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Oct. 19, 2006

A look at the people behind the scenes who are pertinent to Virginia football’s success

by Cathy Bongiovi
Assistant Director, UVa Athletics Media Relations

Title: Head Strength & Conditioning Coach/
Director of McCue Center Weight Room
Years at UVa: Fourth Season
Education: Ithaca (B.S. in exercise science `90),
Arizona State (M.S. in education `92)
Family: wife Lori, son Jake (1)

Responsibilities: I oversee the entire department, and there are over 600 athletes, but my day-to-day operation is purely football.

Favorite part of the job: Working with the kids. I love watching them improve and watching them get better.

Least favorite part of the job: Working with the kids. They can be frustrating at times.

How has your job changed through the years: It’s become more- not so much getting them bigger and stronger- that will happen, but about teaching them how to work. I think kids nowadays don’t have an appreciation for hard work. Most of our athletes haven’t even mowed their own lawns. They don’t even have a basic understanding of work. I think our role as strength coaches now is to teach them how to work, what hard work really is, and to push them past their pain threshold most of the time. They come in with what they think is hard, and I have a different definition. I try to get theirs to match mine.

What did you do prior to coming to UVa: I was the assistant strength coach for the New Orleans Saints for three seasons.

How does working with the pros differ from working on college campus: College-aged kids are really in a developmental mode. We’re trying to develop them strength-wise and work ethic-wise. In the NFL, the majority of those guys already have that. We’re really trying to maximize their athletic abilities. With college athletes, we try to maximize their development.

Favorite UVa highlight: Beating Virginia Tech here in 2003. There’s probably not just one highlight. Just working with guys like Brian Barthelmes, Heath Miller, D,Brickashaw Ferguson, Alvin Pearman, Patrick Estes, Brian White, and Marquis Weeks- I had a core group of guys when I first got here that really bought into this system fast. They are really special guys to me. That’s really memorable for me to work with those players.

Favorite gameday tradition: I always work out the morning of a game. I’ve done that for 16 years.

You’re named the head football coach for one season. What’s the first thing you’d do: Wear black cleats.

Favorite play: I like running the ball. Anything that involves the fullback I’m pretty much for.

Did you play football: Yes, I was an offensive lineman. [Editor’s Note: Marcus was a starter on Ithaca’s 1988 NCAA Division III National Championship team.]

What’s the best part of working with Al Groh and the team: Coach Groh likes the philosophy we use in training, and he enables me to do the things I wanted to do. Hopefully that’s helped. Having kids work hard and pushing them outside their comfort zone are things that he believes in, and things that I believe in. I think it’s meshed really well. We’ve had some success with players going on to the NFL, and they have come back here to train, and that’s been nice.

Favorite pro team: I grew up an Oakland Raider fan maybe because they were a bunch of renegades and wild guys. I probably know every Raider by heart.

Describe your ideal day: I’m a homebody. Anything that gives me time with my family is pretty ideal.

How many hours a day do you work out: I work out with the guys which is really fun. It keeps me going and gets me competitive. Whatever they do, I do. I try it myself before they do it.

Hobbies: Besides working out? No. I don’t collect anything; I don’t garden. I do mow my own lawn. I guess that’s a hobby. I’m a metal head. I listen to loud music.

What’s your favorite group: I don’t know if I have a favorite. My wife and my parents thought this was a phase I would grow out of, but I guess I haven’t done that. I listen to a lot of hard stuff- Panterra, Alice in Chains.

What would you like to accomplish: I don’t think of things on a grand scale. I just want to be a good dad and a good husband. I want to have an impact. I want to be known for doing a good job and working hard. It’s pretty simple.

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