IT’S BIGGER AND GETTING BETTER IN TEXAS
Strength Coach Jeff Madden is helping Texas regain its status as a football powerhouse
By Kim Goss
Published: Spring 2001
Although the state of Florida has been the dominant force in college football over the last decade, it's without question that Texas athletes excel at all levels of the game and have among the best fans in the nation. In fact, many high school games in Texas are often held at larger stadiums because they draw as many fans as most college games in other states. And since Texas is so large, it's only natural that one of the biggest names in strength coaching would eventually end up at the University of Texas.
Having coached two Heisman trophy winners and a University of Colorado team that won the National Championship, Jeff Madden has become one of the best-known names in strength coaching. Nicknamed "Mad Dog," Coach Madden has focused his extensive training knowledge, administrative skills and motivational techniques to help develop some of the biggest, strongest and fastest football players in the history of college football.
After having successfully breathed new life into the strength training programs at Rice (1984-88), the University of Colorado (1988-92) and then the University of North Carolina, Madden followed coach Mack Brown, head football coach at UNC, to join the coaching staff of the Longhorns at the end of the 1997 season. He took over the position of Assistant Athletic Director for Strength and Conditioning. Although the University of Texas has always been a force to be reckoned with on the gridiron, the 1997 season ended with a 6-4 record and no post-season action. Such results were unacceptable for a school that was accustomed to being a leader in the Big 12, and Coach Madden knew exactly what the problems were and how to reverse them.
"There's always a gap in readiness when you don't play in a bowl game," says Madden. "Those kids hadn't worked out since Thanksgiving, and school didn't start until about January 15th, so they weren't in great shape. They needed to be in better condition, needed more lean muscle mass, and I wanted to build a whole lot more confidence in them."
A major aspect of the football program that Madden wanted to address immediately was the weightroom. With only 8,000 square feet of floor space to accommodate all the varsity athletes at the university, the weightroom was just too small. A new 20,000 square-foot facility, which features state-of-the-art equipment and a three-lane, 70-yard track, was completed in 1998. "We basically rebuilt the entire building," says Madden.
Another component Madden knew needed prompt action was nutrition, and in this matter brought in nutritionist Leslie Bonci. "We wanted to create more lean muscle mass in our athletes, so we added more protein to their diet. We put more variety into their training menu, in which we now have up to five different meats per day, as well as six to eight different vegetables and a pasta line. We even added some sugar-free drinks."
The results of Madden's efforts and those of the entire coaching staff were apparent, as they were ranked 12th in the AP poll, finishing 15th in 1998 and 21st in 1999. As for the Big Twelve, it made the most impressive showing of any conference this year, with three other teams ranked in the top 12 (Oklahoma, Nebraska, and Kansas State) and another team ranked in the top 25 (Iowa State).
Facility design, training and nutrition are key ingredients in Madden's recipe for success, but what sets him apart from other coaches is his ability to motivate. Madden says he teaches his athletes to "understand that you've got to work hard to be the best you can be." To get his message across, he had the following statement printed in huge letters in the weightroom: "The pride in the winning tradition of the Texas Longhorns will not be entrusted to the weak nor the timid."
Football is a team sport, but Madden believes it's important to be flexible in your approach to motivation. "I'm not in their faces every day, because different things motivate different people," says Madden. "What happens sometimes with a lot of football players is that they're happy just to be at a university, and their goal has been to work as hard as they possibly could to get to that level. On the other hand, some players aspire to be even better than that and want to be professional athletes. What I have my players do is set daily goals so that they all work as hard as they possibly can to be champions."
As with many of his strength coaching colleagues, Madden, who has bench pressed 602 pounds, recognizes significant accomplishments in the weightroom. "We acknowledge a Lifter of the Year, who is the best-conditioned, strongest guy. That's a big honor." This year the award was a tie between Casey Hampton and Leonard Davis. Madden also has 6-foot by 6-foot pictures of all the other sports for other athletes who use the weightroom "to let them understand that this is home for all of them."
Madden is involved with coaching clinics as a guess speaker every year for high school coaches. In this area, he says that Bigger Faster Stronger "does a great job, and it's an honor to appear in their magazine. Over the years I've enjoyed how the magazine and BFS has evolved, and I really like what they do for the kids."
Madden considers himself the team disciplinarian. When he came to the University of Colorado, the story goes, the team had such a poor reputation that the local police would carry football media guides in their squad cars to help them identify troublemakers in the city. Says Madden, "At the University of Texas, as in the University of Colorado, I handle all the discipline, no matter what the discipline is. At Colorado I taught the guys how to take all that extra energy they had when they were off the football field and focus it on the field, and to work together to be the best team."
No matter how good a training program may be, injuries are a fact of life in football, and as such Madden believes, it's important for him to be involved as the third component in injury rehabilitation. "First you have your doctors, then your trainer, then you have me," says Madden. "All of us, including the athlete, communicate with each other on a daily basis. We keep our athletes informed about why we choose a particular course of action so they understand what's going on in their rehabilitation, and it works to keep them positive. Say a player has an injured right shoulder; we can still work on his left arm and on his legs so he doesn't get too far behind."
Another key in Coach Madden's strategy to getting the players back fast is Dr. Keith Pyne, who flies in from his chiropractic offices in Dallas to work on the Longhorns. Pyne is considered one of the foremost practitioners of Active Release Treatment Techniques™, a hands-on method for the rehabilitation of soft-tissue mechanics. "Dr. Pyne does a great job for us," says Madden. "He has a great knowledge of physical imbalances, and he works down the whole chain of the body to figure out exactly what is wrong. For example, if a player appears to have a hamstring injury, it may actually be a lower back problem. We've been very fortunate to have Dr. Pyne in our program."
The NFL Connection
As part of the football coaching staff, Madden also plays a key role in recruiting and takes his role seriously. "You have to let these athletes understand what they can bring to the program," says Madden. How has he done? "Two years ago we had the number-one recruiting class in the nation, last year we had the number-three class, and this year we're likely to have either the number-one or number-two class in the nation. We're getting a lot of tremendous athletes in our program and our coaches are doing a great job beating the bushes trying to find the best athletes to come to Texas. And it doesn't hurt that our facilities are second to none in the country. It's a great outlook for us."
Madden says next year the Longhorns have a lot of good returning starters