Any Tennessee football player not yet digesting at least 150 grams of protein per day soon will be — or else they’ll have to answer to Rock Gullickson.
Gullickson replaces Dave Lawson, who came to Tennessee to be the director of strength and conditioning in December 2012 alongside Jones. The two were together at Cincinnati (2010-12) and Central Michigan (2007-09). That lasting relationship took a turn for the worst a year ago that resulted in a divorce between Lawson and Jones.
Michael Szerszen assumed Lawson’s duties with Tennessee football for the 2016 season but did so while maintaining the associate director’s title. Szerszen also represented the program at the Tennessee coaches clinic last spring. The director position has been vacant since Lawson’s exit.
InsideTennessee expects Tennessee to make the hire official within 72 hours.
“I can see that (strength directory position) being filled here very, very shortly,” Vols coach Butch Jones told IT on Tuesday night.
Gullickson has decades of experience in the industry as he got into the leading of strength training on the collegiate level around the same time Johnny Majors was in his second season as head coach of the Volunteers (1978). A job at Moorehead (Minn.) State was the first of 22 years on the collegiate level. Texas (1993-97) and Louisville (1998-99) were the final two of seven college stops before a National Football League debut with the the New Orleans Saints (2000-05).
Hall of Fame quarterback Brett Favre gushes about Gullickson as the two were together with the Green Bay Packers from 2005-07 before Favre moved on to the New York Jets. Favre played in 299 straight games and threw a total of 10,169 pro passes. Conditioning work played a vital role in that feat.
Gullickson, who’s come a long way since being a 165-pound walk-on offensive lineman training with 60-cent flywheels, was the NFL’s strength coach of the year in 2007. After one more year with the Packers, he moved on to work with the St. Louis Rams and joined that franchise in Los Angeles this summer. He gained some national attention with HBO’s Hard Knocks as then-coach Jeff Fisher had Gullickson be the bearer of bad news, sending players to see the Rams brass to be handed their walking papers.
He made changes to the Rams’ setup, according to the franchise website: “Gullickson headed up a dramatic reconstruction of the weight room and shifted the program emphasis to training for power and explosiveness. Gullickson changed the entire layout by creating free weight stations that allow players to move easily from station to station. He also created a team-orientated strength and conditioning program that focused on the shared experience of the program. Emphasis is placed on increasing strength levels with modifications based on specific player needs.”
Gullickson molded himself from being that hometown walk-on to an All-Northern Sun Conference performer and Associated Press Division III All-American in 1977.
Below is a glance at Gullickson's professional journey, courtesy the Los Angeles Rams: