Michigan senior defensive tackle Terrance Taylor has always fancied himself as a leader. The outspoken gregarious youngster possesses the type of comedic personality that allows him keep his teammates loose, and at the same time the intimidating size and strength that helps enforce order and accountability. However, when the new coaching staff arrived, that standing was challenged. Suddenly he was incapable of leading by example.
"When I came in from the bowl game, I was 328," Taylor recalled. "I knew I was headed for a surprise (because) I really wasn't conditioned last year and that was one of my problems. My weight was jumping up and down all through the year. When I came back and we started hearing all the things that we were going to do, I was thinking to myself that it was going to be a long summer, a long spring."
Indeed it was. Reality set in very quickly as a matter of fact.
"It was actually the first day of pads," Taylor said describing the first of his may trying times. "I was running off the field, I fell to my knees, and I just threw up. I had never threw up before in my life in any sport, and that clicked (the light switch in his head)… it is going to be a long spring ball. It is going to be a hard one. "
As difficult a task as it was, Taylor (along with the overwhelmingly majority of his teammates) made it through the spring. But while most of them had reached the physical benchmarks set for them by strength coach Mike Barwis, Taylor had not… and that was a problem.
"Over the summer, we started to go to the full workout with the plyos, lifting, the gassers, and the fitness," he explained. "I couldn't make none of those," Taylor admitted. I sat down and talked to Mike (Barwis). I was on the bike and he said, ‘look at you. You are the only person that is not even finishing the workout. You don't want to be that guy.' I thought about it all that night and I told myself that I didn't want to be that guy."
"I just knew that being an older guy, being a leader, I have to step up," he continued. "I can't be the guy out there throwing up or not in the front when we are running sprints or gassers and not finishing. I couldn't be that guy. I could have been that guy last year or the year before that because I had older guys in front of me, but I want to be a leader. I want to be a guy that is not tired in the fourth quarter. So I started eating right, I started getting my sleep, and I started drinking a lot of water. I lost about 22 pounds. I gained more muscle. I started lifting harder. I just started making all my runs. Basically it was all mental, to be honest with you."
Much has been made of Barwis' ability to help athletes reach their physical peak, but sometimes forgotten is the mental challenges that were overcome to help them get there. For Taylor, his mental progress was just as significant as his mental.
"Before I met Mike, I was pretty strong willed guy," said Taylor. "When (Mike) Gittleson was here, we never lifted and ran. It was two separate days. What Mike (Barwis) did was, he broke me down mentally and rebuilt me back up and now I am mentally tough like I have never been before in my life. I can take a lot. My body can take a lot, my mind can take a lot, and I can push through al to of things. I am just so grateful for it. I know it is going to help in the season because I have already been through three of them already."
Taylor's success in the training room helped him overcome the mental hurdles that were presented the more fiery approach of the new coaching staff as well.
"It is more intense," Taylor said comparing the practice environment under the new regime to that which was present under the old. "It is more like every practice is game day. It is kind of that feel, as if everything is real important at the time. When we come out, it is all about business, no joking around, but we are going to have fun, but first we going to get things done, that kind of fun. It is more amped up than it used to be."
"(The transition) is a work in progress," continued Taylor. "I like to joke a lot. As most of you know, I like to joke and I am kind of the jokester, but I can get serious. It was kind of adjusting to the coaching staff, I joke, sometimes they want to be serious, but I like to joke. So it was just getting to know each other and it was pretty tough in the beginning. Now they understand my personality and I understand there personality, so you know, it is cool now."Stay tuned to GoBlueWolverine for part two coming tomorrow.