About 8:45 Friday I got on the elevator heading up to the coaches offices on the lower club level of the West End Zone with three of the current Oklahoma State football players. The heavy storms that had pelted Stillwater within the last hour had left plenty of evidence in puddles all over the roads, parking lots, and even landscaping around town and campus. I said to the trio of players going up the elevator with me, "I guess you guys caught a break with the storms and didn't have to do stadium steps this morning."
Brandon Pertile, a redshirt junior offensive tackle from Florida, shot back quickly, "No, we got all the stadium steps in," Pertile said. "There may have been a freshman or two that was able to get out of one (rep), but most of us were completely done by the time the storm hit. I'm pretty sure that coach Glass has a direct line and called up to God and said don't let that storm hit till we have those stadium steps done."
Pertile can be forgiven for thinking Cowboys assistant athletic director for speed, strength, and conditioning Rob Glass has a direct line to the man upstairs so he can ensure the Cowboys get their work in. He doesn't, but the fairly quiet (outside his domain of the weight room and the football complex) Glass does always have a plan and it has shown up big for Oklahoma State football.
Glass believes in hard work, no shortcuts, intense and sometimes punishing training in the offseason and in the summer months, along with a modified and lighter load of maintenance work that is still vitally important during the season. He believes in position specific training programs that have gone a long way in accentuating the most important attributes and skills, physically, at each position.
What is going on right now? The most important activity is the team's work with Glass and his staff that includes veteran strength and conditioning coaches Gary Calcagno, Mark Smith, and Anthony Hibbert along with nutritionist Charles Hewitt.
That team has strength and conditioning sessions going on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and make-up sessions for players that miss workouts or lifts on Wednesdays. It is a full schedule and it is work that head coach Mike Gundy annually tells the media when fall practice begins that it is the most important accomplishments inside the program.
"The one advantage we have now is we've been in it awhile here," Gundy said in a Tulsa World story two summers ago. "There has been some success and the players believe in themselves. Rob Glass, in strength and conditioning, has been with us a while and he's the best in the country at developing players, in my opinion. I think you see that early in their career. You see it on their bodies, and there's a mental toughness that he and that we work extremely hard to instill from day one."
Those Friday stadium step workouts – known by players that are in or that have passed through the program as gut busters and as exhausting as anything you will do in your time as a football player at Oklahoma State – are as much for the mental toughness that Gundy spoke of as they are for the intense physical conditioning that they also contribute to.
When the game times for the first three games of the season were released in June I will guarantee you that every coach, player, and observer of the program either chuckled, winked, or just thought to themselves that the three day-time kickoffs in September would be a huge advantage to the Cowboys. In most places in this country other than maybe in the southeast you can't duplicate the heat and humidity conditions in Oklahoma in the summer and the "Indian summer" month of September in the middle of the day.
Southeastern Louisiana won't be in a weather conditions mismatch on Sept. 3 at 2:30 p.m., but Central Michigan on Sept. 10 at 11 a.m. and Pittsburgh on Sept. 17 at 2:30 p.m., depending on the weather forecast, could be at major disadvantages. You see during this time with Oklahoma State training, Glass and his staff monitor conditions and work to not put any players at risk but they do use the conditions as part of the training, both physically and mentally.
"We need to get done what we need to get done," Glass said in a recent American Football Coaches Association magazine story. "I think coaches that are doing really well are coaches who are open, guys that look at the variables that are going on and that are able to adapt."
There are other rewards to the players for the work they put in with Glass and his staff. Yes, the training in position specific. Yes, it is designed to help increase performance and win football games.
A recent Twitter exchange provides evidence that the Glass training can be impactual on the beach. Former Oklahoma State slot receiver David Glidden, now working toward his rookie season with the Atlanta Falcons and doing a good job of it, recently gave quarterback Mason Rudolph grief for flexing in a picture with his younger brother, Rock Hill High School senior tight end and defensive end and Clemson bound Logan Rudolph. I'm guessing not every quarterback in the country looks like Rudolph.
Glidden, who was back in Stillwater in July getting some work in under Glass and staff to be ready for the Falcons training camp, is not alone, as often, former Cowboys in the NFL come back in the summer to prepare to keep their jobs in the NFL. They come back because they know the Glass training works.
That is what is going on right now. It is not televised, in fact, it isn't written about much. I have access to check out Glass and his staff at work in the weight room and either on the turf at Boone Pickens Stadium or in the Sherman Smith Center. I do it once or twice in the summer, sparingly. Anymore than that and I might be run out. You see this is not the part of the program that is designed for attention and the spotlight, that is Saturday afternoons and evenings, on a secondary basis it is the preparation on the field in August and the spring football workouts.
The summer is where you could say the magic happens and like all good magicians, Glass doesn't want his secrets out there including how that rain storm doesn't hit Stillwater on a Friday morning until those stadium steps have been finished. Glass will tell you there's no magic, just good planning and hard work. That combination has been working for the last 11 years in building Oklahoma State football.