An Interview with Jim Nowell - Part 3

In the final installment of a three-part interview, Jim talks about his strength and conditioning staff. A staff that consists of three assistants, three graduate assistants and several interns and a volunteer.

How many assistants do you have working for you?
"We have three assistants and three graduate assistants.

"Richard Akins is one of my assistants. He is a tremendous addition and we are excited to have him. He is part of (the Bulldog family). He is a great motivator. He and I are a lot alike. He knows the importance of athletes being mentally tough, as well as physically tough. He is going to bring that element of toughness to our men's and women's basketball programs, which will be his sports. I've known Richard a long time and I'm glad to be able to work with him. I think he is excited to be back at Mississippi State. And I know (MSU head men's basketball) Coach (Rick) Stansbury and (MSU head women's basketball) Coach (Sharon) Fanning are excited to have him back.

"We also have John McCallister who is going into his second year with me and was with me at West Virginia. He is helping with football and is also our head baseball strength coach. Last year, he also headed up our softball, but we were able to add another position.

"We have a new assistant strength coach named Travis Illian. Travis was a graduate assistant at the University of Alabama and comes highly recommended from Ben Pollard, the head strength coach at Texas A&M and from Coach Terry Jones, the strength coach at Alabama. After interviewing several candidates, I felt he was the best fit for us and our program at Mississippi State. Travis will be handling softball and women's tennis, as well as help us with our football program.

"I also have three graduate assistants - Chris Roe, Justin Schwind and Cody Upton.

"Chad Rhodes will be leaving us at the end of July and taking a high school job at St. Stanislaus on the coast. We certainly have enjoyed having him with us. We hired a guy in his place who interned for me during the spring of 2004. His name is Chris Roe and he'll start in August. He'll help with football, but he will head up men's tennis and men's golf. He is a very knowledgeable guy who has been teaching as a graduate assistant in the kinesiology department at Mississippi State. So, he knows a lot about bio-mechanics, functions and physiology of the muscles.

"Justin Schwind comes to us from Houston, Texas where he has been doing research on brain activity at Baylor's college of medicine. He came onboard July 1. Justin is a very intelligent guy who knows how to write programs. And he has a lot of experience training track and field athletes. So, it's only fitting that we let him handle our track and field program. He'll also handle women's golf. He's got a lot of fire and is an excellent teacher and coach. He knows all the olympic movements, as does Chris Roe.

"Last, but certainly not least, is Cody Upton. Cody and I were together in high school when he played for Madison Central High School. I was also here for his senior year at Mississippi State. He is well-respected by our players because he is a very hard worker. He was captain, as a walk-on, on special teams. Cody brings a tremendous amount of toughness and intensity. He reminds me a lot of myself when I was younger. He is an excellent teacher and demands a lot from our athletes. He is also hungry to learn and has a lot of passion for what he does. He is always watching my video tapes and borrowing my manuals. He will be handling our volleyball program and also our women's soccer team and also assisting with our football program."

You seem to give your coaches a lot of responsibility.
"The way they are going to develop as a young strength coach is by giving them responsibility and then let them go out and do it. All of the guys will work hand and hand with the head coaches. They'll go to staff meetings with the coaches (of their sports). I see a lot of these guys being head strength coaches or directors of the strength program and running it one day.

"One thing I am looking for when I hire a strength coach is a guy who wants to be a strength coach. Some guys who finish football want to be a football coach, so they try to get their foot in the door by being a strength and conditioning GA. I would rather not have guys like that because their goal is not to be a strength coach. When you are a head football coach, you want to hire people who want to be assistant football coaches. It's the same way with me. That's why I want to hire guys who want to be strength coaches. That tells me that they will work hard in learning the ropes and how to do things.

"My staff is very dedicated. During the summer, all of my staff has to be here 30 minutes before the group starts. If it starts at 5:45 a.m., then they have to be here at 5:15. I want my workouts to go perfect. Well, at least as close to perfection as possible. Because of that, we set everything up beforehand so that it will go perfect. A lot of times we'll set up things the day before. But, I still like to have him here 30 minutes beforehand in case something happens."

How many interns do you have?
"The kinesiology department sets us up with interns. We now have three interns for the summer. While they don't have a sport, they give us help where it is needed. Justin Sendelweck is one. Mattie Doss is another intern. The last one we have is MSU baseball player Jon Mungle. He has been exposed to what we are trying to do.

"We also have a volunteer - Blake Holliman. Blake doesn't run a sport, but helps us with the football program. He will be a graduate assistant for me some day, because he has been very consistent."

Not including yourself, how many regular strength coaches did you have when you were first hired?
"I had two assistants - (former assistant strength coach) Shannon Patterson and John McCallister - and three graduate assitants."

Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the Dawgs' Bite, Powered by website, the source for Mississippi State sports on the sports network. You can contact him by email at

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