After five months with Morris, in his third run as strength and conditioning coach for the Panthers football team, Nate Byham has changed dramatically. Weekly runs up Flagstaff Hill in Oakland, as well as intense workouts in the weight room, made Byham and his teammates lean, mean football machines.
"In my opinion, it's been a pretty rigorous summer so far, but I'm not the only one who says that,'' Byham said. "A lot of other guys have said that, too. But I really haven't been through an offseason workout in the past, so I have to go by this. And this has been pretty intense, but it's good, too.
"So, even though it's been a little rough, we know what they're trying to do with us. And we can feel the changes already since the season ended. We starting to notice some things during the spring, but we're showing improvement all the time now. It's really working, and that's great.''
Byham arrived at Pitt last year as an athletic and talented, but relatively thin tight end. However, head coach Dave Wannstedt and his staff saw a lot of potential in Byham and not just because he had a couple acrobatic receptions with one going for a touchdown. He had the desire to improve, as well as the potential, and his hard work already is paying off.
"Since I've gotten here, I've gained more than 20 pounds of muscle,'' Byham said. "And since the season ended, I've probably gained 12 pounds of that. So, most of it has happened since the season ended, but everyone's getting bigger. The whole team is improving. Our linemen are getting leaner and tougher, and they all look great.
"I think we're getting a lot stronger and quicker, too. I know that I feel a lot faster with all the speed work that we're doing. And our endurance, it's ridiculous right now. I think we could run forever if we had to. It feels like that right now, at least, because we do a lot of running for speed and endurance. And if you lose your heat, you have to run some more.''
Byham said he has weighed between 240 and 245 pounds lately and believes he can hit 250 before training camp begins in August. Byham looked great during a recent workout at the UPMC Sports Complex, and he believed that continued hard work would pay huge dividends this season.
"I'm stronger right now, and I feel like I'm a lot quicker,'' Byham said. "So, I'm improving all the time. I certainly have high expectations for myself, but I feel like people have high expectations for me as well. And I feel like I can meet that challenge. I want people to believe I can be counted on, and I want my teammates to look to me when we need a big play.
"I want to be the guy to make those plays, and I'm working hard to become that guy. So, playing last season wasn't a waste of a redshirt. I'm sure of that, because I won't go into next season feeling like I'm a freshman all over again. I had a decent season and a real good spring, and with a strong offseason I'll go into this fall with a lot of confidence.''
That gives one the impression that Byham is set to have a breakout season in just his second year in the program. Even though fellow tight ends John Pelusi and Darrell Strong have been with the program longer, Byham is expected to be the starter when the Panthers line up against Eastern Michigan Sept. 1.
"That would be great, but I'm not really thinking about that,'' Byham said. "The other guys are talented, too, and I think we'll all get some playing time.''
But with Byham making such dramatic improvements off the field, expect his game to reach another level on it as well this season.
Byham Bulking Up
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