By now, people all around the nation have most likely heard the now-infamous Dan Hawkins rant that occurred last week following the football program’s recruiting press conference.
In his rant, Hawkins spoke of an anonymous letter he received from a player’s parent. The coach disclosed information in the letter regarding the parent’s dismay that their child didn’t receive more time off during winter break.
After calmly discussing the letter for a few moments, Hawkins screamed out, “This is Division I football! It’s the Big 12!”
And just like that, Hawkins sent his message. According to Hawkins, his team needs to get tougher and if that means cutting winter break short by one week for his players then that’s what has to be done. If the parents of CU football players want to understand how serious Hawkins is about the toughness of his football team, they need to look no further than an office in the Dal Ward weight room.
Enter Jeff Pittman, the man who should very well put a little fear into parent’s hearts.
If mommy and daddy were scared for their kid’s well-being and are afraid they are being pushed too hard, then they might not want to run into Pittman.
Pittman, whose shoulders look like they could provide the infrastructure for the very weight room he commands, speaks in a heavy, yet serene, voice when he addresses what he wants the perfect CU football player’s make up to be.
“Our base is a blue-collar, we’re going to do things the right way and we’re going to do it hard,” Pittman said. “We want guys that are going to work hard and they’re going to be dudes. Everything’s tied into this.”
However, don’t be fooled by Pittman’s laid-back lingo. His stature is imposing enough to make you squirm in your chair. With big, bulky shoulders, gargantuan hands and a barrel chest, Pittman looks and acts the part.
Pittman was on Hawkins’ staff at Boise State and he joined the coach here at CU in June of last year. When Pittman arrived at the same position for the Buffs, Hawkins told him 11 guys could power clean 300 pounds or more. Pittman estimated that the number stood around 30 after his first three months on campus.
That increase is even more impressive considering Pittman said he took a laid-back approach during his first three months on campus.
“I sat back the entire summer evaluating the kids just seeing where they were,” Pittman said. “The program was watered-down at that point.”
In a season in which the football team went 2-10 and got out-classed by the likes of Division I-AA Montana State, there is little reason to question the coach’s assertion.
Before Hawkins predecessor Gary Barnett left the school, the team’s conditioning and strength training had slipped to an unsatisfactory level for a Big 12 school. The team’s weakness showed as it struggled to play 60 minutes with pretty much anyone last season.
Then came the off-season. Players began to work out almost immediately after the team’s last game against Nebraska in November and Pittman took the gloves off.
The coach now says 47 members of the team can power clean 300 lbs or more not only once, but four times.
These kinds of strength gains are the reason Hawkins hired Pittman from his staff at Boise State.
Pittman says that when he was at Boise State, the philosophy was “we may not be more athletic than you, but we will be tougher than you and as a result, we’ll be fresher at the end of the game.”
The coach has carried that philosophy over to CU and it appears to be working.
Hawkins’ team needed a makeover and Pittman stepped in to assist.
Pittman said his team is working out four days a week during the off-season in order to prepare for spring ball next month. In addition to their weightlifting obligations, Pittman says the team also does regular conditioning workouts during the week which can start before 6 a.m.
CU’s strength guru says that the players’ responses to his workouts have been mostly positive, but like anything else where change is involved, there has been some difficulty.
“There’s resistance to a degree but now I think kids are buying into it and enjoying it,” Pittman said. “The kids are starting to act like the guys at Boise, they’re all about the weight room and are getting some sense of self-pride.”
Anybody that wants to question the work Pittman is putting in with the football team just needs to replay the Fiesta Bowl from this past January when his former program, Boise State, shocked the country with players that were supposed to smaller, weaker and slower than those playing for BCS-power Oklahoma.
That toughness is what Pittman is trying to instill into his players at CU. If the team’s strength improvements thus far are any indication, Buffs fans can expect to see a much more physically-imposing CU team take the field in the years to come.
Combine Hawkins passion for the game and desire to improve CU’s football program with Pittman’s hard-core approach to weightlifting and it’s hard not to get excited.