They see it when they look at the barrel-chested coach with 21-inch biceps and legs the size of a Paris fashion model’s waist.
But looks aren’t everything. Once they see him work out, they’re convinced. Often times, he trains with guys half his age, in the midst of their athletic primes.
On pulling exercises, pins are pushed in at the bottom with a stack of weights the height of small child atop them. He slings around 45-pound plates like a restaurant dishwasher does cheap china. The 40-year-old doesn’t struggle to keep up with the whippersnappers. He leads the way, ripping through reps and sets to the awe of those around him.
Machristie is the most recent addition to Oxford High School’s football coaching staff. He was brought in on June 25th after a three-year stint as an assistant at Talladega to help coach the Yellow Jackets’ defense and assist with strength and conditioning.
The latter is an area where the Alexandria and Jacksonville State alumnus is especially gifted. The former bodybuilder and power lifter also holds down a gig as a certified personal trainer at Anniston Family Fitness where he works with everyone from folks trying to shed a few pounds to fit into their swimsuits this summer to current and former college players.
In his heyday in the late 1990s as a power lifter, Machristie could squat 625 pounds, bench press 440, military press 315 and curl 225.
“Everybody sees how hard I train in here, and they want what I’ve got,” Machristie said.
Machristie, who stands 6-foot-2 and weighs 255 pounds, plans to give players at Oxford the same hands-on, show-don’t-simply-tell type of instruction. It’s what has made the likes of former Oxford standouts defensive end John Clark (Troy) and running back Chandler Shakespeare (Auburn), Chris Evans, a former Alexandria and Samford star, and former NFL player Kivuusama Mays, an Anniston High School alumnus, seek out his services.
“Even with the women I train, I do my sit-ups with them and sometimes cardio,” Machristie said. “When someone sees you working with them, they’re going to have more initiative to get more serious with it.
“That’s how it is with coaching, too. I get in there with them and show them what I want them to do and what I expect them to do.”
What Machristie wants out of the Yellow Jackets’ this season is more aggression, he said. He plans to get the unit, anchored by a pair of SEC-level recruits in seniors-to-be Ulrich Jones and Trent Simpson on the defensive front, prepared with a training regimen personally designed to optimize performance.
“It’s good to have a guy like that,” said Oxford head coach John Grass “Whether a guy’s a visual learner and needs to be shown or is an audio learner, he can reach him. He’s also a good tech guy with the video. We’re glad to have him.”
Grass added that he’s still in the process of finalizing specific roles, specifically naming a defensive coordinator. It’s something he plans to square away in the next two to three weeks.
Production on the field isn’t all about lifting, pushing and pulling ungodly amounts of weight either, Machristie said. He’s a huge proponent of stretching and flexibility. It’s a technique he picked up during his bodybuilding days, which not only helps the visibility of trained muscle groups but helps prevent the likelihood of injuries when players fall in awkward positions as is often the case in pileups. His program includes jump roping, pushing the sled and parachute runs.
“The weight room doesn’t make you an athlete,” he said. “It just makes you a better athlete.”
Before coming to Class 5A Talladega, Machristie spent 11 seasons at Class 1A Talladega County Central where he served as defensive coordinator and strength and conditioning coach. During that span, the Fighting Tigers made eight playoffs and endured only one losing season. In 2007, they reached the state championship game, going 14-0 before falling to powerhouse Sweet Water.
Last season, Oxford was a win away from the Class 6A state title, falling to Hoover on the road in the state semifinals. Machristie said he can already sense the Yellow Jackets’ hunger to make it to the state’s ultimate stage.
“That’s one thing about Oxford. Even the kids who don’t get a chance to play, they’re playing 100 percent at practice,” Machristie said. “You don’t have to coach up the young ones to play hard and make the juniors, seniors and starters better.”
Nick Birdsong covers prep sports for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3575. Follow him on Twitter @birds_word.