Tennessee football has fallen behind the rest of its SEC rivals on the field. If you had to pinpoint one reason why it happened, those of you who point to the weight room would have a really strong case.
The Vols neglected the weight room. Countless Tennessee players have had seasons ended prematurely due to injury. And the ones who were healthy were over-matched physically. Over the last handful of years, elite programs around the country invested almost ten times the amount that Tennessee put into its Strength and Conditioning program.
As Jeremy Pruitt put together his coaching staff, one of the most promising signs was the $625,000 salary of new strength coach Craig Fitzgerald.
Tuesday afternoon, the Vol football twitter account gave a peak into the world of Coach Fitzgerald and his mentality as they redo the weight room.
— Tennessee Football (@Vol_Football) April 24, 2018
A phrase you heard a couple of times: the best in the world. No more mirrors! No more pretty boys wanting to stare at themselves as they walk around with little weights. There’s only one thing to worry about when you’re in the weight room. Becoming the best in the world. Becoming a beast.
Simple enough. To the point with a clear message. Fairly calm.
Don’t be fooled. The guy is a psycho.
And I say that in the most complimentary way possible.
Your strength and conditioning coach needs to be crazy. Coach Fitzgerald may be unhinged.
Deadspin put together a couple of his greatest hits in a piece in 2012. The internet pretty much universally accepts that “Coach Mac” is Coach Fitzgerald due to the timeline of the writer’s time at Harvard matching up with Fitzgerald’s time at Harvard.
(By the way, I’d be willing to do some really unspeakable things to get some stories from the previous six years.)
One of my favorites was the recollection of Coach Mac’s antics on a day when a professional cameraman was there filming workouts in the Harvard football room.
“It’s time to decide what kind of man you want to be,” he started. “Do you want to be a man who’s weaker than a fart in an astronaut suit? Or do you want to be a man who stares adversity in the face and tells it to f*** off?”
“Do you want to be a man who can’t give his own son a piggyback ride because you have chopsticks for legs? Or do you want to be a man who squats 400 pounds five times with enough testosterone left over to impregnate a woman just by looking at her?” Coach Mac continued, the intensity in his coarse voice growing. “Now when you get in that squat rack, you’ve got to be a real man. Not some boy who worries about his arithmetic test or whatever you guys study at this goddamn place.”
He then pointed at the cameraman. “Turn that thing off.”
It’s important to be a showman. It helps get the message across. I’m just going to copy the excerpt from the book that was written by one of his former players at Harvard.
“If you want to be a beast at lifting, at football, at anything in life, you need to have big balls! Look at me! I may have a small dick”—Coach Mac pulled his shorts down to his knees, completely exposing himself—”but I have big f****** balls!” He cupped his package with both his hands, proudly presenting it to his audience like a magician who just pulled a rabbit out of a hat. A round of gasps escaped from the players, but the loudest screams came from members of the women’s volleyball team, who were stretching a few yards away. Coach Mac pulled up his shorts and nonchalantly tucked his motivator back inside. “Now follow me, I’ve got a surprise for you guys!” he said, as if him whipping out his dick in public wasn’t a surprise.
Coach Mac led us to a squat rack wedged in the corner of the weight room, facing the mirrored wall a few feet away.
Coach Mac’s big “surprise” was that he was going to squat 400 pounds five times to help inspire us. But I suspect this was more for the camera, which was rolling again. A couple of us began sliding 45-pound plates onto the bar that was suspended five feet in the air while he ran over to the stereo and turned on “Hells Bells” by AC/DC, the song he claims was playing on the radio when he lost his virginity. Before stepping up to the bar, Coach Mac performed a couple of neck rolls and then took a deep breath.
The first two repetitions went smoothly, as Coach Mac gripped the 400-pound bar that rested on his upper back, and steadily squatted down and then back up to a standing position. The third rep, however, was a major struggle for him, as his quivering knees barely produced enough force to power the weight up from his crouching position. It was clear that Coach Mac was not going to be able to complete the final two reps, so the entire team cheered for his effort as a couple of the guys rushed to help him get the bar off his back and onto the rack.
“No!” he barked. “Don’t you f*****’ touch me!”
A few of the seniors on the team quickly tried to talk him out of it, explaining that he could really be injured —maybe even killed—if he didn’t put the weight down. But Coach Mac’s mind had been transported into some alternate universe. He stood in a trance as the bar applied relentless pressure on his back and knees. Sweat poured down his face, which now matched the crimson color of his shirt, and a vein popped in his forehead. He stared at his reflection in the mirror for a moment with pure hatred in his eyes. Then he spoke to himself.
“You … f****** … P***Y!”
Coach Mac then spat in the reflection of his own face. As his loogie slowly trickled down the mirror, he performed two perfect squats in rapid succession, threw the weight back on the rack, turned around, took one step towards us, and collapsed flat on his face.
We had heard from other varsity teams that Coach Mac had pulled this motivational stunt before, so we let his massive body lie motionless on the ground for about a minute. It wasn’t until his body began to spontaneously twitch that we decided to act. I made a movement to the telephone to call for help, but someone told me to stop. Coach Mac was waking up.
“Coach, are you OK?”
Coach Mac groaned and slowly rolled over onto his back. His eyes were
looking in two different directions.
“Did I make it?” he mumbled. “Did I make five reps?”
THIS IS THE KIND OF GUY YOU NEED LEADING THE STRENGTH AND CONDITIONING PROGRAM AT A PLACE LIKE THE UNIVERSITY OF TENNESSEE!!!!!!!
Next time you’re in the super market, keep this advice in mind when in the produce section.
“Kester, do you know why I eat so many bananas?”
“I don’t know. Because they’re delicious?”
“Have you ever seen a small f****** gorilla?
Spoiler alert: No. You have never seen a small gorilla.
According to this football player, when coach wasn’t trying to get him to eat bananas or donuts by shoving them down his throat, he was singing the praises of creatine.
“It will help you pack on weight, and it isn’t even illegal yet,” Coach Mac explained, handing me a giant bottle of the white powder. “Just mix it with water and drink it before and after every workout. Personally, I like to add a couple scoops to my coffee every morning. Nothing like caffeine and creatine to get your day going. It’s like killing two birds with one sledgehammer!”
“Isn’t this kind of dangerous?” I asked. “What are the side effects?”
Coach Mac snatched the container back from me and inspected the label on the back. His eyes grew wide. “Oh dear,” he said gravely. “It says here that ‘side effects may include getting f****** huge, with occasional bouts of manliness.'” He shoved the can of creatine back in my arms. “Stop being such a Sally and take out your tampon. Get with the goddam program.”
I’m not 100% sold on Jeremy Pruitt yet, but I am 1000000000% sold on Craig Fitzgerald being the absolute perfect fit to get Tennessee’s football players back to where they need to be both physically and mentally.