Swasey - NFL Draft Success

Last month the University of Miami set an NFL record with six first-round draft picks. It was quite a feat, but what makes it even more amazing is that no other university even had two players drafted by the time the Hurricanes sent their sixth to the league. How do they do it? Strength and conditioning coach Andreu Swasey explains.

There are weight rooms all across the country. There is talent at every college. So why is Miami doing things that no other school has ever done?

By chance?

Not quite, think again.

Sean Taylor and Kellen Winslow were selected in the first ten by the Washington Redskins and Cleveland Browns respectively, followed by Jonathan Vilma, D.J. Williams, Vernon Carey, and Vince Wilfork.

Not all of the six players were considered ‘can't miss' prospects coming out of high school. Carey developed slowly and came to Miami at 375 pounds. Wilfork showed up at 365 pounds. Vilma was in the 190-pound range and Taylor had a hard time staying healthy in high school.

"Getting drafted in the first round has been something those guys have worked towards," Swasey said. "I hate to say work towards because they work together so good. It is a good feeling as a coach to see them actually reach their dream. It is good to see people put in work and see a reward."

In the past four years 19 Hurricanes have been selected in the first round. There is no school that can come close to the recent success that Miami has had in the draft. Throw in a 46-4 record in the 2000's, four straight BCS bowls, a national championship and playing for another, you've got yourself the best collegiate program in the nation.

"I think the NFL is catching on to what we are doing here. I tell the guys not to grow weary of doing good and there are no shortcuts in life. The process learned is a mentality. People in the NFL are drawn to the mentality developed here at Miami. If you learn to work and put in your time it will work out."

The players that were drafted in the first round did not show up at UM Pro Day and have great numbers. Working hard leading up to Pro Day begins the moment players step on campus as freshmen. They don't show up in the weight room after their final bowl game hoping for good numbers in front of scouts. It is a process.

The process begins with the right mentality. A mentality force upon them by the coaching staff and in particular, coach Swasey. He shows the players tough love and the good players strive in the system.

"Being hard on them helps their development as a player. Great players won't be driven out, I haven't seen one that has. It usually means you aren't that good. The great ones want to be driven. They know there is no easy way out. If you come here, they know what they will get."

The current players have seen their peers drafted in the first round. The freshmen just saw six of their peers become instant millionaires. When people try to obtain success they want to see results. Why work hard if there is no reward? Why is this the right way? At Miami, they see results. Plain and simple.

Edgerrin James, Santana Moss, Reggie Wayne, and some members of the 2001 National Championship team come back to visit the university and to work out in the weight room. Most of the players on the team did not play with those guys and it is hard to relate with them even though they see their success in the NFL. Seeing their peers and guys they line up next to every day in practice have success gives them more inspiration to work even harder.

Swasey, in his seventh year as a strength and conditioning coach, stresses the coaching staff to coach their actions, not the player. He tries to push the walk-ons as hard as the starters despite their obvious numbers in the weight room.

"My job is to make these guys well prepared by the time they get back to the coaches so the coaches can do what they do best, coach. I am the one that needs to teach the players both mentally and physically. I teach them about hustle, working hard in the weight room, listening, and communicating. That is my job. If the coaches have to coach them how to do those things then they are a step behind where they need to be."

The coaching staff at Miami features four former Hurricane players and has developed a strong chemistry under head coach Larry Coker. Coker has a great ability manage the coaching staff and to oversee the players. His personality reflects amongst the staff and players.

"The staff all works together creating a balance," Swasey said. "What we have here that has helped us with the success is a continuity, chemistry, and working relations with coaches. An example is that we can't have everyone ripping on a kid if he messes up. In the weight room I talk to coaches about being hard on the guys. I also talk to them about not compounding it. If I am ripping him, they can't rip him too. We don't want to compound it."

Swasey maintains a tough mentality in the weight room and throughout running drills. He wants them to work hard with him so the game is fun. He reminds them that football is a game and it is meant to be fun. The practice field is their games. When they get to the practice field he wants them to enjoy the game and have fun playing.

He is quick to get on them if they are not working hard and reminds them,

"Bad news travels fast. Good news travels slow."

Tomorrow - Part 2: "Swasey Teaches More Than Lifting Weights"

Christopher Stock is a Staff Columnist for CanesTime and can be contacted by emailing him at stock@grassy.com.

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