Inside Iowa Football with Chris Doyle

Iowa's football players spend more time with their strength and conditioning coaches, such as S&C Coordinator Chris Doyle, than they do with Kirk Ferentz or their position coaches. So when Coach Doyle talks about Iowa football, he knows a thing or two about the psyche of the team and where he thinks its headed. We talked about that, and much more, with Coach Doyle.

Jon Miller:  People know that the Iowa Strength and Conditioning program helps get the players physically and mentally ready to play the game, but what some people may not realize is that you and your staff are around the players more than Kirk Ferentz or their position coaches.


Chris Doyle:  Yeah, I would say that is true.  We are very fortunate that we have a higher exposure rate to our athletes than anyone on campus, be that academics or position coaches.  That is the good part of our job, we are around them a lot and that is the fun part of it.


JM:  Given that role, do you think that the importance of the strength and conditioning coordinators around the nation are undervalued in the eyes of the public? 


CD:  Just like any other profession, sometimes you get more credit than you should when they go well, and there are more critics when you don't have success.  But I would say that the answer to that lies within the program itself.  The programs that have a significant impact are the programs that are allowed to have an impact due to the importance that he head coach puts on the program.  Here we are lucky, in that Kirk Ferentz sees strength and conditioning as an area where we can gain an advantage over our competitors.  He puts a lot of resources into the program, a lot of emphasis on it and like anything in life, when you do that, you tend to improve in that area.  It's directly associated with the importance that Kirk and the staff put on it, as well as the players.  Guys come to Iowa and choose Iowa partly due to the fact that they see themselves getting an opportunity to develop as an athlete, being in the right program and we are lucky to get those guys.


JM:  What do kids do in summer, from the end of spring to the start of camp in August?


CD:  We are excited to get started with the players in June.  We have organized training seven out of the nine weeks this summer.  We go four in June, followed by a brief break over the fourth of July, then three weeks, then a brief break before reporting to camp around the first of August.  This is a time period where we are putting the finishes touches on our preparation.  It's our goal to put the guys in position in camp to do well there and have a great yaer.  This is the time where we focus on football specific conditioning and speed work, according to position.  It's specific to position, but it's about developing the total football athlete, not track stars or weight lifters.  We are trying to improve their football skills in June and July.


JM:  It was well documented early in your Iowa career that you did some unique things, like flipping tires, lifting log chains; do you add to that to keep it fresh?


CD:  Hopefully each year you evolve, and that is about maintaining a beginners mind and an interest and desire to improve each year.  We are going to evolve.  Early on, people bit into what they would call the uniqueness to our program.  I would say there are more similarities than differences from our program to the next, but people looked at the chains and tires and said that was different.  It might only be 5% of what we do, but that is what makes it unique and people focused on that.  We are more traditional than people may think, but at the same time, we are always evolving.  Each year as a staff, and this is a complete staff thing here, its not just Chris Doyle, as we have three other strength coaches in James Dobson, Tyler Clark and James Frazier, as a group we are trying to evolve and visit other places and apply it to our program.


JM:  Most of the kids that come to Iowa will be there for five years.   Five years for someone who is 18 or 19 is a pretty big percentage of their life.  How do you go about keeping the message new for them during their entire time there?


CD:  It changes while they are here.  When they walk on campus, the first part is just getting to know them, and investing good time in them and building the relationship.  Part of that is gaining their trust, and that goes both ways.  We want to initially identify what areas an athlete needs to improve upon their potential.  Then those players get excited and they see the program can help them on the field.  As they progress through their five years, their goals change, according to what is going on, on the field.  Some guys get here and they try to fit in, then they try to earn a job.  When they do that, they try to be the best in the Big Ten at their position, then there is more and to be recognized nationally and some want to play in the NFL.  As they progress through those years, the message can change individually with each athlete as their goals are reshaped.


JM:  How much can a player really improve between April and August, physically and mentally?


CD:  We have seen guys make significant improvements in the summer.  Often, its dictated by the intensity and the commitment level of the athlete.  There have been guys like Dallas Clark, Aaron Kampman, guys through our program that have really changed themselves from spring ball to the season.   A lot of it falls on the athlete's commitment level.  Are they mature enough to make the right lifestyle choices, stay out of trouble, take care of their bodies and come in willing to give their best each day and when they do they make significant improvement.


JM:  Some folks wondered last year if the guys on the team that hadn't dealt with major adversity, the people that were not around in 1999 and 2000,  that maybe there was some sense of entitlement.  Did you sense that and if so, have things changed?


CD:  I will tell you this; we are excited about this season as we move forward because we will use it to our advantage.  We have a lot of guys in here that have experienced the disappointment of losing.  Any time you invest a lot in what you are doing and you don't get the desired result, it hurts.  There are a lot of guys in here now that are very committed.  We have a captive audience here, guys that want to right the ship.  It was totally unacceptable with what happened last year with regards to our wins and losses.  There are a bunch of guys that are committed to correcting that.  We saw it in December, in the approach to the game against Texas, we saw it through the winter and spring and we need to keep building upon that.  The true test will be when we face adversity.  At some point over the next six months, we will face it and how we respond to that will be the test.  Anyone can be excited in the summer and say things are great, but until we face some significant adversity in the fall, that is when we will find out.  We found out in 2004.  We had injuries, a lot of them, our defensive coordinator in the hospital, hardships off the field as a program, but the character was so strong in 2004 and it galvanized our program and we won a championship.  We will see in 2007 just what kind of character we have when we face adversity along the way. 


I think Coach Ferentz put it perfect.  He said sometimes you need a good kick in the butt and we got that last year.  We have such an outstanding group of people in this program, from our coordinators and position coaches and I wouldn't want anyone else steering the ship other than Kirk.  I think we have an outstanding senior class, 12 guys coming back that get it.  Our senior class really gets it.  We are looking forward to the opportunity to play and show that we have learned our lesson.  The hardest thing to do is finish the way we did and go through the winter.  All of us are excited, from the top down.  We can't wait to get started again.  We feel like what happened last year was not us, it will not define the Iowa program.  We want to get back to work and take advantage of the opportunities we have.  It reminds you, it's a good kick in the butt that you can't take things for granted.  You can't expect to line up and win because we are Iowa; that is hogwash.


JM:  How much do you enjoy and/or take pride in that so many former Iowa players come back to work out in off season, when that is so far from the norm in the NFL?


CD:  It says a few things Jon.  One is that our athletes enjoyed their Iowa experience.  They enjoy being around Kirk Ferentz and Iowa City.  They enjoy being around one another.   Second, I think it says something about the status of the program in that they feel like they benefit from coming back.  And third, our younger guys benefit from it, because when they walk in the building, there is Robert (Gallery).  Nate (Kaeding) is training right now, I am watching him through my window.  Dallas is here in the winter, McMahon, Jensen, Kampman.  Our younger players look up and know they are doing the right stuff because they see the NFL guys coming back, and they know its what they need.  It's a great experience on both ends.  We are just kind of stewards of it all and trying to hold it together, and show those young guys that if its done right over time good things can happen.


JM:  You talk about them enjoying their Iowa experience, what about you?  You have been in demand for other jobs.  Why have you put down roots in Iowa?


CD:  It starts with the people.  It's well documented what is going on here with Coach Ferentz.  Over a five year period, we had more staff stability than any program in the country.  We had fewer staff turnover, is what I am saying, up til this year when Ron Aiken went to the NFL.  You said it yourself; we have had some success at Iowa.  I think every staff member could have moved on at one point if they wanted to.  The reason why we have all chosen to stay is the people.  Our staff is close, and Kirk Ferentz is the best guy to work for in all of football, college or pro.  That says it all.  It's who you work with.  It's not about facilities, though we have outstanding facilities but a lot of schools do.  The people of Iowa, this is an unreal place to be involved with college football and its underrated and people don't realize how special it is, with the fan interaction.  And the state of Iowa is a great place to raise family.


JM:  Who is the fastest player you have been around at Iowa?


CD:  The fastest guy now is (Charles) Godfrey.  He had a real good Pro Day.  He broke our all-time record. He ran a 4.38 (40-yard dash) electronic, and the NFL people had him 4.29 and 4.31 hand held.  That is the fastest we have had.


JM:  Who has been the strongest, and I know this is hard to answer as it's a multifaceted question?


CD:  The most powerful guys, you have to break it down by size because it would be unfair to compare Bob Sanders to Robert Gallery.  But overall size and power numbers, there would be three that would stick out; Robert Gallery, Eric Steinbach was a beast when he was here, and Colin Cole.  Those guys kind of stick out in my mind as saying wow, that is power.   In the skill group category, Bob would be hard to beat.  Bob was a freak, explosive power guy and just a hard worker on top of it.  Abdul Hodge is powerful, too, in that middle group.  Hodge, Roth and Babineaux, they were in the 260 to 280 weight range.  And Considine was pretty darn strong as well.


JM:  Who has made the most progress in the weight room, and who has been the most dedicated in there?


CD:  That has been how we have been successful here.  I just got a package today fro Kampman, he sent us his Pro Bowl jersey.  It would be hard to knock his work ethic.  He went from 250 to a 280 pound Pro Bowler.  Dallas Clark, Bob Sanders, Robert Gallery, those guys stick out to me as just extreme work ethic.  I hate the word over achiever, NFL people want to come in here and say that.  I don't believe in that label.  I think they maximize their potential, the maximum of what they were capable of.   I think of those guys, as college players. Greenway, he was freakish going from 203 pounds to 245 and doing what he did.  Those guys are impressive people.  Considine is another guy, just an unreal work ethic.  Not so much how much he did, but the approach that he took.  He was extremely intelligent, very intense about every single thing he did.


JM:  Will there be any catch phrases to go along with this year's team as there has been in the past?


CD:  (Laughs)….I am not ready to go on that.  (laughs)  We like break the rock.  We like that one.

NOTE: This interview originally aired on The Jon Miller Show on 1460 KXNO, on Wednesday, May 30th. The podcast of the interview can be listened to at THIS LINK

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