ROB RITI: Histories Strongest Football Player
A thousand pound squat. It took four 100-pound plates, one 45-pound plate, one 25-pound, one 5-pound plate and a collar on each side.
By Greg Shepard
Published: Winter 1999
Is Rob Riti history's strongest football player? That is quite a bold statement. I have seen much in my 35 years as a strength coach. Terry Long played at East Carolina and we featured him as history's strongest player in 1983. Terry was 6-0 280 pounds and could do a front flip. He had a 900 pound Squat, 865 Dead Lift and a 565 Bench. His best Hang Clean was 441. Terry could also run a 4.8 forty, Vertical jump 34-inches and leap 10 feet on a Standing Long Jump. Stefan Fernholm is probably history's strongest track athlete: 800 Squat, 473 Power Clean, 350 Power Snatch, 4.3 forty, 11-3 Standing Long Jump and a 40-inch Vertical Jump. Ken Patera at 6-0 330 pounds was probably our nations' strongest athlete: 501 Competition Press and a Squat Clean of 550 plus. Rob Riti ranks right up there. You be the judge.
Jim Brown, one of our BFS Clinicians said, “Greg, Missouri has a center who squatted a thousand pounds. I said, “Sure they do.”
“No really. Nebraska thinks he's another Remington. Greg, I think he's the real deal,” said Jim convincingly. I called Tiger Strength Coach Don Sommer and set up an interview with Rob Riti.
Coach Sommer explained, “Rob is a kid who built himself in the weight room. As a freshman, he was red-shirted because he wasn't ready. He already could Power Clean 350 and Squat 500 but he needed to mature and work hard. However, during his freshman year he tore his ‘pec’. It did not require surgery but it left a permanent hole in his chest area.
“Anyway, for his 1,000-pound Squat, the team was here, the music was loud and the chalk was flyin'. Three TV networks were here. People were all over. They were even standing on boxes to see.
“It took over two hours to work up to it. I had to order more hundred pound plates just to get the 1,000 pounds on the bar. It took four 100-pound plates, one 45-pound plate, one 25-pound plate, one 5-pound plate and an okie collar on each side.
“We are not into projected maxes. I want to compete. That's why I don't mind putting it on the line. Coach Smith (Missouri head football coach) wants our players as tough and as physical as they can be. Obviously they need proper technique but I know the capabilities of each athlete. I know them better than they know themselves. That's my job. I won't let an athlete try something I don't think he can do but then I don't want to put any limitations on my athletes either.
“On the Squat, I spot so their technique is right. I don't touch them or the bar but I'm there to keep them upright. We also had three spotters on each side for his 1,000-pound squat.”
Bob Jones, who has been an assistant coach for the Missouri Tigers for twelve years, judged the event. “I look at the mid-point of the hip,” said Coach Jones. However, I still was not convinced that the coaches judged a Parallel Squat the same way I do. I asked them to judge four of my squats. On the first I purposely went 4-inches high. They said, “Way high Coach Shepard.”
Next, I went two inches high. They said, “Still to high, coach.” For the third squat, I went just a half inch high. Again the responded correctly, “Coach Shepard it was close but we wouldn't count it.”
Finally, on the fourth squat, I went a half inch below parallel. It was unanimous. They passed the fourth but only the fourth attempt. I had to be sure because so many say they squat a bunch but then when I watch, they are not even close to parallel. So, readers, I am reasonably sure that Rob Riti's 1,000-pound Parallel Squat was indeed parallel.
Rob remembered, “The 1000-pound Squat was my goal. Coach Sommer and I sat down and discussed it and thought it was realistic. That day my friends and team were all here. The bar was bending and it was a challenge just to hold the weight on my shoulders. It seemed like it took forever to get it up. I felt a great deal of pride after I made it. It was a tremendous feeling to accomplish that goal. I probably will never go that heavy again. I took a couple of weeks just to fully recover.”
Coach Sommer keeps strength records for every position. Rob holds them all except for his 450 Bench Press.
The University of Missouri experienced 13 consecutive losing seasons. Then they hired veteran Coach Larry Smith who is one of only four college coaches who have taken four different teams to a bowl. The Tigers won in 1997 and 1998. They have won 17 out of the last 22 regular season games and last year finished 21st in the AP final rankings.
“The difference in attitude had been like night and day from when I first got here,” Rob recalled. “We have now found out how to win. We go into every game expecting to win.”
I saw a sign in the weight room which revealed the expectations of Coach Summer and Coach Smith, who is now in his sixth year. It is about excuses. “Excuses are tools of incompetence that build monuments of nothingness and those that insist upon using them are seldom good at anything else.”
Each year, nearly 100 players choose to live in Columbia during the summer, working out four times per week They also condition three days per week and work on plyometrics. During the season, the travel squad lifts twice per week. Those that don't make the travel squad train basically like the off-season. The weight room is a modern facility of 10,000-square feet which was completed in 1993 but is already undergoing a 3,000-square foot expansion.
Don Sommer is in his 11th year at MU and second as the head strength and conditioning coach. Coach Sommer was a four year starter at Texas-El Paso and played for three different pro teams. He holds a master's degree in human performance. Bob Jones is the Associate Strength and Conditioning coach who is in his 12th year at MU. He works basically with the other Tiger sports. Coach Jones holds a master's degree from MU in human performance and sports psychology.
Rob started lifting in the 7th grade. “I read about Power Cleans,” remembered Rob, “so I did them on my own. Hazelwood West, where I went to high school, is a Jr.-Sr. High school set up, so I lifted with the high school athletes.
“I started playing football in the 9th grade as a 6-0 220-pound guard. As a senior, I grew to be 6-2 265 pounds and ran a 5.1 forty.” Rob made the all-Suburban North Conference team twice but did not make the Missouri All-State team. He also lettered in wrestling and track while being recruited by Stanford, Michigan State, Air Force and Army. He took the ACT test three times to get a score of 25 which got him a scholarship to Stanford. “However,” said Rob, “I finally decided to stay in my home state because of Coach Smith but I don't think I was coveted at all coming out of high school.
“We did the BFS program in high school. It gave me a great start here at Missouri. Strength and Conditioning is the present and future of athletics. I read the BFS Journals and I remember the article on Steve Emtman (U. of Washington). He was astonishing. It was motivating an inspiring.”
Rob redshirted his first year and played defense. The following spring they moved him to offensive guard and he promptly started nine games. Rob's sophomore year saw yet another change. Because the centers graduated, he was moved to that position. “I've got lateral quickness,” Rob avowed. “So things have worked out well.”
That is an understatement. Last year as a junior Rob was an All-Big12 first team center. This year he is a pre-season all-America. There is also speculation on being a first round draft choice. Rob's got it together. He is dedicated to excellence in all things. Rob is a business management major who will soon graduate. He even made the Academic Top-Ten list once with a 3.58 GPA.
Rob approaches his workouts like a football practice keeping single-minded and focused. He believes in Coach Smith's motto, “leave your baggage at the door.”
Rob has not missed an