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Player-run Posts: Offseason Conditioning

Hear from a former player on what it’s like during the spring and summer for football players.

California v Colorado Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

This the the debut post in a new feature here at MWCConnection called Player-run posts that will pop up every now and then. As the name suggests, these will be written by former players sharing their unique experiences and stories from their playing days. This one comes from former Boise State defensive tackle Elliot Hoyte.

Football games are won and lost in the offseason.

It’s 5am on a Monday, and my alarm is going off, I’m battling with that voice inside my head saying “Stay under the covers for 5 more minutes. Hit snooze. It’s warmer in here”. I beat the voice, I roll out of bed, I scramble on some clothes, get something in my stomach, and brush my teeth. I jump in the car and stick on some tunes to get myself in the right frame of mind to smash this workout. This will sound like a familiar situation to most college athletes. But the thing is, this was today and football finished for me almost three years ago, I’m now 26 years old and trying to navigate this world as a regular member of society. Without the accountability factor of teammates or a strength coach, just wishing I was one minute late to the gym so he could run me until I’m blue in the face!

Offseason training with Boise State Football is where this post-football habit was built, the same place games were won and lost. Character is truly built during offseason conditioning, and it is where games can be won or lost long before the kick-off under the lights on fall evenings. In the offseason, there are various stages of training. There is Winter conditioning, Spring ball, and Summer conditioning. For example, for us at Boise State Winter conditioning involved Mat Drills. Mat Drills are a military style “copy the command” conditioning where you form lines of 8 or so and follow various coach’s instructions as you make your way down the field performing at stations every 10 yards or so apart from the goal line to somewhere near the opposing 40. And guess what? If you mess up a command you start over again, and by you, I mean not just “you” but your whole group - Accountability. That one had the propensity to get pretty messy quickly, especially if you had a wide-eyed freshman in your group of 8.

Another “favorite” of ours was 300-yard shuttles that entailed running from the goal line to the 50 and back 3 times for 3 or 4 sets. And you better make your time else you’re running gassers after. I must add, a lot of the activities I am referencing were voluntary, especially in the summer. Hell, the whole of Summer conditioning was voluntary, but I never met anyone who treated it as such. You’re not getting better sat at home on the couch!

For me, the one workout I loathed more than any other in the deep repertoire of Boise State offseason soul searching conditioning drills were the “Decks.” No matter the social setting when I hear the phrase decks even to this day, my stomach develops a pit. Deck workouts were on Thursdays in the summer. Decks involve bounding up the upper bleachers in Albertsons Stadium from the bottom to the very top, with what seemed like just a few moments of rest between reps by the time you got back down to the start again. We completed as many as 22 reps in a single session if my memory serves me right? Don’t hold me to that though, things start to get hazy about two-thirds of the way through reps. Particularly in between vomiting from the lactic acid build up and trying to get enough fluids back in you to continue the assault. It was always amusing when someone else was purging their stomach, and coach Pitt was yelling, “crows gotta eat too!”. Let me tell you something though: needless to say, when you weigh almost 300lbs, and you’re striding bleachers as steep, and as long as those at Albertsons Stadium, you get taken to a pretty dark place physically and mentally. And visiting the dark place is the whole purpose.

We would routinely joke that besides sucking it up and just completing the workout, the only honorable way out was jumping off the top! I remember mumbling amazing grace with Rondell McNair on the ascent to the starting line one time like we were about to witness our own funeral. We had to make light of these situations; sometimes otherwise, it was going to be a rough time. Kind of messed up, right?

Well, how does visiting this proverbial Dark Place translate into winning games you ask me? Honestly, physically, it kind of doesn’t… “Decks” don’t really translate to any type of football movement. It’s the mental aspect. Let me set the scene; those who know about my washed up self will know I have a deep disdain for BYU Football. I mean, I was right there when Chanceller James was punched in the family jewels by a BYU O-Lineman in 2015! But that’s one for another day. I distinctly remember my senior year, when BYU was about to attempt a game-winning field goal, I’m on field goal block with Sam McCaskill, and David Moa lined up either side of me. We are the primary push in the “blast” component of the block, which means blowing up the guard with as much force as possible. The ball is snapped, and we blast the right guard back, David manages to get a paw on the ball. We win. Moments before that kick we were in a time out huddle. Someone on the sideline shouts “this is why we ran those decks in the summer” it’s the 4th quarter, we’re all physically exhausted much like that 18th, 19th or 20th rep on the decks back in July. But deep down just like the last couple of reps on the decks, we muster up the mental fortitude to fight through the pain and get a great push. So we knew that no matter how much we hated doing Decks, they would prepare us for the season ahead.

Fast forward to May 2019, I may not always enjoy pushing myself physically. But when I get a good workout in early in the morning not only is the rest of my day more productive, but I definitely feel a sense of achievement. Much like the feeling of completing Decks back in my playing days. Being a college football athlete as a whole is equitable to the Movie “The Shawshank Redemption” for us alumni - In a much less morbid way. You know how the old guy spent so long inside the pen that he didn’t really know how to function once he got out? Now I’m not saying we think about killing ourselves like he did! But we definitely try and grab on to what is familiar. And for me, that is the discipline of getting my butt out of bed early and going to the gym at least 5 days a week. Do I need to be in excellent physical shape to dominate the world of real estate? No, probably not. But I feel a whole lot better for having beat that demon in my head trying to keep me under the covers. It’s all about getting those little wins throughout the day, if you can get a win in early then you are setting yourself up for a good one! When a challenging situation pops up in my professional career, I think to myself, “you got this! It can’t be as hard as that workout I did this morning” and it sure as anything is not as hard as 5 years of Decks when I was playing football!

I will be forever grateful for the physical and mental limits I was pushed to while a member of the Boise State Football program. The whole experience resets the bar for my mental breaking point in all aspects of life. The habits of discipline garnered from offseason conditioning have stayed with me long after that last game on the blue turf of Albertsons Stadium.