How did you wind up becoming a strength coach?
"From high school on I knew I wanted to be a strength coach. Growing up, my dad and I would lift weights in the garage. He would get me sand weights, punching bags at garage sales. And I loved all the preparation for sports. I played every sport growing up and loved the preparation for it. As I went through high school my love for it grew. And when I got to college I found out that there was such a profession as a strength coach. And when I was at Michigan State I was very fortunate to have good ones, ones that took the time to teach me what to do. There were three or four strength coaches there that kind of mentored me. And I got off the ground from there."
Where are some places that you have been a strength and conditioning coach?
"From Michigan State, I went to Bowling Green where I was for six years. During that six-year span I did about every sport. I did a ton of football. And as the head strength coach I ran the hockey program for three or four years. I was the men's and women's basketball strength coach for the entire six years. I did baseball, women's gymnastics, track and field, swimming and diving, just about every sport."
As you were coaching all of these sports, what kind of philosophy did you develop?
"The philosophy is a hardnose philosophy built on accountability, toughness and discipline. Obviously, you throw in the different ways that you strength train. I think the mentality of how you train the kids is the same. You just have to adapt to the personalities of each team and the head coaches of each team. If you develop a good relationship with the players they are going to do what you want them to do."
From what I have heard about your workouts, they are very fast paced. You are not only building strength but also building endurance when you do your weight training. Is that also part of your philosophy?
"I was brought up where you didn't waste time in the weight room. I'm obviously running at that pace for a reason but I don't know if I am doing it knowingly. When I was at Michigan State there was no sitting when you walked into the weight room. They went right to the neck exercises, their bench press, and whatever else was down the line. There was not a lot of time for sitting and talking. Everybody just trained and got after it. When I went to Bowling Green it was the same way; it was all business. All of my mentors have had that same philosophy.
"It was all business at Michigan State. It was all business at Bowling Green. And when I took over as the head man at Toledo it was all business there. The strength coach sets the tone for the program in a lot of cases with the head football coach. You set the culture and the tone of what the football program is going to be like.
"I don't know how much this factored into it but I've always been at places where defenses are taught to play fast. And with the spread offenses now, that is how you play. And when I was at Bowling Green when we went into the weight room it was fast paced. You had your dynamic warmup, you had your stretching and then you went right into your running. There was no time to walk onto the field or take a break. Everything to me should be urgent. I think you should have an urgency to play the game, to lift weights, to get to school, to get to the training table on time. I think you have to have that urgency to have success in whatever you do.
"If you want to talk about juice, I've known about juice for about 13 years, when I first got into this business. Juice is a high level urgency. It's the way you walk into a building or drive to work. When I got to Bowling Green in 2003 that was all that I heard; energy and juice and how you get after it. And that has stayed with me since then. My personality has always been of an energetic, urgent, anxious person who wants to get to work and do a good job. And it was like a perfect fit when I got to Bowling Green."
I know you have only been here for about six weeks. What is the first thing a new strength coach does when he starts a new job?
"You are so excited to get rolling and to learn the kids names and see what their work ethic is like. And I hit the ground 100 miles an hour. I had a plan to start rolling. And I put the plan in place. I literally got off the plane and we then had a team run. I didn't even have time to think or even to flinch."
You've worked at a lot of different schools and in a lot of different conferences. You have experience at the highest of levels and others not as high.
"I've worked in the west, worked in the north, now I'm in the south. The one thing I know about myself is that I can coach. Whether it is a northern kid, a west coast kid an east coast kid or a southern kid, I know I can can coach them. The weights are the same and the running is the same.
"As for the game itself, the size and speed of the kids might be different from program to program but it's still a high level of football.
"Whether I was in the Mid-America Conference or the Mountain West my goal was to instill in those kids to work at a high level.
"When I was at Bowling Green and Boise State was starting to get good we had a team that, during the preseason, was on the bubble of being one of those BCS busting teams. We beat a BCS school just about every year when I was at the mid-major level. We beat Washington State, Pittsburgh, teams like that. Wherever I am I always think of it as being a big-time operation."
Why did you think that Mississippi State and Dan Mullen were a good fit for you?
"I think it was pretty easy. Our philosophies on the importance of the weight room, the importance of player relationships and our pasts are very similar. We have obviously been around a lot of the same people. And once we met face to face I knew the expectations and my role. He knew the energy and the expertise that I would bring to this football program. My job is to enhance what has been built the past five years."
I know you have only been here six weeks and are still learning the players. But during that short span what is your impressions of the football players?
"From top to bottom the work ethic is outstanding. I think there is a true passion on this team to take it to another level or two. That is what I see that they are excited about. They want to grow; they want to improve. We have really been rolling since I got here. That has being one of the coolest things for me to see since I have come in here. I almost feel like I have been here a year because of that excitement."
Being in the south is new to you. Going forward, how will you adjust to the southern climate, something that is new to you?
"The program will go on as usual. I'll just make adjustments as they are needed. I have a four-person staff and three have already been here. I will talk to them to see what is going on. But I think the biggest thing for me is the kids down here are already used to it. If you moved a bunch of northern kids down south, then there would have to be some adjustments. So, if there is anybody who will have to adjust to it when it gets really hot, it will be me. And I won't show it."
You have worked at schools throughout the nation. How do the Mississippi State strength and conditioning facilities compare to other schools that you have been at?
"This weight room facility, from top to bottom, is unmatched. There is just about every tool in the toolbox that you need. You can pull the garage doors up and step out onto the turf. The speed incline is right outside, the different sand pits. You have a speed and development area of turf in the back that I don't think a lot of people even see. I have everything here that is needed to have success."
Speaking of the garage doors, they let a lot of light in. Is that something you want in a weight room, maybe give it more of an inviting look and not the dungeon look?
"There are different philosophies. Some people want a dungeon look, some people want a well-lighted look. I want the weight room, based on the demands that we ask from our kids, to have some light in it. I don't want the dungeon look all the time. Now, we can make this place look like a dungeon if we want to base it on how we might go about business. But I want this to be an inviting room that enhances performance, that makes them want to get better. I want them to want to come in and train. There will be days that they don't want to train but with the energy that we will bring and the sunlight, those things will help them want to be in the room and get better. And that is what I have been dealing with since I have been here, kids who want to come here and get better."
Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the GenesPage.com website, the source for Mississippi State sports on Scout.com sports network. You can contact him by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.