That headline, for those of you whose cognition is as slow and ineffective as Enrique Davis at tailback, isn't one to be taken seriously. It is, however, intended to illustrate a point about a bit of a trap I worry that we - and yours truly is certainly considered in this - may be falling in to with regards to our opinions of Ole Miss football's new strength and conditioning coach, Paul Jackson.
I like Paul Jackson, a lot. I like that he contributes regularly to websites dedicated to strength and conditioning. I like that he praises his players by tweeting semi-inappropriate pictures of them post workout. I like that he routinely compiles videos of his workouts to distribute via the world wide web. I like that he's active on Twitter, YouTube, and other forms of social media. I like that he, in his videos, describes strength and conditioning within the context of the sport of football, and not in the general sense of either strength or conditioning. I like that he was the S&C guy for the 12-2, CUSA Champion Southern Miss Golden Eagles last year and an assistant S&C coach at LSU before that. And, of course, I like that our players really do seem to like him and his workouts.
Does any of that make him a superior S&C guy, though?
Thinking that your football team's strength and conditioning coach is a hyper badass who has completely reinvented the idea of a workout isn't really at all unique to any fan base going through what we are. When an old coaching regime is ousted in favor of something hardly resembling it, we as fans try to find whatever it is we can to convince ourselves that "yes, we are going to be better off now." Along with recruiting and general attitudes which float about the program, the new strength and conditioning program is always one of the first things we both notice and latch on to as evidence of long-overdue reforms.
"Oh well so-and-so said the workouts were lame under the old coach but this new coach, man, they're like all sore and stuff from, you know, running and jumping. It's crazy. These guys are going to be super strong and fast. Think of the Incredible Hulk meets the Flash."
We've heard this all before. We were praising Don Decker's "Deckercising" for being some ultra badass workout system as opposed to the cornily named run-of-the-mill football conditioning program it was. The term "Balis made" - meaning a well conditioned player and named for Mississippi State's Matt Balis - is perhaps the most self-aggrandizing example of this bizarre phenomenon by which fans hype up workout programs. And such enthusiasm is hardly confined to the Magnolia State or the Southeastern Conference. Any college program which routinely sees regime changes has hordes of fans which ooh and ahh over their new workouts guy (all in spite of the fact that players getting larger and stronger during their time in college isn't itself anything abnormal).
But, Paul Jackson though, what makes him different? Why is it that we all seem to be so excited about the guy? I think that answer is rather simple, and that is that he is quite forthcoming with what exactly it is that he does and intends to do as a strength and conditioning coach. Of course he doesn't go too deep into the details, but his Twitter feed and YouTube channel are both filled with what he thinks and does day-to-day in his role.
We couldn't at all say the same for Don Decker. Really, how many of us actually know what that guy was doing as our S&C coach? What did his workouts look like? What was his overall philosophy to strength and conditioning? Those are questions which, regarding Paul Jackson, anyone with an internet connection could answer, and that's why we as fans like him.
I think the real take away from all of this is twofold. First, it's obvious that coach Paul Jackson has a method to his madness and knows exactly how to go about that method. Second, and more importantly, coach Paul Jackson is very confident in his work. He takes a lot of pride in what he does and is personally very satisfied with the results he sees, hence the Tweets, photos, and videos he is always releasing. Such transparency and self-publicity is itself a sign of significant confidence, a confidence which has so far proven to be rather infectious.
It is, obviously, far too early to tell if the Paul Jackson system of strength and conditioning will pay off for our team both in the short or the long run. It is, however, not too early to admire the man's dedication, understanding, and passion for the job, nor is it too early to admire the respect he has garnered from his players. So while it's not at all unusual for fans and players to fawn over strength and conditioning coaches and results (because, really, we all want to believe that our squad of guys are the most physically intimidating and imposing bunch to have ever stepped onto a gridiron, and we'll write whatever narrative we must to conform to that view), I don't feel that the excitement regarding coach Jackson is at all unwarranted -- yet.