Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Tower of strength: Big John, new weight-room coach, reaps big praise

John Williams, more commonly known as Big John, enters his first year as the strength coach for the Kansas University football team. Williams has made an immediate impact on the Jayhawks.

John Williams, more commonly known as Big John, enters his first year as the strength coach for the Kansas University football team. Williams has made an immediate impact on the Jayhawks.


After talking about themselves, their positions, their new coaches and just about every other aspect of Kansas University’s football program, several Jayhawks were asked about John Williams.

Pick tapped for starting QB spot

KU football coach Turner Gill named sophomore Kale Pick the starting quarterback for KU's upcoming season. Pick, who played second fiddle to Todd Reesing last season, will line up behind center for the Jayhawks' first snap in 12 days.

“Who?” asked one.

“John Williams?” questioned another.

“Who’s that?” queried another.

You know, John Williams. Your new strength coach?

“Oh, Big John,” all three replied, smiling. “Big John. Yeah.”

Rest assured, the Jayhawks aren’t unaware of their new weight-room guru. They’re just not accustomed to referring to him by his proper name.

It’s fair to say Big John has made quite an impression on the Jayhawks in his short time on Mt. Oread.

For proof, there’s head coach Turner Gill’s opening remarks at KU’s media day.

Unprompted, Gill opened his remarks with big praise for Big John.

“I first want to comment on our strength staff,” Gill said. “They have done a tremendous job in our offseason program this summer. In the last four of five days of practice, I can see our strength staff did a great job of getting the players into shape.”

Williams, who has served at North Carolina, Oklahoma State, Baylor and, most recently, South Carolina State, shrugged off the compliments.

“Hey, things are good,” Williams said. “The guys are working hard. We’ve got a great facility and a clear direction from coach how he wants the guys trained. We just prepare them for that.”

Williams would be the first to admit that there aren’t a lot of secrets in the weight-training game. Everybody strives toward bigger-stronger-faster.

“You don’t reinvent the wheel,” Williams said. “There is no sprinkle dust. I think the biggest thing is, we try to educate the kids. There are no secrets. You’re doing this exercise for this result, and it translates on the field to this skill. You never do stuff just to do stuff. We tell ’em all the time, if our objective was just to get ’em tired, I’d put ’em in a 50-pound vest and tell ’em to chase my truck.”

So, no weighted truck-pulling, huh?

“Now, that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t do that,” Williams said with a laugh. “I’ve done all sorts of things throughout my career. We’re willing to do some things as long as it doesn’t harm them.”

Williams especially likes activities that incorporate competition: vehicle pulling, tug of war, even kickball.

“Anything we can do that doesn’t put a kid in danger that might stimulate a little extra interest,” he said.

His new charges seem to have difficulty putting a finger on just how the program is different than it was under previous strength coach Chris Dawson a year ago.

“They focus a lot more on flexibility and strength in the weight room,” linebacker Drew Dudley said. “All of us have been able to put on a little weight. It’s not completely different. I think with coach Dawson we ran a lot more.”

“I haven’t noticed too much,” countered defensive end Jake Laptad. “It’s a different routine, but you’re still going in there and working hard. It’s definitely less running.”

“It’s a big change,” added defensive tackle Darius Parish. “We’re more on performance. We’re working to win games, not just trying to get in shape. We’re getting ready to play games, getting ready to win games.”

Part of that preparation involves more than squats and presses and plyometics. In fact, Williams’ system — which he refers to as the SOUP system, for System Of Ultimate Performance — stresses intangibles every bit as much as it concerns itself with how much iron the Jayhawks can move.

“It’s team accountability,” Williams said. “It’s our character system that brings an air of consistency. No one person is bigger than the team. … And a big part of it is, all we can do is provide the plan. The players provide the effort, and they’ve done that. The intangibles, the work, the volunteer workouts, being punctual … if the players are inconsistent in their approach, you don’t get the result. And it’s a credit to them that they’ve bought in and put in the effort.”

Williams said he studied under the training system employed by the Indianapolis Colts, and he wants to apply that approach to KU.

“They always seem to have smaller guys, but they’re fast and strong and all that,” Williams said. “What we do, we make sure to optimize those guys building to be on the field. We need to keep those guys on the field. We don’t get caught up in what they’re benching and how much they’re squatting one rep. We use those numbers along the way, but that’s not our focus. Our focus is to match their performance and their physical preparation and their mental development to their skill set.

“The biggest thing coach Gill does is action. Everything we do results in actions. We play fast, we train fast. We train intense. Everything we do in the weight room, we try to have a connection to the game. We don’t just talk about doing things. We do things.”


gardenjay 11 years, 5 months ago

This sounds only suggestion would be to have a pic of Big John to go with this fantastic article.

KU_FanSince75 11 years, 5 months ago

Nice article and great quotes from Big John. Hope the hard work translates into wins on the field. Rock Chalk.

KCHawk81 11 years, 5 months ago

SC State was 10-2 last year, with its only losses coming at South Carolina and at Appalachian St. in the FCS playoffs. It won its second straight conference championship, going 8-0 in the MEAC. The team is also the defending SBN Black College National Champion and has been selected number one in the Black College Football Preseason poll.

DallasHawk 11 years, 5 months ago

Great work KCHawk. Somebody please limit mulaza's posting rights to volleyball and rowing.

Randy Bombardier 11 years, 5 months ago

Nah, I like volleyball too much. Make it rowing.

KCHawk81 11 years, 5 months ago

You mean 5 games in one year, right? Why, that's as many games as Buffalo won in the previous four years combined before Gill took over. Wasn't Buffalo a 1-AA school up to 1999? And a D-3 school before that? And then didn't they go from 1-10 in 2005 to 8-6 conference champs in 2008? And then, I believe they lost a four-year-starter at QB and had their starting RB get hurt before the 2009 season even started. They still won 5 games that year?

Tommy Tuberville won 5 games at Auburn in 2008 (only two of them conference games). Gene Chizik won 5 games total at Iowa State (only two of them conference games). Mark Mangino won 5 games at KU in 2009 (only one of them a conference game). To me, winning five games at Buffalo is much, much more impressive than any of those. One of Tommy T's five at Auburn was a November homecoming match against Tennessee-Martin (who?) that the Tigers used to break up what was otherwise a six-game losing streak to end the season.

Not sure why Gill's hire is still even an issue...

David Lara 11 years, 5 months ago

Wow, way to show Mulaza how much of a idiotic tool he is!!!! You know Mulaza, you don't have to post the first thing that comes to your mind, right? You can do a little research to make yourself look even the least bit informed. It might be a good recommendation to hide your extreme and outlandish stupidity.

Dan Harris 11 years, 5 months ago

FU go away MU we're sick of your Negative BS every time you open your mouth vomit spews out!

5DecadeHawk 11 years, 5 months ago

"What we do, we make sure to optimize those guys building to be on the field. We need to keep those guys on the field. "

Huldon Tharp Jeff Spikes Rell Lewis Ed Fink

Brad Thorson should also be mentioned although he is back now.

Who else won't be on the field due to injury?

I'm not saying that Big John caused all the injuries. Clearly we have had injuries in the past including many that were never reported. It would be interesting to see a statistical analysis of all the strength coaches and the injury rates of their players and the performance improvements of their players over their careers too.

Where's a Mad Geek when you need him? ;)

Chris Shaw 11 years, 5 months ago

That guy really deserves his nickname. He looks effortless in lifting that 405 lbs. I mean, he's so nonchalant about it. Now that is a strength coach. It's amazing you can lift something so heavy from the bottom part of your arms like that while standing. Simply Amazing!

Paul Brozik 11 years, 5 months ago

Its not 405 lbs. Its probably only about 330 lbs :) I couldn't resist.

buckleyhawk 11 years, 5 months ago

sure about that? those are either 25 kg plates or 45 lb plates. either way, with a 45 lb bar it would be either 405 lb or ~485 lb.

I really really couldn't resist from geeking out :)

Chris Shaw 11 years, 5 months ago

sabd: First, I was being completely sarcastic with that post. Second, only 330 lbs? This brings up a good debate. I was assuming that each plate was 45 lbs with 180 on each side and the bar weighed 45lbs thus equaling 405 lbs. LOL! I love stupid debates.

Paul Brozik 11 years, 5 months ago

I was assuming it was these plates. Ive used them before. I got your sarcasm. ONLY about 330 lbs was my sarcasm.

Chris Shaw 11 years, 5 months ago

So based on that link you gave me and we do the conversion from kg to lbs (1 Kg equals 2.2 lbs) we got 44lb, 33 lb, and 22lb pound weights on there. If you do quick math that comes out to ONLY 331 lbs. How weak is that? Only 331 lbs!

Jaminrawk 11 years, 5 months ago

I like the idea of using a program similiar to the Indianapolis Colts. Their guys are usually small but quick and the way college football goes with recruiting, that is usually the type of guys teams like Kansas can get at this point.

hawk316 11 years, 5 months ago

One sign of a good leader is to surround himself with outstanding, highly qualified and gifted people. Thus far, I've been very impressed with the staff that Turner Gill has put together.

John Randall 11 years, 4 months ago

That (the staff HCTG has put together) is the one greatest factor leading me to nothing but praise for good, old Lew finding us the next coach to compile a career winning record for the sometimes BAD, usually MEDIOCRE, occasionally GOOD, never GREAT gridiron Jayhawks.

Since matriculating in 1958, only the '61 and '07 seasons have left me feeling so optimistic.


slowplay 11 years, 5 months ago

Your mother. She's been into drugs for years.

JBurtin 11 years, 5 months ago

This is one of the biggest reasons that I support the hiring of coach Gill.

Nebraska has been the nation's leader in strength and conditioning for many, many years. Their recruiting classes have never been that great, yet their programs have proven to turn average kids (sometimes walk-ons) into All Americans.

The slow twitch muscle built from jogging actually builds slow twitch muscle and will actually slow down a person's 40 time. Sprinting is better, but still doesn't work a muscle beyond its current capabilities to make a person faster.

I also like what I'm hearing from Big John about having each excercise directly related to a skill that they want a player to implement on the field. It reinforces the desired skill set, while helping the player to build the muscle necessary to accomplish the job.

captku 11 years, 5 months ago

5Decade brings up a great point. I'd be curious to hear more on that thought. Maybe these injury numbers are typical, but I have no data.

John Randall 11 years, 4 months ago

Football is a contact sport. I don't consider 5or6, even a dozen injuries during Spring and pre-season so far out of the ordinary –– just wish they weren't all to players we were counting on heavily this year.

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