"All we are emphasizing with the Iron Dawg competition is getting the players strength back. We are not even worried about football conditioning right now. We have all summer long to focus in on that. We will start that when summer school starts.
"The Iron Dawg competition goes back to a motivation effort for the players. That is why I do it. It is something used as a motivation factor for the guys during the off-season because they have nothing to work towards except that. They don't have any ball games or any other kind of competition. I use the Iron Dawg competition as a reward for the players and also as a way to get them to push each other during the off-season.
"The Iron Dawg competition is something for the kids so that they work hard and stay motivated. It is also a way to help them develop good work habits and determination. That is all it is for."
The Iron Dawg competition has become something alumni place a big importance on. How is it really important in the overall scheme of things?
"You place importance and you don't place importance on it. You place importance on it as a motivational factor for kids to work hard during the off-season. However, you can't place importance as to their on-the-field playing ability. Some of these guys are great weight-lifting people but not great football players. And some of them are very good football players but not very good weight-lifters."
I know the Iron Dawg standards were raised this year. Based on the performance of this group, do you feel they are the best group that you have had?
"This is a good group. It is one of the strongest groups that we have had. I think, because we pushed the testing back to the end of the semester, it probably emphasized them been stronger than when we did the testing in February. That is why I went up on some of the lifts.
"People don't really understand the Iron Dawg numbers. They don't really understand that everything is judged under watchful eyes. If they don't do it right, they don't earn it."
I understand what you are saying. I saw you judging a few of the forty times. There were three people with stop watches.
"We usually have three or four watches and we take the average of the three times. That knocks out the fast clock and the slow clock. The kids run the forty two times. That gives us a true average speed of the kid."
Did it hurt the testing due to the number of players who were injured during spring practice?
"Yes, we had some injuries. We still had some sore ankles and sore knees while the testing was going on. It probably hurt the testing of some of the guys who played a lot, especially in their forty times, because they were still sore. But there was nothing we could do about that."
I know the Iron Dawg competition is a week long process. Go through the week by day.
"On Monday, we do the bench press and the pull ups. Tuesday, we do the squats and dips. Wednesday, we'll do the vertical jump and the power clean. Thursday, we do the forties. Friday morning is a makeup day. They can redo anything they want to. We have about a four hour window where they can attempt to improve on anything. After that, we close the books."
What time during the day do they do the Iron Dawg competition?
"In the mornings. All of my freshmen and walk-ons come in at 6 a.m. They are here at 5:30 a.m. getting dressed. Some of the older guys come in at 6 also. The other players come in at 8, 10 and 12."
Switching over to something that was mentioned on my message board, I would like to talk about the seniors that were tested by the pro scouts for the pro draft. A few comments were made on my message boards about a few of our guys not being in great shape. When did you last work out with the seniors?
"The seniors usually get through with me after the last ballgame (late November). I really don't work with them after that. What they usually do is get an agent and the agent gets them a personal trainer. They then work out with those guys."
We've talked about the Iron Dawg competition and what the seniors do after they are through with their eligibility. What do you do with the underclassmen when they get back from the Christmas break?
"From January until spring practice, they come in at 6, 8, 10 and 12 each morning and work out with the weights. We also run in the afternoon at 2:30 and 3:30. Each guy lifts weights four days a week and runs four days a week. They do this through January, February and March. In fact, they do this until school is out.
"They get up around 5 or 5:30, come work out with me, then go to classes, go to study hall, get with their tutors, then they come back and run. They don't have a lot of free time but they have some. You want to give them some free time because they are students and you want them to enjoy the college life. But at the same time, you want them to understand that they are different than a regular student because they are a high-profile type athlete."
Once school is out in May, then summer school is next. Do most of the players come back for the two semesters of summer?
"The majority of them come back for the first summer term." [You have about 100% attendance from the scholarship players during the second semester.-Gene]
You teach a conditioning class during the summer. What does it consist of?
"Each person lifts weights four days a week (at either 6, 8, 10, 12) and run five days a week in the afternoon at 3:30 and 4:30. We don't just do your normal running. We do all kind of running. We have a power day, a speed day, an endurance day.
"During the second semester, we kick it up even higher. We lift weights four days a week and run five days a week. I have it broken down where we run with all the linemen at 3:30 p.m., 4:30 with the offensive skilled people and 5:30 with the defensive skilled people. Almost all of the linemen are nearly the same in the things they do. The offensive skilled people are more laterally oriented type players, while the defensive skilled people are more back-pedal, plant, that type thing.
"On Friday morning, the entire team is here at 5:30 for a two-mile run."
What are you trying to accomplish during the summer workouts?
"We are trying to get them football savvy. What I tell them is I want them to be prepared so that when they go into two-a-days, they are in good enough shape to be able to stand up and listen to their coaches and not be leaning over with their hands on their knees and head down gasping for air."
When you know a certain position doesn't have a lot of depth, do you attempt to work that group harder than say a position that has a lot of depth?
"No, I don't think you do that. I don't think, just because you are slim at one position, you work that position harder. I think what you do is prepare them, mentally and physically, to go for the long haul. What you may do is challenge them a little bit more. You don't work them harder than the other groups.
We've talked about what you do with the kids from January through August. What do you do during the football season?
"You have your travel squad. They lift weights twice a week. They also do a little conditioning early during game week because you want their leg fresh. We usually do that Monday and Tuesday after practice. You don't really want to work the guy too much because he is going to be in shape because he is practicing every day. Joint movement is what I call what we are doing in the weight room. You try to keep their joints flexible. You don't try to get them any stronger, just maintain what they have.
"The guys who don't travel lift four days a week, Monday through Thursday."
What would you want to tell the MSU alumni about the players on this football team?
"Like me, these kids hate losing. The things the alumni see sometimes puts out the wrong picture about how a kid really feels. They may see a kid mess up and the camera shows him on the sidelines laughing or with a grin. What the camera didn't show you is someone may have just said something to try and perk him back up. But the camera shows him grinning after he messes up and the alumni may ask 'what is he laughing about?' The truth is no one hates losing more than these guys do."
Thanks for your time, Coach Grant.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.