Syracuse coaches stay mainly in their offices. Players stay mainly on campus or in the weight room. With last season's disappointment long in the past and next season's promise still a distant future, it's the dead of football season.
Except for William Hicks.
The Syracuse strength and conditioning coach is busy as always. The winter months are perhaps the busiest of his entire year. He wakes up early and stays at work late. During his long days, he helps shape the Syracuse football team. Because of his busy days, he's perhaps the most important football coach during the offseason.
Hicks has already been at the weight room for a few minutes now. Soon, a group of 20-22 players will pile in the room, and they depend on Hicks to be ready for them.
"This job is all about trust," Hicks said. "I trust them to be here when they're supposed to. Just the same, they expect me to be ready and waiting for them. I can't be out getting a cup of coffee."
Once the players arrive, the room changes. Loud music pierces into the early morning quiet. Weights thud to the ground. Players yell.
This is how Hicks has always liked his weight rooms. He developed the loud, workman-like atmosphere during 15 years as head strength coach at North Carolina State. When he moved to Syracuse in 2000 – bringing assistant Hal Luther with him – he made sure to foster the same environment.
He likes to work with small groups. At some big schools, 40 players fill the weight room at one time. At Syracuse, Hicks works with no more than 25 at once. That's why, when the 7:30 a.m. group finishes its workout, Hicks ushers another group in at 9 a.m.
"That's the way it works for us here," Hicks said. "I like a hands-on approach. I'm a get-in-the-sweats kind of guy. I go out there and work with them, get dirty. That's how you get to know the kids."
More on this article can be found in this month's issue of The Juice.
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