Our industry has a terrible habit of glamourizing the wrong things. We allow self-promoters to thrive off of terrible training, Twitter videos and bicep curls. Why? In part due to our society. Training and building a culture of discipline and accountability isn’t exciting. We want to see the thrilling stuff and the #KEWL stuff. No one wants to watch the countless hours someone spends mentoring an athlete or developing their staff as they watch Last Chance U.

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The guys who do it right don’t get highlighted enough in my opinion. These are the men who train hard, coach hard, and develop all those around them just as hard. I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to talk to a few coaches I hold in the highest of regards in our field: Coach Ryan Davis (Colorado State), Coach Brian Johnson (Arizona), Coach Dantonio Burnette (NC State), and Coach Rodney Hill (UCF). Each of these men are great attributes not only to the field of strength and conditioning but also to the development of future generations of men. In the first part of this two-part interview, I ask the following questions:

  • Talk to us about your journey and how you arrived at this point.
  • What is your coaching philosophy, and how has it evolved over the years?
  • Big picture: What has changed in your program as you’ve grown in the field?
  • What are the overarching key goals of your summer training block?


When I started coaching, I actually came in through the campus recreation route. I volunteered at my undergraduate university, Rowan University, which was a D-III program. Playing football there, I developed relationships with the recreational staff. Keith Wenrich was the director of campus recreation at Rowan at the time. He is now the director of campus recreation at the University of Georgia. Keith was my first phone call when I decided to start coaching. I worked in campus recreation during the day, taught various fitness classes, and coached teams in the evening. This led to my getting the opportunity to do a graduate assistantship at the University of West Florida (UWF), where I was housed under campus recreation as a facilities graduate assistant and hired as an adjunct strength coach.

In graduate school, I did everything from sweeping floors to putting up tents, taking the trash out, and coaching on squats and cleans. When I was at UWF, we did not have football. Coach Kent Morgan, the current director of strength and conditioning at UWF, helped to set up an internship at the University of Alabama during the summer of 2009. Throughout the internship, I worked directly with football and various other sports, including women’s soccer, gymnastics, tennis, crew, and volleyball. I was committed to working hard and to learning from as many coaches as possible. In the fall of 2009, I returned to UWF to finish my last year as a graduate assistant. After that experience, I accepted a full-time position with football at the University of Louisville. I worked under Head Coach Charlie Strong and Head Strength Coach Pat Moorer. I stayed at the University of Louisville for just over six months before returning to the University of Alabama as a full-time assistant with football and three Olympic sports. I stayed at the University of Alabama for two more seasons before claiming the head strength coaching job at Samford University, working for Coach Pat Sullivan. I stayed at Samford University for three seasons before leaving for my current head strength coaching position at Colorado State University.

Working at the University of Alabama has helped to shape me in terms of the structure and organization of a performance program. Working under Coach Sullivan at Samford University taught me the value of relationships. Honestly, the most important thing to me in terms of a philosophy is that success is built on relationships. I do not think it is a coincidence that some of the most recognized names in our field are spoken highly of by their peers, athletes, co-workers, coaches, etc. I believe in always assuming the best of others and in investing in the hearts and souls of those around you. As a staff, we are committed to being on the cutting edge of research and development as long as it lies within the framework of our system. In my opinion, none of that means anything if a coach can’t develop and sustain meaningful relationships with his or her athletes.

The biggest thing that has changed for our program over the years is the football program as a whole. When I came to Colorado State University, we had four strength coaches for football. We now have five paid positions for football and a comprehensive internship program every semester. We take five interns and give them the best coaching experiences of their lives. We have a full-time dietician for football and one for Olympic sports. Our dietician for football has an entire staff dedicated to our football team. We have incorporated the use of technology into our program, from data tracking, assessments, and movement screening to wearable technology. My first year, we were in the basement of a 40-ish-year-old facility with 8mm flooring and five racks. We now have a brand-new state-of-the-art facility that is only for football. We have some great people, and I am blessed to be a part of something so special. Our sport medicine, nutrition, mental health, and strength and conditioning programs for football have all grown to be a fully comprehensive football performance program.

For us, at Colorado State University, summer is about becoming as strong as possible and achieving prime physical conditions. This is the time when we get the team ready for the rigors of fall camp. It is important for us to prepare the guys to be in the kind of shape that prepares them to play the game, while also being strong enough to withstand the demands of the sport and position. We also feel that we can have a positive effect on the team’s mindset by training our athletes to think, focus, and process under fatigue and distress. Our conditioning in the summer is where we really apply pressure to the team to teach them how to have a positive response to the stressors and demands of the game.


I began my coaching career as an assistant defensive lineman coach at Kutztown University, a D-II university in Kutztown, Pennsylvania. From there, I interned at Penn State University in 2014, where I helped with football and a myriad of other sports. In 2015, I became a graduate assistant for Mercer University, where I assisted with football and oversaw five sports of my own. In 2016, I returned to my alma mater, Howard University, as the director of strength and conditioning, where I oversaw and implemented the strength and conditioning programs for all 19 sports, including football. In 2017, I was fortunate to work for the New York Football Giants as a seasonal intern for the offseason and regular season. Currently, I am the assistant director for football sport performance at the University of Central Florida, where I am in charge of football sport nutrition and intern curriculum and development.

My coaching “philosophy” is built around four things: sending the message that the head coach wants to get across, building relationships with every athlete I encounter, putting athletes in environments where they need to compete, and meeting the individual needs of each athlete. My philosophy has changed with every place I have been; I am relatively young, especially for this industry, and I still have a lot of growing to do. With that being said, one thing I have learned is that your philosophy will change with every place you go, but your principles will almost always stay the same.

This falls in line with my philosophy; everything will not work everywhere. Just because you are doing something a specific way at a specific place does not mean it will work somewhere else with a different group of athletes. I think the biggest thing I’ve learned about programming and my philosophy is that you have to be able to adapt to the environment in which you find yourself. As long as you have your own foundational principles, you will be fine and can make your program work no matter the environment you’re in.

As an assistant, my goals are the goals of Coach Schmidt, from whom I have learned a lot in my short time here at UCF. However, like most strength and conditioning coaches, our goal for the summer is to get the guys to adapt to the demands being placed on them on the field and in the weight room in hopes that they will be able to withstand the demands placed on them during practice throughout the whole season.


I played at Louisiana State University (LSU) from 2002-2006 under Coaches Nick Saban and Les Miles. I was an undrafted free agent in the National Football League (NFL) for three years and retired due to an injury. However, after completing rehab and recovery, I reached out to Jimbo Fisher at Florida State University (FSU), and he offered me an entry-level position. Two years after starting at FSU, I accepted the position of head strength and conditioning at the University of Akron. Soon after accepting the Akron position, I was offered a job with a former head strength and conditioning coach and mentor, Tommy Moffitt. Three years later, I took a job with the San Francisco 49ers, where I spent two years as an assistant under Mark Uyeyama. I spent one year at Texas A&M University as the first assistant and now I'm the director of strength and conditioning at the University of Arizona. I have been extremely fortunate to work for and learn from some amazing, tenured head coaches in my field, like Moffitt (LSU) and Mark Ueyama (Minnesota Vikings). I continue to surround myself with a diverse group of strength and conditioning minds.

My general philosophy is to make sure that my athletes move more powerfully and more efficiently than their opponents do by using the framework of a ground-based program that includes Olympic lifts. My more specific philosophy for developing more powerful and more efficient athletes stems from a science and experience-based evolution. As I evolve, my program evolves: I use new technology, tools, protocols for recovery, nutrition, and bioidentical micro/macronutrient specificity with regard to tissue regeneration, and fuel recovery. In all of that new learning, some get mixed in, and some doesn’t, and my philosophy of how I get to more powerful and efficient athletes changes. My philosophy has evolved from my first coaching job, and I will continue to revisit it as my career continues. At the same time, I will continue to stick to the more traditional principles that laid the foundation for my program.

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I have learned and implemented global positioning system (GPS) technology, obtained data, and presented the interpretation of these data to sport coaches so that they understand them. In my presentations, I explain the results, benefits, and usefulness of the reports and can make adjustments as needed. Along with implementing the GPS, I have learned to implement other aspects of sport science to coincide with any conclusions I may find in a GPS report for a particular day. Many things tie into an athlete’s performance, recovery/sleep, hydration, nutrition, etc. The tricky part is being able to find the right pieces of the puzzle but also figuring out how these pieces connect into what makes the BIG picture. Having and using a bunch of tools is great, but how we use them to draw a conclusion is the key. My confidence in my ability to run a position-specific program, which involves many moving parts and set-ups as well as different movements in one group, has evolved. This is largely due to my ability to coach my assistant coaches and to communicate coaching points and points of emphasis clearly so that I am confident in their ability to execute a station/movement/drill while I am somewhere else on the field or in the room.

First and foremost, the summer is a way to echo the head coach’s vision (culture) on a daily basis. Player safety is an everyday priority because summer is the hottest time of the year. Programming for the summer always involves the goal of becoming bigger, faster (improving running mechanics and output), and stronger with an emphasis on progressing to our end goal. I apply a model where all aspects of training are involved, with some taking precedence over others depending on the phase and block. Of course, you want to take care of any issues like common injuries, individual deficiencies, limitations, or other general issues. The purpose of summer is to improve and also to get the team ready for the rigors of camp and then the season.


My journey into this profession started back in 2003 after I was released from the Pittsburgh Steelers as a free agent. I came back to Raleigh, North Carolina, and was training to stay in shape just in case I received a call, and to make extra money. During this time, I decided to become a personal trainer at Beyond Fitness Gym. My then-Coach Chuck Amato offered me the opportunity to intern with the football team both in the weight room and on the field. My hard work granted me the opportunity to become a graduate assistant in the weight room after interning that semester, and it was a no-brainer for me to join the staff because strength and conditioning was something I had always loved. This time in my life was important because it gave me the opportunity to develop a direction and a new goal to obtain, and I ended up graduating with my master’s degree. During that time, we experienced a change in coaching staff, and I was fortunate enough to be kept on as a full-time assistant during that transition. I worked as an assistant strength coach at State for six years before heading to Pittsburgh to work for Paul Chryst and his staff during the 2012 season.

After being in the Steel City for a season, I was offered a unique opportunity to come back home to North Carolina State University and work under new Head Football Coach Dave Doeren. During this time, my wife was pregnant with my first son, and the opportunity to get her back home to North Carolina around her family was an easy decision. I felt that coming back to Raleigh and working under a new regime was in God’s plan and only sharpened my skills. I did not care about being the top or the last assistant because I concluded that I had to decrease to increase. Therefore, I took the job and worked my butt off. That decision paid off, and I was blessed to be promoted to assistant head strength coach within one year. After two years of working in that role and running our intro, developmental, and long-term- and short-term-injured program, I was promoted to the director of strength and conditioning. After two years of doing a great job of helping to develop our culture and program into a top-25 program, people started to take note of what we were doing here at State. In January of this year, I received a call from the school’s administration stating that they wanted to promote me to assistant athletic director/director of strength and conditioning for football. This promotion was a blessing and created a lot buzz about the development we have going on in our program, in which we have had five athletes attend the NFL Draft combine. Seven were drafted, and eight other guys signed free agent deals in one class. I have been blessed and fortunate to work at my alma mater and to work for a football program that believes in my staff’s and my ability to develop young men mentally and physically. Most importantly, it has been awesome to see our student athletes take on the personality of my staff and me by upholding a high standard in the classroom, on the field, and in the community.

My philosophy has evolved over the years based on my experience and growth in the profession. I’ve been blessed to work for five strength coaches who hail from different backgrounds. This experience has given me the opportunity to learn different ways of developing athletes, but I can truly say that my philosophy is based on weightlifting principles. I believe that my philosophy is simple and is all about using a multifaceted approach to develop our athletes from the ground up, by using ground-based exercises. This process starts with the evaluation of our student athletes and then focuses on improving their movement patterns and ability to bend so that they can play in space, stop, start, accelerate, and decelerate. For me, at the end of the day, it’s all called athletic development. I am not trying to make our athletes weightlifters, powerlifters, bodybuilders, or Olympic sprinters, but I have learned how to apply the science and the key concepts of these disciplines to truly develop a well-rounded student athlete.

I don’t know if any big-picture things have truly changed over the years because at the end of the day, what has been will be done again, and none of us are re-inventing the wheel. I do believe that I started to become a much better strength coach after graduate school, once I started to truly understand the importance of the central nervous system (CNS) and how it affects performance (more on that in a bit). As a young strength coach, like many others, I believe it’s about working athletes and making a workout challenging, and if it’s not challenging, they aren’t developing. This mindset helps me to understand that we all know only what we know. Going back to the CNS, one of my former bosses, Todd Rice, helped me to understand the role that the CNS plays in performance and that for everything you add in, you must take something out. Oftentimes coaches think that more is better, and honestly, it’s not because you can’t burn the candle on both ends. I started to incorporate a lot of correctives, massages, foam rolls, and active isolated stretching into my program to help guys to recover so that we could push and develop them even more. Second, I started to understand the importance of having a deload week, which allows the CNS to bounce back. This way of thinking still allows you to work on athletes’ rate of force development and to improve their ability to move weights and move quickly (Dynamic Effort).

During the summer, it’s our goal to build on the foundation we laid during the winter and the spring and more importantly to prepare our athletes for the rigors of their sport. As we know, football is a contact sport, so we have to build our athletes’ resiliency to take on the demands of the sport and to develop the proper energy systems so that our athletes can once again stop, start, accelerate, decelerate, and change directions over and over again. During the spring, we continue to train on our non-practice days, which allow us to continue to develop. During this phase on our leg day, we transition from back squats to strictly front squatting. Reason being is that I’m a firm believer that the front squat feeds into our clean and corrects some of the technical flaws that athletes have with staying in an upright position while back squatting. Our guys come out of spring ball hitting all-time personal records on their front squats due to this change, and this sets us up to truly have guys squat to full depth on the back squat once the intensity picks up during our summer training. The summer program is eight to 12 weeks long, during which the weight room volume decreases as the intensity increases for strength gains. There is an increase in the conditioning volume in preparation for camp and the season, with there being two linear days (speed and conditioning) and two agility days (programmed to reactive). Following this routine has allowed my staff and me to truly develop our athletes and to give them the chance to compete at a high level.