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August 5, 2011

Wylie the Workhorse has players thinking positive

First-year Texas strength and conditioning coach Bennie Wylie was asked if, as he got older, he would stop running and lifting with his players.

"I don't get old," Wylie smiled right back.

And for a second you believe him.

Right about now, the Texas Longhorns probably believe Wylie is ageless … tireless … and … relentless.


"There are days you show up to work out and you don't really feel it," said junior defensive end Alex Okafor. "But then you get around Bennie and your mind just transforms. You start to work out, and he takes you places you never thought you would go."

WE MUST PROTECT THIS HOUSE:Like the dizzying top steps on both sides of Darrell K Royal Memorial Stadium.

"We ran the very top of DKR this summer just to let them know this is our home and we have to protect it," said Wylie who found out later he had some players who were afraid of heights.

"There was a few that I found out after the fact that they didn't like heights," he said. "But they had teammates who really helped them through, cheering them on. To have a fear and do something anyway, that's a testament to the character of our team."

A WINNING ATTITUDE:Player after player talks about the improved mindset of the Longhorns, and they give much of that credit to Wylie.

He has transformed players' bodies and minds by completely transforming Texas' off-season conditioning program.

Jeff "Mad Dog" Madden, who used to oversee UT's football conditioning and now oversees 14 strength coaches at Texas, said Friday he and Wylie get to UT's Moncrief Neuhaus football complex around 5 am every morning. During the summer there were workouts for players at 6 am, 8 am, 10 am, 12 pm and 2 pm.

THE ENERGIZER BUNNY: "The days were tedious and long," Madden said. "But I call Bennie the Energizer Bunny because he just keeps going."

Madden was asked Friday about Mack Brown's joke on Wednesday that Wylie is not allowed to take off his shirt around the other coaches' wives.

"Bennie looks like a Greek god or something," Madden said. "I'm an old power lifter, weight lifter who will smack you around a little bit. But I'm not going to look pretty."

TEMPO TRAINING: Madden said Wylie has transformed the "Explosive Power" program Madden had been running for 13 years by bringing "tempo training" to Texas.

Under Madden, players would "stroll" from station to station while lifting weights. Now, players run from station to station doing various drills that simulate situations during a football game.

"Before, we would lift as heavy as we could to get as strong as we could and then we would stroll over to the next station," Madden said. "So we are now moving from station to station at a high tempo. So we are getting that aerobic conditioning between every set of lifting."

WEIGHT ROOM EQUALS FOOTBALL FIELD: Wylie sees the Texas weight room as the football field. Everything is done with a football play in mind. At times, he has players doing a set of bench press, then jumping up off the bench, looking to a teammate for signal as to what kind of conditioning drill the player will do next before moving to his next set of weights to lift.

"It's my goal to train our guys just like they are going to play," Wylie said. "If you're a defensive lineman and you're going to take on a heavy block, you're going to bull rush, you're going to speed rush or drop into coverage like the D-linemen are going to have to do in this defense - there's so many things you have to do in a football play. It's not just about bench and squat. I try and really duplicate what our coaches do on the field - I try to duplicate that in the weight room.

"It doesn't matter how strong or how fast you are if you can't play the game.

"There's a lot of crazy things involved. We sprint in the weight room. We push sleds. We bench, we squat. It depends on the day or what part of the off-season we are in.

"It looks like mass chaos down there, but they know where they are going and what they are doing. But it's just like a football play. They have to look to the sideline and get a call. They've got to turn and communicate that to their teammates. Then they've got to execute it and execute it full speed. They've got to run to the ball and get the next call. All of that needs to look like our off-season."

GOING ONE-ON-ONE:Madden said Wylie's ability to connect with players makes him effective.

"Bennie has what Texas needs because he has a great heart and cares about kids," Madden said.

Okafor said Wylie's magic is "treating everyone differently."

"You've got to push some harder than others," Okafor said. "Some people are self-starters and some aren't. He treats everyone like individuals."

Speaking of individuals, Wylie goes out of his way to get to guys personally, so he knows how best to communicate as a coach. He'll even do some training with players one-on-one, such as playing racquetball.

"That's the joy of my position," Wylie said. "I'm around these guys all year long, so I really get to know them. Like right now, I'm supposed to be at lunch with the guys.

"We hang out. We do things together, so I know what button to push. I know what makes them tick. I know some guys like to be coached hard and others you have to put your arm around.

"So during that one-on-one time, you know what that guy needs because I'm going to talk to their position coach. I'm going to be at every practice and see what they need to work on. Then after practice, I'll say, we really need to work on sticking your toe in the ground.

"Then, during the spring and summer, I'll create drills that will really help hone that part of their craft."

ALL ABOUT TRUST: Wylie has earned the trust of his players. Several players went toe to toe with Wylie in the weight room - such as LB Keenan Robinson, who increased his bench from 405 last year to 450 this summer.

"For me, it's about pouring my heart and soul into this place and really into the kids," Wylie said. "You all have heard the myth that I run and train with all the groups. That's really not true. But I'm going to do anything and everything I can for those guys.

"So if it means I need to run an extra sprint or if it means I need to hop in and lift with them to challenge them, I'll do it. It has nothing to do with me. I'm a humble kid from Mexia Texas. I have no ego. I'm about making kids better and putting last year behind them."

THE WORKOUT KING: Wylie said too much is made of his joining his players in every running and lifting drill. He repeatedly called it "a myth." But the players say it's no myth.

"He's out there pushing us, doing it with us," Gideon said. "He'll always say to us that he doesn't want to let us down. But we are the ones who don't want to let him down."

Wylie has a philosophy about jumping into drills with his players.

"I do train a lot with the guys, but with young guys I can't do that because I have to do a ton of teaching," Wylie said. "With a guy like Keenan, I can hop in with him, he knows how to train. He's a safe guy, and we can work together. It just depends on their experience level.

"But it's much easier for me as a coach to start them over if we are running 100s, if I'm not out there with them. If I'm out there with them and start 'em over, there's a bigger commitment for me and for the team if we are all starting over together."

LEACH vs. BROWN: Wylie spent seven seasons at Texas Tech as strength and conditioning coach under Mike Leach. He was asked how Leach and Brown are similar or different.

"They both want the best for their kids," Wylie said. "They both want their kids to graduate. That was a really big deal for Coach Leach. And the same thing for Coach Brown. He wants good men. Because after football, there's a life to live."

Madden said last year's team suffered from "a lack of leadership."
But he said this year's seniors have stepped up and done "a great job of making themselves accountable."

"Everyone's embarrassed by what happened last year so we are looking forward to winning some football games again," Madden said. "We've won 133 games at Texas and 188 with Coach Brown the past 18 years. We've won a national title and played for another one. We know how to win. We got off track a little bit. The bottom line is we're back on track."

Madden, who oversees 14 strength and conditioning coaches at Texas, said he and Wylie work well together.

"You've got two great strength coaches working their butts off to try and make Texas the best it can possibly be," Madden said.

THE WANT-TO:Wylie said a huge priority for him is helping the players to draw closer to each other, so they'll do anything for one another.

"As a coach, I can't make on play on Saturday," Wylie said. "As much as I would like to and really get out there, if those seniors aren't in the huddle saying the right things, saying, "It's time right now. It sucks, it's hot, but we have to push through.' Without that, then we really don't have anything."

What Texas has is a football strength and conditioning coach who just seems to keep going … and going … and going.



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