By now, most frequent readers of this website have seen the YouTube video of the new head of strength and conditioning for the Texas football program, Bennie Wylie, made during his time at Tennessee. Those readers also know that the dude is absolutely ripped and does every workout with each group of players -- usually three a day. Likewise, it's a well-known fact that the only coach allowed to have contact with the players during the summer is the strength and conditioning coach, a reality that made Jeff Madden's propensity to delegate responsibility for observing workouts to other members of his staff all the more frustrating.
What's not as well known is what makes Wylie tick, the forces that molded him into the person he is today. Bill Little, the head of Texas media relations, often gets disparaged around the Longhorn interwebs for a variety of reasons, but managed to put together a nice piece on Wylie for the official website, mostly by allowing Wylie to do most of the talking. Let this serve as a lesson, Bill.
Anyway, it's well worth reading, not only because it's the offseason, but because it provides a fascinating portrayal of the guy who has as much of an influence on the entire football team as anyone other than. Perhaps more than Brown, as Wylie spends more time with the players than is possible for the head coach. In fact, it's not a stretch to say that Wylie may be the most important hire among the myriad changes to the Texas coaching staff following the disastrous 2010 season.
After years of poor development in the strength and conditioning program at Texas, particularly among the skill positions, but also along the offensive line, this summer marks a major opportunity for Wylie to put his mark on the football program by helping players like Taylor Bible, Ashton Dorsey, and De'Aires Cotton improve their physical conditioning, and players like Chris Jones and Bryant Jackson add the type of functional strength they will need to survive the grind of a college football season.
More than just a football player growing up, Wylie was also an Eagle Scout, member of an all-state church choir, and the captain of the Mexia High School band, playing the trumpet and tuba. So not only was Wylie an uncommonly well-rounded young man, he also had numerous strong influences in his life pushing him to succeed and accepting nothing less than his best -- the type of lessons that Wylie clearly carries with him today as he seeks to push members of the Texas football program to the same lofty levels.
For Wylie, the weight room is "a microcosm of life," calling it "truth, reality, and production." Instead of simply focusing on the physical tools it takes to succeed in the weight room, then, Wylie also understands the mental aspects of the task:
I am intrigued by the mind. The body is just a machine. It will do some amazing things, but the brain--the soul, the spirit--drives the machine. And that is my edge. That's my strength. I have a strong mind, and I will make my body do things it probably should not do any more...that it can't do. And hopefully, that's what I can pass on to the team--that your body will do what your mind tells it to do.
For a team that often lacked mental toughness last season -- a charge leveled against Mack Brown's teams during the long losing streak against Oklahoma not so long ago, as well -- Wylie's ability to hone the team's mental edge during grueling summer workouts will lay the foundation for 2011 success come fall Saturdays:
We've all seen great athletes with great talent that do nothing with it. So to me, that mental edge is the difference. There is a little man in your head and he can talk you into, and out of, a lot of things. So are you going to listen to that little guy when he tells you to stay in bed? It's early, and you don't have to get up. Or the little guy tells you this is too heavy. Don't lift this...you have a little ache here...don't finish through the line, just pull up. We all hear that little voice, and to me, that's what makes the human being incredible, because that little guy in your head runs the whole thing. You have to conquer him.
The motto for the season is "brick by brick," a slogan that focuses on doing the little things right every day to set the stage for success. Spring practice helped begin to lay the foundation, but it seems apt to describe the work that Wylie will do during the summer as the true foundation, a responsibility that the head of strength and conditioning for football takes extremely seriously:
If we are a coach-driven team, we are not going to be very good. This is a player-driven team, and it needs to be that way. Coach Brown gives me the honor of giving me his team to train and take care of. It's like your Dad gives you the keys to the Porsche. You can drive it, but you better not scratch it or wreck it. It's great that you get to drive a Porsche, but you are really excited when you get to hand him the Porsche back and there's not a scratch on it. It's in perfect condition, just like he gave it to you. It's a huge responsibility for him to trust this football team with not just me, but our entire strength and conditioning staff. There are a lot of guys and girls that work down here that push this team. They are here at five in the morning, and they stay late just like I do.
Judging by the spring game, it's not clear that Brown is exactly handing Wylie the keys to a Porsche -- if it is a Porsche, it's probably a 914 -- but it is definitively clear that Wylie will play an incredibly large role in helping the team lay down the first bricks building to a successful season in his own articulate, humble, powerful way:
I am just a blue collar kid from the country. I am just going to do my part and push our team from the back, and let our players drive the team. When you bring energy and excitement and you are willing to work hard, only good things are in store for us.
For one, I'm following wherever you're leading, coach.