Saturday, September 8, 2012

Holsopple teaches Jayhawks toughness from the heart

Kansas strength coach Scott Holsopple gets at his players as he conducts warmup drills during practice on Tuesday, April 10, 2012.

Kansas strength coach Scott Holsopple gets at his players as he conducts warmup drills during practice on Tuesday, April 10, 2012.


The instructions were clear and the tone plenty serious.

Last winter, not long after being hired by head coach Charlie Weis, Kansas University strength-and-conditioning director Scott Holsopple received a phone call from one of his new players who was running late.

“Hey, coach, I ran into traffic here. There’s a basketball game going on. I don’t know if I can get to training table,” said Holsopple, recalling the opening lines of the phone call.

“Where you at?” Holsopple asked.

“Oh, I’m about a mile away,” the player said.

What came next was the kind of answer the Weis regime was built upon — a no-nonsense, save-the-excuses, roll-up-your-sleeves-and-get-to-work response that, at first, was as foreign to the Kansas players as Mandarin Chinese.

“Park and run,” Holsopple told him. “That’s why I train you. Go run.”

That phone call, for that player, was the introduction to Toughness 101, a new class taught by Holsopple and graded by Weis that, in a matter of months, would become a staple of the new-look KU football program.

“It’s really a reflection of his personality,” said tight ends coach Jeff Blasko of Weis. “He’s as tough of a human being as you’ll run into.”

In the months that followed, the Jayhawks learned the ins and outs of toughness, that invisible ingredient that all good football teams have and most bad ones lack. Weis said he was pleased with how tough his guys played after last week’s 31-17 season-opening victory against South Dakota State, but the examples he used to prove it were more mental than physical.

“It has nothing to do with how big you are, how strong you are, how fast you run,” Holsopple said. “It has to do with your heart. Do you have enough heart to show up every day and are you mentally tough enough to battle no matter how you feel?”

Forget upgrading the quarterback or the defensive line. Forget the high-profile transfers or the impressive collection of assistant coaches he assembled. When Weis took the job, his top priority was to bring all forms of toughness to Kansas.

“From the very first team meeting he had to spring conditioning to spring practice to fall camp, the one thing he always said to ’em is, ‘We are gonna be tough, we are gonna be physical,’” running-backs coach Reggie Mitchell said.

In some instances, adding toughness was a tangible act. Weis brought in three of his former Notre Dame players who measure off the charts in the physical-specimen category. Quarterback Dayne Crist looks more like a linebacker. Tight end Mike Ragone is a hard-nosed, New Jersey guy. And linebacker Anthony McDonald often functions like an assault weapon on defense.

Partly because of their frames and partly because of their backgrounds, all three ooze toughness.

So does defensive end Josh Williams, a 6-4, 255-pound senior who transferred to KU from Nebraska, where he made a couple of starts with NU’s famed “Blackshirts” defense.

Their presence has helped. But while the Jayhawks who already were here now look and play tougher, Holsopple has made his mark on the newcomers as well. After Wednesday’s practice, Williams said he believed Holsopple had added an edge to his game.

“He pushed me to a point that I haven’t been before,” Williams said. “I like that.”

Added Blasko of Holsopple: “That’s why coach hired him. That’s what he’s known for. That’s what he is.”

Realizing their new-found toughness came on different dates and in different ways for many on the KU roster. For some, it took the 99-yard touchdown run by South Dakota State’s Zach Zenner in the season opener to prove things had changed.

“Right after that play happened, no one was really pointing fingers,” KU sophomore middle linebacker Ben Heeney said. “We all just basically pretended it didn’t happen and went to the next series.”

Added Weis: “I thought we were nice, cool, calm and collected. We found out what the problem was and got it corrected. I don’t think for one second that anyone thought, ‘Oh, here we go again.’ The fans may have thought that, but none of the players did.”

For others, the final exam came long before the first game. Senior wide receiver Kale Pick recalls a day in late July.

“It was our final run test of the summer, and that’s when I could tell we had gotten a lot tougher than last year,” Pick said. “It was about 106 (degrees) out, and we had to go onto the turf. We had our best results as a team, and it was on the hottest day.”

Toughness may not win football games. And there still may be a long way to go to determine just how tough this Kansas team has become. But all the Jayhawks can do is pass the test put in front of them each week and take the feedback readily available from Weis and Holsopple.

The toughness test this week? Seeing how the Jayhawks respond to winning.

“If I yell at you and tell you to stand up and run as hard as you can into that wall, you’re gonna look at me and then you’re in that position of what do you do next,” Holsopple said. “Do you run to the wall? Did you hesitate? Did you not hesitate? Those are the things I’m looking at.... It’s gonna be hard. That’s part of the deal. It is hard. Life is hard. But you gotta keep the pedal to the metal and keep on driving. You won’t break through the wall if you slow down.”


Laurence Cooley 9 years, 2 months ago

Holsopple was the best additjon to the staff in my opinion

april28 9 years, 2 months ago

Having a guy like him, with a non-stop message of toughness and resiliency will have a big impact as the season progresses and the guys get into some really tough games. Very smart hire by Weis.

KansasRedLegger 9 years, 2 months ago

Does anyone find your shtick funny? Excluding yourself, of course.

John Mueller 9 years, 2 months ago


U are a complete tool. Go away.

I love this story and his message. U gotta want success and work for it every day.

Rock chalk.

PS: for all the tools and trolls that post on this site, go away.

This is Kansas. We are too busy building success and celebrating our love of this university and our good fortune to be a small part of it.

Go comment somewhere else, we don't have time for negative losers.

Gary Wirsig 9 years, 2 months ago

Hey njjay, where did you grow up? Seems you said somewhere around Council Grove one time. So did I - Dunlap. How about you?

lhenry69 9 years, 2 months ago

That's what I thought, just like your wife.....

Stan Unruh 9 years, 2 months ago

I'm glad he did but I wonder how this guy decided to leave Univ. of Florida and come to Lawrence? Good for KU!

bradh 9 years, 2 months ago

He was an assistant strength coach at Florida, if I remember the article done on him when he was first hired.

Rivethead 9 years, 2 months ago

Yes. He was the assistant to Micky Marretti (that's spelled wrong but you can look it up), the most widely and well know legend in the S&C world. This wasn't just some random hire. KU didn't just pick a low-hanging fruit with Holsopple. It got one of the best. Credit Weis for that.

jayhawkintexas 9 years, 2 months ago

These are exactly the kind of coaches we needed. No more YMCA ball like the last two years. Great hires by Zenger and Weis.

tical523 9 years, 2 months ago

That last paragraph / quote by Holsopple is tough as nails, what a badass. Lets go take some names today fellas!!

jhox 9 years, 2 months ago

Nebraska supposedly has the most advanced weight and nutrition program in the country. Hearing Williams say he's never been pushed like he's been pushed by Holsopple...that's a very good sign for the future of this program.

Rivethead 9 years, 2 months ago

Please. Nebraska are only legends in their own minds.......

Randy Bombardier 9 years, 2 months ago

I need help. I am considering rooting for Mizzu today cause I'm so tired of all the "SEC rules" talk. Would do my heart good to see both win their openers. Kinda "Welcome to Big12 Football."

Pitthawk34 9 years, 2 months ago

How dare you to even consider rooting for those bastards.

danmoore 9 years, 2 months ago

You're not alone. It would bode well for Big12 if they win but it is not in my DNA to root for them. I don't agree with popular sentiment that they will get slaughtered in SEC. Top to bottom SEC is only slightly better than Big12. They will be just as irrevelant in their new conference as they were in their old one.

shelleysue 9 years, 2 months ago

Intel. DON'T do it. You'll hate yourself in the morning.

JayDocMD 9 years, 2 months ago

Seems like he's very good at his job, but I lost respect for him when he got on twitter and was aggressively and stupidly defending Joe Paterno AFTER the Freeh report was released. I know he has his roots in Pennsylvania and PSU, so it is more personal for him. Still he was making KU look bad. KU must have agreed because the next day his posts and then his Twitter account were deleted.

Randy Bombardier 9 years, 2 months ago

Sure hope he has no hurt feelings over that. Would hate to lose him. I imagine it was well handled as both Weiss and Zenger seem to be good with people. I'm sure he thought about how it reflected on KU and realized he needed to be careful. He and Grunhard are the two that seem to have made a big difference, well, from what I can tell.

Steve Brown 9 years, 2 months ago

Help anyone, stuck in Miami in SEC country with just IPad. Cant't stream jayhawk all access as IPad needs a flash player. Tried t listen in On 610 and 1320 got some major league baseball game, ouch!

Where do I stream the game even of just audio? Go Georgia!

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