Have you ever thought about how much work, how many squats, sprints or push-ups it takes to get on the field?
LaRay Williams has firsthand knowledge of what it takes. Williams is a receiver for the Jacksonville State University football team. He hails from Elba, where he had a great high school football career. He was MVP his junior and senior year, and was nominated for the Wendy’s Heisman Award and the Bryant- Jordan Scholar Athlete Award. He came to JSU on a scholarship, was red-shirted his first year, but has played ever since.
One of his shining moments came during JSU’s season opener against Ole Miss. There were 18 seconds left in the game. JSU was eight points behind. Marques Ivory threw a 19-yard pass to Alan Bonner for six points, and then Ivory passed to Williams for the two-point conversion to tie the game 34-34.
The rest is history. JSU beat Ole Miss 49-48. It was a great victory for the first game of the season. The behind-the-scenes preparation for that moment was immense.
The members of the football team are under the microscope about 42 weeks of the year, according to Scott Austin, JSU’s head strength and conditioning coach.
Team members start with spring training, where their work ethic is challenged by the staff of coaches. Some of the workouts start at 5 a.m. (a very popular time among college students, as you can imagine).
The famous two-a-day workouts begin in August, in which the athletes work out for 90 minutes early in the morning, followed by 90 minutes in the afternoon.
Once the season begins, they hit the weights for a structured workout they must complete during a set time. (Remember, these players are students, too. They still have classes and internships, plus other responsibilities.) Coach Austin emphasizes power movements that use fast-twitch muscles to help with explosive exercises, such as a clean-and-jerk. Training these fast-twitch muscles translates to speed on the field.
As team members move into the season, they are still doing traditional exercises such as bench presses and squats. When designing the workouts, the coaches take into consideration where in the season they are and how much of a beating their bodies have taken. If the team has a really tough game on Saturday, the sessions are eased up on Monday to help the players recover.
Over the course of the season, there is a lot of wear and tear on the body, so workouts can involve dynamic exercises followed by static stretches.
If a player sustains an injury, he must still work out, but work around the injured body part.
Once game day comes, Williams said the team arrives four hours prior to the start of the game for a pre-game meal and devotion. Then it’s off to a warm-up, which is a dynamic workout, meaning they are moving. The team members do exercises such as skips, jogs or high knee lifts, along with movements that heat up the core of the body, followed by static stretching.
After the game has ended, team members may need treatment for injuries or a whirlpool for sore muscles.
I am getting a little tired just thinking about what these guys endure for the game. Next time you sit down to watch a college game and you are yelling at the TV, think of the work ethic, discipline and heart that go into being on that field.
Ann Angell is the program coordinator and a certified personal trainer at the YMCA of Calhoun County.