When the Ole Miss football team did all their max tests prior to spring break, three team records and 13 position records were set.
Those results were not anticipated after the coaching staff change left the team in workout "limbo" for several weeks, but Strength & Conditioning Coach Don Decker and his staff were able to "work a miracle," according to Coach Houston Nutt, who has had Decker by his side for over a decade and trusts him implicitly.
"Nothing Coach Decker accomplishes surprises me. The team is already more flexible and moves better and they set several strength records in a short amount of time," said Houston. "Just wait until this summer - they will be in the best shape of their lives.
"It's not unusual for Coach Decker and his staff to show tremendous gains consistently and in short periods of time. He has a proven system and the players buy into it because they see benefits and gains quickly."
Ask All-SEC Left Tackle Michael Oher, who gained 70 pounds on his bench press in roughly a six week period.
"Coach Decker is amazing. I've stretched muscles I didn't know I had," said Oher. "It's helped my flexibility and strength already and will continue to."
In listing the three team records set, which are obviously position records as well, four players were involved, three underclassmen.
Sophomore Defensvie Tackle Ted Laurent shattered the team record in the squat, which was 575 pounds, with a 645-pound lift.
Redshirt freshman Offensive Lineman Rishaw Johnson, a second-year player like Laurent, broke the team record in the power clean, lifting 362 pounds. 357 pounds was the team record before Rishaw's hoist.
Senior Wide Receiver Mike Wallace and sophomore WR Markeith Summers both jumped 10' 10" in the standing broad jump, which was also a team record.
Ten position records were also broken: Johnson has the highest squat of any OL ever at Ole Miss at 590 pounds; Laurent benched 445 pounds and cleaned 336 pounds, both DL highs; senior Fullback Jason Cook had a squat of 590 pounds, a bench of 405 pounds and a power clean of 358 pounds, which were all bests for fullbacks at Ole Miss; senior Tight End David Traxler benched 385 pounds; senior Safety Jamarca Sanford benched 410 pounds; Long Snapper Preston Powers benched 335 pounds; and redshirt freshman Jamariey Atterberry had a standing broad jump of 10' 8", a best for all previous DBs at Ole Miss.
"We were very proud of those marks considering how long we had to work with them," said Decker. "It will only get better. I expect the strength levels to make big jumps after spring and through summer."
Fourteen Rebels also made the coveted list of "Rebs of Steel."
Each position had a standard set in seven events that equals the standards of the NFL combine. To make Rebs of Steel, a player had to reach that standard in six out of seven events.
The events were bench press, squat, power clean, vertical jump, standing broad jump, 5-10-5 sprint drill and "L" drill. (The NFL does not use the squat and power clean but standards for those lifts are commonly accepted.)
The following (14 total) made the grade to be named to the list of "Rebs of Steel":
FB Jason Cook, RB Cordera Eason, PK J. W. Foster, WR Marshay Green, OT John Jerry, OL Rishaw Johnson, WR Dexter McCluster, OL Maurice Miller, OL Reid Neely, PK Josh Shene, WR Markeith Summers, TE David Traxler, DT Peria Jerry and DB George Helow.
Decker does not believe in testing the 40 yard dash during a player's college career.
"One, it's an event that has a high risk of injury for pulled hamstrings and such. Two, when pro scouts come in to scout our players, I don't want them getting any preconceived notions about any of our players. With the 40, for example, a player may have hd a bad day and ran a 4.7 when we know he's a 4.6 guy," Decker explained. "I want the pro scouts to discover their speed on their own by watching them play and watching film. Some guys play fater than their 40 time may dictate and the only 40 that will ever count is the one they run on Pro Day after their senior season.
"We want our players to have every advantage and one bad 40 time can creat negative thoughts toward a player that are unjustified. It's no disadvantage to us not to time 40s. We know how fast our kids are by timing 10s, 20s and using other sprint drills which give us feedback about their speed. By using these drills, instead of the 40, we are not risking their health."
Decker, his staff and the players are obviously doing their part to get better.
Now, we have to do ours.
Former S&C Coach Ruben Mendoza started a support group called "Thunder & Lightning" to help equip the weight room properly.
Ole Miss fans responded with over $100,000 in donations in under a year. That brought the Starnes Center Weight Room up to speed for several years.
When the football team moved to the Indoor Practice Facility nearly five years ago, the new weight room was equipped in the building's budget with state-of-the-art equipment and the need for "Thunder & Lightning" lessened temporarily.
Now, there are some needs.
"The rule of thumb for weight room equipment that gets as much use as a football weight room gets is to replace 1/3 of your equipment every three years to keep it all functioning correctly and updated with all the modern equipment," Decker stated. "There have been no improvements to the IPF weight room since it was new and it's time for us to upgrade some things that are not in our budget."
Decker estimates the cost to "modernize" the weight room and to replace worn out equipment will be roughly $100,000.
"There is roughly $700,000 of equipment in our weight room. $100K is a frugal amount in attempting to fix what's wrong and what needs replacing," he continued. "In reality, after five years and going by the rule of thumb, we should be getting about $250,000 worth, but after taking an inventory of what we need, we think $100,000 will bring us up to par.
"We don't need the moon, but we need help to get our area right."
The outdated/worn out machines that need replacing are neck machines (4), leg press machines (4) and a couple of odd machines that are not in stock right now Decker believes in.
The weight room also does not have bars called safety bars, which prevent injury and allow injured players to train through their injuries. Those are a real need, in Decker's opinion.
"When you are in season, especially, you have to have equipment that prevents injury while still allowing athletes to lift and retain their strength," he noted.
Decker also wanted to convey there is "nothing wrong" with the equipment that is in good working order already in stock.
"This weight room was equipped well when it was brand new, but some things have changed in five years and some things have just worn out. When you are training roughly 300 athletes on a piece of equipment four or five times a week, it will eventually wear out," he closed. "That's just part of the cost of doing business."
The last time "Thunder & Lightning" was needed and launched here, the reception was overwhelming.
Spirit subscribers and Rebel fans in general came to the rescue and did exactly what was needed with their 100% tax deductible donations.
Please make your checks out to "Thunder & Lightning" and send your contributions to:
P.O. Box 355
University, MS 38677
No donation is too large or too small, but anyone who gives a gift of $500 or more will be recognized on a plaque in the IPF weight room.
Decker and his staff have worked miracles already with the Rebel football team, but with your help they won't have to pull rabbits out of hats any longer.