Friday, August 16, 2013

KU offensive tackle Sterling a changed man

Kansas offensive lineman Aslam Sterling (77) runs through a conditioning drill with the rest of the line during practice on Friday, Aug. 9, 2013. Nick Krug/Journal-World Photo

Kansas offensive lineman Aslam Sterling (77) runs through a conditioning drill with the rest of the line during practice on Friday, Aug. 9, 2013. Nick Krug/Journal-World Photo


The joke Kansas University football coach Charlie Weis liked to tell during fall camp in 2012 was that then-newcomer Aslam Sterling, an offensive tackle from Nassau Community College in New York, was a cheeseburger shy of 400 pounds.

Somebody better question the Hamburglar.

In the roughly 12 months since Sterling first arrived on campus, the 6-foot-5 offensive tackle has shed more than 80 pounds, conditioned himself to be able to play as many snaps as a series calls for and inherited what many consider to be the most important position on the offensive line as he opened fall camp as the Jayhawks’ starting left tackle.

“Aslam’s the most changed player we have on our team,” Weis said when camp opened earlier this month. “Last year, whatever weight we had down was a lie. He was probably about 400 (pounds). He’s 315, has done a great job on and off the field. Academically, he had a lot of work to do and he got it all done. His body’s changed. He’s a totally different person.”

Sterling’s transformation did not take place in a short period of time, rather gradually as he began working immediately after landing in Lawrence.

“That was one of my main focuses last year,” Sterling said. “Drop the weight, get lighter, and that’s what I did every day. Before practice I would run, then during practice, and after practice I would run.”

Sterling credits strength coach Scott Holsopple not only for helping him trim down but also, and maybe more importantly, for teaching him how to keep the weight off and move toward an even healthier existence. Sterling’s initial goal heading into the offseason was to see the numbers 330 on the scale, but after blowing by that weight faster than anyone expected, he figured he might as well keep going. He now weighs 315 pounds and said he feels like a completely different player than the one who labored through 12 games — eight starts — during the 2012 season.

“Losing the weight has really helped me with stamina and being able to play longer,” Sterling said. “Last year at this time, I was only doing like three plays and then I had to get out of there. Now I can stay in there for as long as I need to.”

The extended time on the field has allowed Sterling to become more of a leader, something the Jayhawks’ unproven offensive line was in dire need of heading into camp.

“If you’re only playing three plays, you can’t be a leader,” said Sterling with a hint of shame cutting through his words. “You can’t be sitting there yelling at people because they’ll be like, ‘You can’t even handle what you need to.’ Losing the weight has really made me be able to say, ‘Come on, do this and do that. I’m doing it so you guys need to be doing it, too.’”

It’s also given the Jayhawks an answer for losing four-year starting tackle Tanner Hawkinson to the NFL Draft.

“We really believe, athletically, he’s a guy that can handle the left tackle spot,” said Weis, who moved Sterling from right tackle to left tackle over the summer. “I wouldn’t put him at left tackle if I didn’t think he could compete over there at a high level.”

Added KU quarterback Jake Heaps: “Everything you want in a tackle, he has. So we’re gonna see how he does, but I feel confident that he’s gonna be able to play that position very well and be a dominant left tackle.”

You don’t have to look far to find others who share Heaps’ sentiments about KU’s new left tackle. Sophomore Ben Goodman, who is listed as the first-string Buck pass rusher on KU’s defense, said he had lined up against Sterling on almost every play so far this camp. And although he’s proud of the strides his teammate made to chisel his body into one that looks a lot more like those you see on NFL offensive lines, Goodman’s looking forward to facing somebody else’s left tackle in three weeks.

“He’s already good,” Goodman said of Sterling. “But he has potential to be great. He’s a big, skilled dude that can really move and there are not too many people that have that natural ability to be that big and move. Coming from almost 400 to 315, he’s probably one of the most athletic, gifted guys we have for how big he is.”

Asked if he thought KU’s defensive linemen had grown tired of facing him, Sterling answered by showing off another area of his game he transformed this offseason — his confidence.

“Yeah, they are,” he said with a smile. “They were tired of me after the first day.”


Bryce Landon 6 years, 11 months ago

There may be hope for this team after all with a guy like this on the team. If he can turn things around, maybe the entire team can do likewise.

hawk316 6 years, 11 months ago

This is very encouraging. What a tremendous accomplishment for both Aslam and Coach Holsopple.

okiedave 6 years, 11 months ago

This guy is disciplined. What he has done is remarkable.d Looking forward to see how he stacks up with Big XII opposition.

Steve Reigle 6 years, 11 months ago

You have to root for a guy who works that hard and really wants to succeed. My hat is off to this young man as well as to all the others working just as hard.

troutsee 6 years, 11 months ago

The excitement for KU FB seems to be down this year. Too bad. I think we are going bowling.

kay_you 6 years, 11 months ago

Lots of people were saying that last year. Let's win a conference game first and then we'll talking bowling.

texashawk10 6 years, 11 months ago

The dedication and discipline Sterling has shown in doing what it takes to drop 80+ lbs. is going to carry him far in life no matter where he ends up after KU.

Dirk Medema 6 years, 11 months ago

A fairly easy check of the roster reveals that #70 is Gavin Howard, 6-4 300 Sr.

Looking at the pix again shows an OL looking very similar to the other OL (except for his shirt being untucked), and hardly needing a physical transformation.

Dirk Medema 6 years, 11 months ago

Noticed Apa Visinia, a 6-foot-4, 375-pound offensive lineman from Grandview (Mo.) High School again. Looks like another OL that has the potential to blossom with some Holsoppling.

Jack Jones 6 years, 11 months ago

Well Done, Aslam ~ Not only for the potential benefit of our Jayhawk FB team ~ but even more importantly, for you personally. Looking forward to watching you, and our team ~ beginning in two short week-ends ~ Rock Chalk, Jayhawks

NebraskaJayhawk 6 years, 11 months ago

Well done, Mr. Sterling. Now I'm going to be the bad guy and share my concern. Year in and year out for the past few seasons, we have listened to defensive players say how good our o-line guys are and how they don't enjoy going up against them. Well, let me say that I'm not happy to hear another defensive player say how they are ready to face someone else. It tells me that maybe our defense is again not so good at pass-rushing. I hope I'm wrong and I have a feeling we are better on both sides of the ball. But it does give me some concern.

TexiCaliHawk 6 years, 11 months ago

We must keep in mind the Big 12 is way down this year -- not bad by any means, just not as good as usual. So, if we can't get into the mix and win some conference games this year, then this will be a (much) longer progression to prominence than I'm sure we all hoped for.

Based upon what we've seen/heard so far since fall camp opened, I am actually feeling more confident about our ability to make some 'noise' THIS year -- and then we can use it as another stepping stone to make even more progress next year as CW and his staff continue to bring in a greater ratio of (higher rated) HS players vs. JUCO/'6th year Senior' players.

Then, with the completion of Rock Chalk Park and some Football success, Zenger will ride this wave of momentum to unveil a Memorial Stadium renovation plan that will build upon our already First Class training facilities to help take us to a new/higher level of Football excellence. This quite frankly is what HAS to happen for KU to remain relevant in the 'new world' of conference realignment -- despite our Basketball prowess -- and everyone knows it (see program/facility upgrade progress at KSU, OSU and Baylor for proof).

Just a couple more weeks and we'll begin to see what we 'really' have . . . ROCK CHALK!

kay_you 6 years, 11 months ago

We lost 5 winnable games last year so until we learn how to turn those games into W’s it’s hard to predict how successful this team will be. Overall I believe we are better than last year but the loss of talent on the O-line gives me cause for concern. Nothing builds confidence like winning and the first 4 games are probably the easiest part of our schedule. I’m hoping we start the season 4-0. If we don’t I’m not too optimistic about a bowl invitation. A bowl game is perfectly within the realm of possibilities but so was a 5 win season last year. I’m as anxious as everyone else but I’m not drinking any kool-aid.

vd 6 years, 11 months ago

Down compared to last year??????? Anytime the kitties win the conference it is a down year.

CrystalJones 6 years, 11 months ago

Well, I think we can open the season 4-0, despite our O-line. Kay_you cites "loss of talent on the O-line," but did we really lose any talent there? I don't think there was much talent there in the first place, so this year's line could actually be an upgrade.

And vd, you really need to get off the "kitties got lucky" train. They've earned it all and have had a great program for two decades (except for the 3 years of Prince), and it's stupid and petty to suggest otherwise. Suck it up and give them the credit they deserve, just as we deserve it in b-ball. I mean, we're 4-16 against KSU in the past 20 years, but you still want to act like they've just been "lucky." Well, we can become "lucky" too, but we'll have to earn it over a long period of time, like they did. The fact is that they are a well recognized football school, and right now I'd kill to have half the success they've had.

Ross Cargo 6 years, 11 months ago

Last year I thought we could win 4 or 5 games, maybe get to six. We might have with better QB & WR play. Bottom line: we didn't. We sucked mightily.

As always, I'm optimistic. I believe our talent is better. I believe we will be better for having guys in year two of the program. The kicking game should be better.

I don't want to put it all on Heaps, but he simply has to be a lot better than Crist panned out to be. The coaches also have to put guys in the right spots to be successful, and they need to call the right plays and schemes at the right time.

Never the less, you have to prove it on the field and KU has been dismal for three years. If they can get a good start and win the early games, it can carry over to conference play, where we were usually bad even under Mangino.

Boys, I'm behind you all the way. You have no idea how bad I bleed KU Blue (whatever shade it is this week). I want to win, I want to win now, I want to cheer you guys on in some bowl game at the end of the season.

Oh yeah, almost forgot. I really want you to cream those purple pusssyies to the west of Lawrence badly. How about KU 70, purples 0.......sounds good to me.

kay_you 6 years, 11 months ago

I don't think Heaps has to be a lot better than Crist but we cannot win with a one dimensional offense. Just some modest degree of success in the passing game and I think we can win some games.

I'd like to beat the kittens too but I wouldn't bet the house. They are still way better than us.

Brad Farha 6 years, 11 months ago

And....Snyder has all year to watch us and evaluate us. If we played them earlier, I'd actually be more confident. That said, I'll be in the stands cheering on the team at each game, all the while looking forward to the November 30th matchup.

Vernon Riggs 6 years, 11 months ago

Here is the match-up that I want to see: Coach Hudy vs. Coach Holsopple. I am glad they are Jayhawks!

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