A&M rookies go through unique training

Aggie football rookies get a crash course on how to eat--and cook--for themselves. Aggie Websider visits with Director of Performance Nutrition Amy Bragg and incoming freshman Jeff Fuller about his impressive results after just a few months on the plan, as well as a surprise visitor who raves about the A&M nutrition program.

With the addition of the Bright Complex a few years ago, the Texas A&M football office has done all it can to help bridge the gap between high school and college for its athletes. In fact, the "BRIDGE" program, helps incoming freshman adapt to college by teaching them how to study for classes, how to take notes, and now, how to eat healthy.

Texas A&M is one of 16 schools in the nation that boasts a full-time nutrition staff, and after five years at A&M, Director of Performance Nutrition Amy Bragg is making sure that she gets her message across to the rookies from day one, with the help of a full kitchen that she had built in 2005 in the Bright Complex.

"After five years, the food is coordinated and planned, and now we want to focus on the rookies and help them establish good diets," Bragg said. "It's a small part of what we do, but we get to the rookies with a nutrition message when they first get here once a week. It helps us get to know them one on one and it's very informal."

Bragg believes that A&M is still the only school in the nation that has a full kitchen on campus to teach athletes how to cook for themselves at home.

"I don't know anyone else that has one, but I know some other schools are trying to build them into their facilities because I've gotten calls from other nutrition programs," she said. "The setup is one thing, the fact that we have a nutrition program is another. There are only 16 nutrition programs in the country in Division I athletics. We are the only one in the Big 12 South, and Nebraska and Kansas are the only other two Big 12 schools."

The program designed for rookies has aleady made an impact on incoming freshman Jeff Fuller.

"I came in at the weight I wanted to play, but it's helped me lose fat and gain muscle and help me maintain my weight," Fuller said while eating a ham and egg omelet as part of a lesson on the importance of eating breakfast, which Bragg says is her toughest challenge.

"There's a lot of things I thought was good to eat, but it really wasn't," Fuller said. "When you go to Subway you think you're eating healthy, but that's not necessarily true because of all the condiments and bacon and cheese and stuff you can get."

In just a few months of the A&M nutrition program, Fuller, a 6-foot-4 wide receiver who posted 40 times of 4.5 in high school, has already seen improvement thanks to the program.

"Both of my body scans were a lot different," Fuller said. "The first one I weighed 210 and I had six or seven percent body fat, which was decent. The second time I weighed in I was 205 and my muscle went up and my body fat went down a whole percentage point," which has helped him become even faster.

Former A&M defensive lineman Red Bryant, who was recently in town to help with Ty Warren's camp in Bryan, was working out on campus and said Bragg's program has given him a leg up on his fellow rookies in the NFL, and was a big part of the reason for his success at the NFL combine.

"Amy is really keeping guys in the league, you can ask Melvin Bullitt and a guy like me always having weight problems," Bryant said. "She means a lot to me. I was having trouble eating a lot of greasy foods and she gave me a list of all the grains and vegetables and meats with protein to eat. She even went to HEB with me one time and helped me shop. She's a blessing.

"It's funny everything Amy's telling the guys at A&M it translates to the next level. When I got to Seattle, Coach Clark gave me a menu of certain things hydrate with and replenish your body and I was like, ‘I already know about this stuff, Coach Clark.' It paid dividends, especially when I was getting ready for the combine and the senior bowl."

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