Strength Coach Brings Fresh Motivation

Strength and conditioning coach Aaron Ausmus, known as "Double A" to the USC staff and players, has brought a fresh motivation to the field this season.

It starts with a simple text.

It serves as many guys' alarm clocks.

The message always timely, always uplifting.

Mornings for the USC football team are a little brighter this year, thanks in large part to strength and conditioning coach Aaron Ausmus.

"They bring an awesome intensity every day. No matter how early it is, what day of the week it is, we're going five days a week for the second half of summer, they were hyped and getting us going," said offensive lineman Khaled Holmes. "As a team we responded really well to the enthusiasm."

Known as "Double A" to the nearly 100 players he texts, Ausmus doesn't just help young men gain confidence. He helps them mature.

"We're going to say ‘hey there's going to be a pivotal point today when this is going to be really hard for them,'" Ausmus said. "And I want, as a staff, to send this type of message. And that's the point when guys will push through."

Ausmus looks every bit the part of a trainer, from the shaven head to his muscular frame. That physique has been motivation in itself for some of the program's athletes.

"I think other strength coaches they might talk the talk but they don't necessarily walk the walk," linebacker Chris Galippo said. "It's like going to a dentist who doesn't have any teeth. You could have done all the schooling and been a great dentist but [not] if you're not taking care of yourself. So I think that's big because [Ausmus] leads by example."

Ausmus' determination is contagious to both veteran and freshmen alike. Just his second year into the program, Ausmus came over to USC with head coach Lane Kiffin from the University of Tennessee. Numerous athletes at USC said they're more excited to train than ever before.

"He brought results. That's what got us to buy in. He came in, fed us our workouts and everything then we started to see results. Guys started running faster, jumping higher, lifting more weight and performing better," said defensive end Devon Kennard.

Surgeries are a frequent occurrence for athletes playing at a high level. But the aftermath—the recuperation, the rehabilitation and the recovery—is Ausmus and his supporting staff's forte.

"As each week goes by the guys downstairs they're getting me better, my confidence is growing," defensive tackle Christian Tupou said.

Taking care of athletes both mentally and physically after surgery in preparation for the next season is a formidable task. But the rewards provide dividends for Ausmus and the strength staff.

"You take a guy like Christian Tupou who was out last year with his ACL [injury]. And he handled it so well. And a lot of people [might say] ‘oh whoa is me,' it might take them six to eight months to be their old self again," Ausmus said. "And what you see now with Christian is his leadership develop while he was hurt, he actually kind of came out of his shell. It was great to watch that grow."

There's no use of the word "workout" with Ausmus and his staff. It's too casual, he said. The appropriate substitute is "train." He explains why two words that seem synonymous have drastically different subtext.

"I've always told them ‘hey if your minds made up to do something you'll be better at it than if you were just going through the motion.' That's something that me and the staff really [preach] on a daily basis to make sure when they come through the doors, that they're training for something," Ausmus said.

That something varies per individual. But the collective training effort is noticeable among nearly every football player. That effort has produced a palpable, fresh energy this team so desperately needed going into its final year of an NCAA-sanctioned postseason.

This team has a new focus. It's obvious. The training may be only one factor. But camaraderie and unity begin in the weight room. And they build in the hours when the cameras aren't flashing.

But when they are, these athletes' love for football—that love that appeared only in glimpses last season—is clear to anyone watching.


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