In the weight training facility in the South End Zone at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, the new touch in the scenery is evident when you first walk into Mickey Marotti's domain. The entire physical orientation has changed. Large areas of open space in the middle of the weight room are covered with mats and things like huge metal chains, hammers, large rocks and other abnormal weight room apparatus are all around the place. It looks like a scenario for the World's Strongest Man Competition, but competition is what this new strength and training coach is all about.
Marotti seems to be from that capture their minds and the bodies will follow school of training. Morning mat drills are tests of physical toughness, strength, quickness, agility and endurance, but they are also about getting players into a certain mindset. Getting players into the proper frame of mind and keeping them motivated to take their abilities to a new level is part of what he's doing, but there's more to it than just the obvious.
"There is some accountability to it, meaning they have to do things correctly or do it again," said Marotti during a break Tuesday morning. "We have six stations and they last between five and six minutes a station. Four of them are mat stations where they dive on a mat, seat rolls, four point bear crawls, up-downs, quarter equals, quarter turns. We have another competitive station we do and kind of a race station."
It all comes back to one goal of striving for that perfect football body, the one that is going to make them the best possible player on the field.
"We are trying to make them the best football player they can be," Marotti said. "We try and help them reach their genetic potential. Some athletes need to be bigger; some athletes need to be leaner. To improve explosiveness, power, acceleration, speed, agility, change of direction, physical strength throughout the whole body."
For the Wednesday morning mat drills, it actually starts the night before. The players have to get up really early on Wednesday and be at the top of their game, so they don't want to do it on an empty tank.
"We start at 6 a.m.," Marotti said while smiling. "We like to do those when there is no one around. We like it because they have to sacrifice a little time at night to be here at six."
There are some big changes in the workouts from the previous strength coach. Some changes will require getting used to. Marotti said that what's going on now is basically the same blueprint that will be used to prep future Florida football teams. Not much will change in his first year here at Florida from what he plans on doing in the future.
"I think it is a building process to get used to what we are doing, but I think the offseason is treated like that and should be treated like that every year," he said. "Summer will be a lot different because the football coaches cannot be involved. Running times of the day may be different due to weather or other things."
Asked if there are certain players who have become mat drills warriors, Marotti hesitated when he replied, "I hate questions like that!"
Then he just couldn't resist and added, "But……one guy I'd like to mention is Vernell Brown. There is something about him. I guess it is because he is not very big, but he trains hard. I mean he gets after it."
There are a few players that are two sport players on the team. A couple of them play baseball right now, one is playing basketball and one is running track. The workouts for them have to be adjusted to allow them to play those sports, but they get in what they can.
"We work around their schedules, like the two baseball guys," Marotti said. "They come in whatever days they are allowed to by the baseball schedule to train. I am training those guys a little differently obviously. A pitcher is a lot different than an offensive lineman that doesn't have to pitch the next day. We train them more like a baseball player right now but they do come to the mat drills. They didn't train today because they have a game today [Tuesday]. Dee Webb will lift with the track guys. He will have some exercises that we need, but he will come to the mat drills as well."
Marotti made it clear that if football players have to do mat drills. There are few, if any, acceptable excuses for missing a drill.
"If they are injured the mat drills are still mandatory and they do whatever they can do," he said.
The mat drills are a football only workout. Although Marotti generally oversees the other sports and their conditioning and training, the mat drills are more conducive to the training need for the gridiron.
Being the Director of Strength and conditioning for all sports, over time his influence will reflect in all of them, but not much at the moment. While there may be "some changes in some aspects" he's generally pleased with the way the strength and conditioning coaches for other sports are handling their programs.
"They [other coaches] were hired to train those teams that they have right now and they are going to continue to do it," he said. "They are doing a good job. I may have a suggestion here or there but I have met with all the different sports' coaches and they are very satisfied with their strength coaches. If it isn't broke, don't fix it."
One of the reasons Marotti chose to make the jump to the University of Florida is because of the unparalleled support from the administration which allows the strength and conditioning programs to help the athletes become the best they can be.
"The resources [at Florida] are unlimited," he said. "They are probably at the top, if not THE top. I think the nutrition program here, bar none, is the best in the country, not even close. You have two full time registered dietician/ sport nutritionists and another full time intern. There are three people that are giving their lives and their profession to the athletes here. Trust me, we didn't even have a training table at Notre Dame. With the other places I have been, I think it is the best in the country. The last year and a half at Notre Dame, I finally got a full time nutritionist hired but we didn't have a training table. It was more about education and changing some different things."
Mickey Marotti won't change everything overnight in terms of strength and conditioning for Florida's football players, but his no-nonsense approach and determination to create championship attitudes and bodies is one that will certainly pay off. He is already setting the bar high for achievement. He knows that if players make the sacrifices and put in the hard work, they reap the rewards. He is an integral part of Coach Urban Meyer's plans to take Florida's football program to the top.
Photo credit: Notre Dame Club of Mohawk Valley