[Premium article] The 2001 football season has been over for about two months now. While the Mississippi State fans are thinking about such things as recruiting or who will play what position or what our team record will be next year, the Mississippi State football team is working hard building strength, stamina and team chemistry.

That starts with MSU strength coach Mike Grant and his workout routine.

Coach Grant, a man of tireless energy who is almost looked upon as a second father for a great number of the football players, immediately starts working on team chemistry the day the players get back from the Christmas holidays and start classes. "What we will do now is start building for next year," said Grant. "Building team chemistry for next year starts in January."

Learning from his two summers of participating in the Navy Seals' "hell week." Coach Grant knows that to build team chemistry you have to work hard and sacrifice together. "What we will do is come in four days a week in the weight room and we will be doing some type of running five days a week."

And what he does is not some jogging or light lifting like we fans would do.

"Groups start at 6 o'clock in the morning in the weight room and we will have a group every hour until we get through at 1 o'clock," said Grant. "All freshmen and the non-scholarship players come in at 6 a.m. Plus, I have some guys who may have conflicts with their classes and they will come in at 6."

And that is only the morning workout. He also has them come back during the afternoon for the running portion of his workout routine. "We will come back in the afternoon and have two running groups at 3:30 and 4:30 all the way up to spring practice."

After a few days of these workouts, team chemistry starts to become a reality. "It sort of falls into place," said Grant. "You start finding out who are going to be the leaders during the off-season. The cream sort of rises to the top. It is hard to explain. They start competing against each other, motivating and pushing each other."

That is the January portion of his workouts. He does it a little differently in February.

"Every Tuesday and Thursday in February, we will have a running session at 5:30 in the morning for the entire team," said Grant. "We have an hour of what you could call county fair. It is a mentally challenging thing. They are broken down into ten groups -- there are ten stations -- and they go through each station. Then, we will do some running at the end of it."

You would think with this kind of workout regiment, hard work, early morning wakeup calls, the kids wouldn't look forward to these two months. Not so said Coach Grant. "The guys I talk to are enthused to get started and try to rebuild and get this thing going. That makes it exciting for me that their energy is there."

After February, spring practice begins. That is when Coach Grant starts scaling back his workout routine. "When (spring practice) starts, we will start phasing the running out but we will still lift," said Grant.

As you may have noticed, I haven't mentioned anything about the Iron Dawg competition which is normally done in January. There is a reason for that; it has been moved back to April, the month after spring practice. "We aren't going to do it until April," said Grant. "That way, it gives me a good amount of time in the weight room to really get them back in shape for practice."

So, while we fans continue to speculate and dream about the great recruiting class our coaches are about to sign or how well our team will do next season, the football players are hard at work from early, early morning to late afternoon trying to do their part to make sure our dreams come true.

Gene Swindoll is the owner of Gene's Page (http://mississippistate.theinsiders.com), the unofficial source for Mississippi State sports on the internet. You can contact him by email at swindoll@genespage.com.

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