"Several records could fall; there's no doubt," said Head Strength and Conditioning Coach Ben Pollard. "Performance usually reaches a peak because it's such an adrenaline rush for them to be out there. We hope that guys will lift more than they ever have. We've had kids that put up big numbers in front of the crowd, but then go back to regular training and struggle to put up the same numbers. You can't simulate the Night of Champions conditions in the weight room."
The popular "Night of Champions" weightlifting demonstration, featuring members of the Crimson Tide football team, will make its annual appearance tonight (April 30) at 7 p.m. The event is free to the public and will be held in Coleman Coliseum.
Strength and conditioning coach Ben Pollard picks five players to compete in four categories: bench press, squat, hang clean and incline press. In addition, one player (probably Waine Bacon) will demonstrate the vertical jump.
Several key lifters are struggling with left-over injuries from spring practice. "I'm hoping that Theo (Sanders') knees and shoulder are good enough to give him a shot at the clean record," Pollard said. "Theo could set several. He basically owns about every record, but right now Terry Jones Jr. is up on the board for the clean. Theo has lifted more in the weight room, but he's got to do it when it's time to test. He could get the clean record or the squat, too."
Sanders' name is already on the wall for tight ends on the squat (525 pounds) and incline bench press (395 pounds). Tonight he'll be going for the mark set last year by Terry Jones Jr. on the hang clean of 380 pounds.
On the offensive line Pollard has several athletes that excel in the weight room. But senior-to-be Marico Portis holds both bench press records. "Marico says that he's feeling good," Pollard said. "He's confident about both his bench press records." Portis has lifted 505 pounds on the flat bench press and 445 on the incline.
Besides Portis, the Tide O-Linemen will be represented by sophomore Justin Smiley, who will be attempting to better his mark of 405 pounds on the hang clean. "Smiley had knee surgery right before spring ball," Pollard said. "And he hasn't been cleaning until recently, but I think he has an outside chance. I'm going to let Smiley take a shot at the clean record for offensive linemen."
In addition to position and program records, several of the athletes will be going for personal bests. One of the more improved players on the squad, Anthony Bryant will attempt more than 600 pounds on the squat. Pollard commented, "Anthony Bryant should lift. I think we've got his knee feeling good enough that he's going to give it a shot. There is a chance for ‘Bear' to set his personal best in the squat. Before he tweaked his knee a bit, I would have told you that he would definitely. But now I'm not so sure."
"Actually, I think we'll have a couple of 600-pound squatters," Pollard continued. "Kenny King could do it, too."
The current position record is held by Robert Stewart, who played fullback, linebacker and nose guard for the Tide from ‘87-'91. Stewart's mark is 750 pounds.
Injuries will keep Sam Collins and AC Carter from participating, but Lance Taylor and Dre Fulgham are the key names at wide receiver. Taylor holds the current records for squat (505 pounds) and hang clean (340 pounds). Fulgham is the man on bench press (415) and the incline bench (370).
"Lance Taylor is going to be in there," Pollard said. "He's one of our best kids. And Dre Fulgham is going to be in there, too. He's probably going to be doing the incline bench press."
It's not clear which lift Kenny King will attempt, but the senior defensive lineman already holds the position record on the hang clean with a lift of 410 pounds.
At present Saleem Rasheed holds or shares all four records for linebackers, but Coach Pollard expects that before he's done Cornelius Wortham will challenge them all.
Marvin Brown is the current record holder for running backs at 410 pounds, but walk-on fullback Nick Signaigo will be shooting for the mark tonight. "Nick Signaigo will probably participate in the incline bench press," Pollard related. "And he could approach the record."
The list is not set in stone, but as of yesterday Pollard expects the following athletes to participate: Mark Anderson, Anthony Bryant, J.B. Closner, Dre Fulgham, Atlas Herrion, Jarret Johnson, Clint Johnston, Juke King, Kenny King, Anthony Madison, Antwan Odom, Marico Portis, Theo Sanders, Nick Signaigo, Justin Smiley, Josh Smith, Lance Taylor, Shaud Williams and Cornelius Wortham.
Last season one of the most popular clothing items worn by team members was the "4x4" T-shirt, given to every athlete that increased his maximum effort in all four basic lifts. Because 2001 was Pollard's first year with the squad, most of the players qualified. Once again the "4x4" award will be given at the Night of Champions, but relatively fewer athletes are expected to be honored this time around.
Because it essentially designates the all-around strongest players on the squad, the presentation of the Iron Man Trophies at the end of the night will be much anticipated. Based on proportionate amount of weight lifted per pound of body weight, four trophies will also be awarded to small (cornerbacks & scatbacks), medium (linebackers and running backs), large (defensive ends, middle linebackers) and extra-large (defensive tackles and offensive linemen) athletes. Last year's winners were Roberto McBride, Saleem Rasheed, Aries Monroe and Kenny King.