There was strength in numbers on the ULM campus this weekend.
Gathered in Monroe were some of the world's brightest minds from the field of strength and conditioning. More than 200 coaches and trainers from all levels participated in the Summit of Strength and Conditioning and Sports Medicine leaders.
Sponsored by the L Club, the all-star clinic was the brainchild of former ULM tight end Al Miller -- a hall of fame coach who served at the college level and in multiple stops with legendary NFL coach Dan Reeves in Denver, New York and Atlanta. Miller, a 1992 ULM hall of fame inductee, helped mold four Super Bowl teams in his career.
"Al was with me almost the entire time in Denver, New York and Atlanta," Reeves said. "Without question, we had the best strength and conditioning in the league."
Among those soaking up the knowledge was new ULM strength coach John Grieco.
"For all of us that do this, we coach for the right reasons," Grieco said before introducing Al Vermiel -- the only strength coach who has worked in the NFL, NBA and Major League Baseball and is the only strength coach to have a World Championship ring from the NFL (49ers) and NBA (Bulls). "We don't do it for all the awards and money. We do it to affect young people's life and winning. To have guys of this caliber here, it's an honor."
Reeves spoke Friday night, sharing anecdotes about his NFL career while espousing his belief in a solid conditioning program. On a tip from Alabama product Leroy Jordan, Reeves hired Miller away from Alabama in 1985.
"I always wanted to look at college coaches, because they're great teachers," Reeves said. "Al had a great reputation there at the University of Alabama. Leroy Jordan is a real good friend of mine and played at Alabama, and he'd heard about Al.
"I know it's hard to believe now, but I was impressed with Al," Reeves joked. "He was a young man then and looked like a stud. But we had the same philosophies. When you hire people, you look for a lot of the same beliefs. He's a good family man and has a family that he really cares about."
NFL reporter Chris Mortensen addressed the group after lunch on Saturday, comparing strength coaches to the producers and other key figures behind the scenes at ESPN. On a personal note, Miller trained Mortensen's son Alex when he finished his college career and was pursuing an NFL opportunity.
"Al Miller is a special man," said Mortensen, who "tweeted" about some of his observations on the ULM campus this week. "I don't know if some of you realize how special he is, but he's been a blessing in my life."
Grieco has also become fast friends with Miller – now retired and living in Monroe.
"He and I have had some really neat talks the past couple of days," Grieco said. "You can never take this out of us. This is an outlet and something fun for him. He wants to be a part of things and help out our university and our program. This community is very important to him. He's definitely someone I will have a great relationship with."
Grieco meanwhile has been busy implementing his own program since arriving at ULM following four seasons at UNLV. Grieco replaced former strength coach Kim Sword, who resigned to pursue a new career outside the field.
"So far, one thing I've seen is that we definitely have a lot of good kids," Grieco said. "We have some kids who really, truly care about our program. They truly care about winning. They're starting to learn some different things in there and that's just the truth. It's a different style and a different mentality. They've really made some good changes so far. Guys are trying to make changes. They're coachable, and they're listening. Coach Berry has assembled a great group of guys here to lead these players. It's gonna be a lot of fun."