Thursday, February 24, 2011

For Indiana Football, Pain Equals Gain

Justin Pagan has big hair. Maybe it's a Sampson thing. The Biblical Sampson and not the phone calling one. You know, the hairier the stronger.

It's a brave new football world for Indiana’s senior offensive lineman, and the rest of the Hoosiers.

For one thing, Pagan looks fitter and leaner, and that is no accident. New strength coach Mark Hill is very, very serious about his goal to upgrade strength and explosiveness.

Sure, Pagan will never have a career as a horse racing jockey, but he will be better suited for IU’s uptempo attack planned by new coach Kevin Wilson.

He’s made the ultimate sacrifice for an offensive lineman -- he’s watching what he eats.

“I’m definitely not eating as much McDonald’s as I used to,” he said. “Now maybe it’s a weekend reward where I’ll do it one day a week. It’s way different than it was before.”

Defensive lineman Adam Replogle has made an even bigger sacrifice -- he’s stopped eating chocolate chip cookies.

“I’m a sucker for those,” he said.

On Thursday we got an invitation into the winter workout sessions designed to boost the Hoosiers into Big Ten contention. At Memorial Stadium’s state-of-the-art training facililty, we saw big men lifting big weights. Guys were groaning, grunting, pushing while doing lunges with dumbbells in each hand that weighed anywhere from 60 to 80 pounds each. It was the no-pain, no-gain approach and it works.

“You can rest, but you can’t take a break,” Pagan said. “It’s like in a game, where you rest between plays, but it’s not a timeout. You do a set, you wait and then you’re right back at it.”

Hill didn’t mess around after he was hired, starting from Day One. There are 5:45 a.m. sessions. There are five days of running (a combination of speed and agility) and four days of lifting.

“After the first week everybody was like, ‘Oh, man. I don’t know about this,’” Pagan said. “Your legs were weak. All the muscles you never knew you had were sore. It took a little time to get past the general shock. Once we got past it, we saw the results. It’s proven. It works, so let’s keep it going.”

Added Hill: “I want them to be leaner, faster, in shape, bigger and more muscular. We’re closing out six weeks of the program and I’ve noticed tremendous improvement. They bought into what we’ve tried to do. I’m trying to echo the message Coach Wilson has said -- to finish, to stay strong, to get better and stay together.”

It sounds good now. Come spring football, which starts in less than two weeks, we’ll start seeing if sound translates into reality.

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