Behind the Scenes

It's easy to evaluate the Florida coaching staff by watching how the players perform on the field, but the assistants aren't the only ones responsible for the Gators' success. Behind the scenes, strength and conditioning coach Mickey Marotti has maybe the toughest job of anyone on the staff.

We heard a lot about Mickey Marotti during Georgia week. It's Marotti and his staff that are usually responsible for motivation and mental preparation, and with the Dawgs on tap, Marotti was on call. But preparations for Georgia, and all games this season for that matter date way back to January.

"The most important day of our training session was the first day back after last season," Marotti said. "It was the first day after Martin Luther King Day. That was the most important day because the message had to be sent that we had to get started off on the right foot and guys needed to mature. The reasons why things didn't work out the way we wanted them to the year before was because guys were immature physically and mentally. They were up to the challenge."

Marotti takes the team through a grueling offseason that includes much more than strength and conditioning. Marotti, through a variety of drills, attempts to toughen up the players physically and mentally.

"We just try to do a lot of things to help the mental toughness part of it," he said. "Whatever you can you possibly think of we've done, pushing cars and tires and trucks. The biggest thing that we do is hold the players accountable. If you don't do it this way, you're going to have to do this. The players buy in because the head coach buys in because the assistants buy in because the trainers buy in."

There are lots of gimmicks to Marotti's program. For instance the toughest day of the year comes around Valentine's Day where the players are put through a difficult 90-minute workout of the season.

"A lot of it is just amongst the staff stuff that we see and stuff that we put together," Marotti said. "We're lucky because of the facility we have now. There are so many different assets that we can use. The bottom line is that we always come down to the basics and that's working hard. They have to be working hard and there has to be a decision making process for the athletes. We try to put themselves in those positions as best we can."

Urban Meyer and Marotti first hooked up at Notre Dame. Meyer had learned of Marotti while he was at Cincinnati and Meyer pushed for Marotti's hiring in South Bend. When they first brought their program to Florida, it was a little unusual for the players already here.

"When we first came in in '05 I think it was a little bizarre, but as things translated to the field and we started winning they bought in," Marotti said. "We talk about it 365 days a year how important the strength and toughness is and taking care of your body."

Marotti said he could tell in the winter that this year's team was going to be more mature and more able to handle difficult situations. And for the player's if they want to be successful on the field, they have no choice but to follow the program.

"To me it would be really hard because it's not just my system it's the program's system," he said. "The way coach Meyer coaches and all that stuff is basically the same. It's holding the athletes accountable."


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