Marshall: Yoxall a Major Part of AU Football

He's never called an Auburn play, never presided over a drill at practice, never made a depth chart decision. But it would be difficult to find anyone more valuable to Auburn's football program than Kevin Yoxall.

And I'm not even talking about the fact that it was he who suggested head coach Tommy Tuberville consider talking to Al Borges about becoming offensive coordinator.

Yoxall, of course, is Auburn's strength and conditioning coach. He has few equals in his profession. He was named Collegiate Strength and Conditioning Coach of the Year for 2005. But Yoxall's value to Auburn football and the young men who play it goes far beyond his professional expertise.

He is a taskmaster, a friend, a disciplinarian, a confidant. There might be a tougher guy in the Auburn program, but you'd have a hard time convincing players of that.

"Coach Yox, you have to love him," says Tommy Jackson, who finished his career as an Auburn nose guard last season and is now with the Atlanta Falcons. "He's a great dude, and if you can go through what he puts you through, you can go through anything."

Without Yoxall, Tuberville says, the Auburn program might not be where it is, might not of won 17 of its last 18 games against Southeastern Conference opponents.

"Your strength coach is around your players more than you are," Tuberville says. "He builds attitude, work ethic and a lot of character. I wanted a no-nonsense guy, and he's definitely that."

On a normal day, Yoxall arrives in his office by 5 a.m. It's often 7 p.m. or later before he goes home to his family. He is at every practice.

"The players respect him for his work ethic," Tuberville says. "Some strength coaches don't even go to practice. He never misses one. He's involved with those players' lives."

Yoxall's demands are legendary among players who have come his way. The last thing a player who has stepped out of line wants to hear is that he needs to see Coach Yox after practice. But the No. 1 thing players will tell you about Yoxall is that he cares. Yoxall can be moved to tears when talking about players who have grown from boys into men before his very eyes.

"I just like to see them be successful because of what they do," says Yoxall, tears welling in his eyes. "They work so hard. To see these kids come back and stick their heads in the door, it means so much."

Kevin Yoxall (left) and Al Borges (right) worked together at UCLA before arriving at Auburn.

Players see more of Yoxall than they see of almost anyone. Far from the public eye, he is with them almost every day, pushing, encouraging and holding them accountable. Still today he wears his credential from the Capital One Bowl, where the Tigers lost 24-10 to Wisconsin. The Orlando newspaper from the day after the game hangs on the wall outside his office.

"You're only as good as your last game, and we weren't very good in our last game," Yoxall says. "You have to figure out ways to motivate them. The way I do it is to be on their butts all the time. We are always talking about who we have that first game. I'll throw out other players' names, other schools' names, the success they've had against us before. I'll say, ‘I wonder what LSU is going right now?'"

And the work goes on as another season rushes ever closer.

"It's a selling job," Yoxall says. "We try to make it fun for the kids. I've been doing it a long time, and I haven't figured out yet how to do that."

Yoxall's motto is "Work. Hard Work." It is taken from the Auburn Creed, and he believes in it above all else.

"That's what it is," Yoxall says. "That's what I tell recruits when they come in here. It's a grind. It's work. If they don't want to do that, they shouldn't come here."

A large part of Yoxall's job this summer is indoctrinating incoming freshmen. For most, it is a shock. They've heard about what it's like, but until they experience it, they don't really know.

"The thing I always tell the guys is, ‘You're not the lone ranger,'" Yoxall says. "If you ever get to the mindset that you are the only ones doing this right now, you are on the losing end of the stick. There is a guy up in Pullman, Wash., right now training. The younger ones have the most difficult time understanding that.

"A guy coming in from high school, especially if he was an elite athlete, didn't have to work as hard. Generally, the ones who do a great job in here and academically are either in the NFL or they are successes in the working world. It all ties together."

Some of those green-behind-the-ears freshmen will do big things. Some will fall by the wayside. The price to put on a jersey and run out of that tunnel on Saturdays is high. The price of stardom is even higher.

"You get real fortunate in this business, at a place like Auburn, to work with a lot of great individuals," Yoxall says. "I won't work with too many like Carnell Williams and Ronnie Brown. I could go down the list. Dontarrious (Thomas) and a couple on this team right now are special. Alex Lincoln never missed a beat in here and he's never missed a beat out there.

"I've seen a lot of kids come in here and struggle and turn it around."

When they come back to say thank you, that's when Yoxall knows it was all worthwhile.

2006 Inside the Auburn Tigers Auburn Football Guide

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