the Big East the thought was that we were the team to beat and that we were going to have a target on us.  Our t-shirts had a big target on the back and our motto (at first) was that we would not be a target. 

Petrino got pissed about these shirts and we had a team meeting about it.  He had us all throw them away and told us that we would not be targets, that we would be the ones striking first.  They ordered new shirts with sharks on them.  He wanted us to be like sharks, whose first instinct when they smell the smallest drop of blood is to attack.  I loved the shirt and wish I still had it.  The problem with them being the workout shirts was that they would get so beat up and destroyed that you had no choice but to toss it at the end of the season. 

Dane Mattingly bending the time-space continuum.  If anyone knows Dane personally please ask him about this,  I guarantee you will get a laugh or smile from him. 

Dane was the highlight of my off-season workouts, the one guy who would for sure give you a laugh.  The specialists always worked out with the 6 am group in the winter on Mon, Tue, Thurs, and Fri.  Every morning it was the same routine for me, wake up at 5:15, eat a granola bar, make enough noise to maybe wake up Brian in the other room, and then keep my fingers crossed hoping that my car wasn’t covered in ice and snow.  There were many a days that I drove Ace Ventura style with my head out of the side window so I could see.  Not a lot of fun and it's amazing I never caught the flu from doing this. 

Anyways, back to Dane.  Dane hates getting up early, known fact.  The workouts started at 6 am sharp. The first week he was usually fine, but as the days and weeks would add up he would start cutting it really close.  This would be a game for the rest of the specialists and our assistant strength coach Tim Socha, and eventually assistant strength coach Bryan Dermody.  When we would walk into the weight room they would ask if Dane was in the locker room yet.  If the answer were yes, then no poll would be taken.  If the answer was no, then we would take a poll on if Dane would make it on time or not.  We would then watch for his car lights to show up in the parking lot.   Dane had this down to almost an exact science.  He would literally show up at 5:57, run in the locker room, change into workout gear, and be in the weight room at 5:59:58 like clock work. 

One instance in particular will live in specialists’ lore.  As the clock hit 5:59 we saw Dane’s car turn into the parking lot.  The consensus was that there was no way he was going to pull this off.  We watched the clock as the seconds wound down, and at 6:00:01 he comes running into the locker room, right on time to start.  I will never forget Paul Belshoff’s (backup long-snapper and speed school student) comment: "I don’t know how Dane just bent the time-space continuum, but that was the most impressive thing I have seen all year."

Our strength coaches.  Even though strength coaches can be nuts sometimes, Louisville has had some really good ones over the past few years which I will list below.  The important thing to remember here is that as players we spend almost all of our time with these guys from January-April, and then May-August because of NCAA rules that limit how much time we have on practice fields, with our position coaches, etc.  The strength coaches know the players better than anyone else on campus and that is the reason why when NFL Scouts come to campus the first person they want to speak with is the strength coach.  The scouts want to know the player’s work ethic, leadership ability, coachability, etc., and the strength staff usually has all the answers from how players act in the weight room.

-Pat Moorer (current strength coach) – I don’t really have to say anything about him, he has done an incredible job his first year on campus.  Can’t wait to see how he helps improve this team from last year to this year. 

-Jason Veltkamp – Head Strength Coach (2004-2007), currently head strength coach at Arkansas.  Coach Veltkamp played for Coach Petrino’s dad at Carroll College and before coming to Louisville was a strength coach at Utah under Urban Meyer.  He has done a great job wherever he has been and really helped set the tone for our 2004 season when he arrived in December of 2003.  He treated every player the same and gave us the Iron Sharpens Iron mentality, which means that as players we have to push each other to make us better as a team.  He went with Coach Petrino to Arkansas and has done a great job there. 

-Tim Socha – Assistant Strength Coach 2004 to spring 2006, currently the head strength coach at Boise State.  If there were one person who helped me reach my goals in college it would be Tim Socha.  He worked a lot with the specialists and gave our group the nickname "Regulators."  He also enjoyed making fun of Dane Mattingly for anything and everything that Dane would ever do.  I owe a lot of my success as a Cardinal to Coach Socha and enjoy watching his Boise State teams play. 

Notable Graduate Assistant Strength Coaches that have gone on to do great things:

Clif Marshall – now owns and operates Ignition Athletics Performance Group, based out of Cincinnati.  Clif went from Louisville to the Cincinnati Bengals and now owns Ignition.  They currently have helped 33 players get to the NFL. 

Ryan Russell – former intern is now an assistant strength coach with the Auburn Tigers as they prepare to play in the National Championship.

Antoine Sharp- Former player (2004-2005) that was a GA in 2006 and 2007.  He was tremendous with helping the freshman get acclimated and is now an assistant at Arkansas.  He will make an excellent strength coach down the road. 

Every Friday we would do our heavy squat lifting, which would tire our legs out, and then break into teams for a competition.  The competition would usually be a series of events in the weight room, which required you and your team to work together to win. The fastest time through the events would take first place.  It sounds easy but the events were designed to wear you out, which could put the burden on your teammates, because if you were struggling to finish one station, your teammates would be struggling at their respective stations due to the fact that they can't move on until you complete your task.  These were a lot of fun and great team building events.  You learned quickly which teammates you could trust, the ones who wouldn’t quit, and the ones who needed work.  The All-Stars out of our early morning group that you always wanted to be on a team with were Todd Flannery, Dane Mattingly, and Daniel Covington. 

Mat Drills would usually start in the middle of February.  These would allow for the coaches to be on the field with us, but there could be no footballs used.  The coaches would use these as ways to incorporate football specific conditioning drills to help each position group become better.  QB’s might work on scrambling techniques or getting out of the pocket techniques, receivers would work on their routes up and down the field running, etc.  Before we had the indoor facility these were all done outside at 5:30 am in Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium. 

The locker room would always be quiet and depressing at first.  Harry Douglas somehow got in charge of the stereo system as the official DJ of Mat Drills.  He did a really good job putting together CD’s or choosing a particular group to listen to.  I remember D4L got a lot of plays back in 2006.  It would be quiet, Harry would come in, turn on the CD, and get guys pumped up for mat drills as much as they could be pumped up. Then when we would get back in the locker room after they were done he would crank up the same CD. 

Guys would come all bundled up in every sweatshirt and cold gear they could find to stay warm, but fifteen minutes into it they would be down to their shorts and one sweatshirt.  The problem with all the players doing position specific conditioning drills were that as kickers we didn’t have any position specific conditioning.  Therefore, we ran almost the entire time.  We would run around the field, sprint around the field, run stadiums, etc.  These were the times I wished I were a quarterback so that I could fake a handoff, pretend to be running out of the pocket, do a ten-yard sprint, and grab a drink of water.  Oh yeah, we had plenty of time to watch what everyone else was doing as we ran up and down the stadium steps.  The mat drills were useful in that they helped with conditioning, but also helped make us better football players (except the kickers, we just learned how to run marathons)

Quick Thoughts and Nuggets from this past week. 

-I will have more on recruiting in another blog, but I have never been a huge fan of recruiting or really cared until this off-season.  Charlie Strong has made it fun to follow the recruits and I found myself recording and watching the Under Armour All-America game to get a glimpse of Eli Rogers.  Looking forward to getting a glimpse of Teddy Bridgewater this weekend. 

-I felt bad for Coach Petrino and the Razorbacks after their tough loss to Ohio State.  Brian Bennett, who does a great job blogging for the Big East on ESPN.com, posed a question earlier in the week asking how Louisville fans feel about Coach Petrino four years after he left, and if they root for him.  As a former player I want to answer that question on this forum.  I have pulled for Coach Petrino each time he has taken the field since he left to be the head coach of the Atlanta Falcons.  I really wanted him to get that Sugar Bowl win.

-Best of luck to all of the former Cardinals in the NFL Playoffs.  Deion Branch – New England, Harry Douglas and Chris Redman -Atlanta, Jason Spitz – Green Bay, David Akers - Philadelphia, Hunter Cantwell – Baltimore, Breno Giacomini –Seattle, and William Gay – Pittsburgh.  

-Great win by the Louisville basketball team against Seton Hall.  March will be right around the corner. 

-Happy Birthday to Miss CC, whose birthday was earlier this week.  Hope it was a great one.