In our discussions of the various positions there has been a theme lurking, partially formed yet unexpressed, like a nascent fart or a Vandal's hope for a consecutive winning season. Let's address it now: the concept is the conditioning of the modern football player. As is our wont(quaint phrase), we will return to "the day", explore its implications, apply it to our Broncos, and ruminate about the future.(Any of you old enough to remember Mr. Peabody's Way Back Machine? No? Didnt think so.)
And what a "day" it was. I started watching football in the late '50s. I remember watching a NFL championship game and thinking "Boy I cant' wait until the 4th quarter-there'll be some real hitting". Read again and ponder. I saw linebackers with beer guts, 250 lb linemen who were 90% fat, guys who even in football pads looked like jockeys. Don't get me wrong; these guys were athletes. But things were different: Watch "Beach Blanket Bingo" and realize we lusted after these saggy-bottomed flabby formless chunky broads(Annette Funicello was pretty but she'd be a Jenny Craig spokes-gal now.)
Whence the change? I mark it 1973. Get this-around August the NFL used to have the College All Stars play an NFL team(not the champ). That year I think it was the Bears. These games were supposed to be showcases, but most of the college guys had already committed and the pros could give a BW-these games made the Pro Bowl look like the Ice Bowl. Not in '73-creamacious hits, bodies flying, "spears"(still legal) everywhere, from the gitgo killer ball, "40 for 60" as Joe Capp famously said. My drawers were damp, and from then on in the NFL it was "on" whenever teams took the field. The years have simply added "bigger, stronger, faster, better" to the lexicon and not just in football; the basketball players you see now could've been light heavy weight boxing champions in the day.
Around the same time, I'm down by Boise State and here's the football team doing laps around the stadium. Pouring buckets of sweat, trudging along in the remorseless heat, round and round. My friend said "if they want to stay Big Sky champs that's what they have to do". Can you think of anything more useless than marathon training for football players? But that's how it was. The only thing it did was measure commitment. All concepts of explosiveness, focused-energy,intensity were foreign.
As for explosiveness; on the kinetic level football is a series of contact sprints with dashes of sumo wrestling and ballet. Modern trainers understand this better, and Broncos have gotten especially good ones. In the day, I always noticed we had stamina( I used to think our elevated sea level played a part).WR Terry Hutt told me how he and Mike Holton used to challenge each other after practice to a series of sprints.It sure showed; I'll save a story about Mike for a later post(he still hold records as does Terry)
All Pro TE Tony Gonzales pointed out that the 2 players with great longevity, Warren Moon and Marcus Allen, both used intensely focused stretching for at least half their workouts. Gonzales also said having good guns may look great "but they don't mean much on a football field". I think this points the way to the future. Tony uses weights, but he spends more of his time stretching and working his "trunk". I think the protoype for the future is the Tyrannasaurus Rex-functional, nasty arms but the real strength and its delivery lie in in the trunk and legs, esp the quads. Skeptical? What is the most common criticism of a defender? "Arm tackling". Saw a picture of Kyle Wilson in the Bronco commemorative book-I think those guns of his will be considered a little over-determined in the future. Like the marathon running in the day, bench presses etc measure commitment, energy and focus but I think the future "body model" will be the kangaroo/TRex. type and I think the training of the future will be geared towards obtaining it.