The college football strength coach a field guide –

The stories about them aren’t all the same, but they hit a lot of the same notes. Strength coaches drive up to the football offices at 4 a.m. in F-850s, trucks so large they’re only legally sold to men who can deadlift more than 500 pounds. A full barbell power cage and a Ford Mustang GT sit in the back. They carry both everywhere, sometimes without the truck.

Their height: somewhere between five and seven feet tall. No matter the height, they all weigh 400 pounds of rock-solid, creatine-fueled muscle. The physique might not look like 400 pounds; cracks in the sidewalk are the proof. They wear weightlifting shoes with raised heels in the shower, drink steaming black coffee from rain barrels they carry in one hand, and spontaneously appear with scowls behind linemen about to pick fried food off buffets.

That change did not escape the notice of head coaches, who pumped up the position to become more swole with responsibilities than previously imagined. Their organizational importance bulked up beyond proper squat technique. Strength coaches now talk about being “culture drivers,” have gameday duties, and yes, still teach 18-year-olds how to be physically uncomfortable in the name of becoming a better athlete.

Glass fell in love with it. Unfortunately, he had no real training, a common dilemma in the ‘80s, when the profession was still in its infancy, something strength coaches still take care when discussing. Glass took graduate courses in kinesiology and working (in his own words) “in scramble mode,” traveling to other programs to bring proven ideas back to Stillwater.

For example: The Collegiate Strength and Conditioning Coaches Association’s offers the SCCC, the Strength and Conditioning Coach Certified Certification. It requires a 640-hour practicum/internship program, a written exam, and a practical exam done before a panel of certified strength coaches. A certification offered by the National Strength and Conditioning Association— Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist — requires a college degree or enrollment as a senior, a CPR certification, and passage of a written exam.

Experience matters most, though. That’s gained the hard way, through interning, volunteering, and hustling until full-time work comes. From 2008 to 2010, Hickmann lifted in the morning, mowed lawns, trained MMA in the afternoon, worked in a bar, and slept when he could. Somewhere in all that, he volunteered at Cumberland College until they brought him on full time in 2010.

His upbringing helped. His family was both obsessed with hoss-level strength and blessed with it. Moffitt’s father was strong enough to grab support poles in the basement of their house and hold his body in a flag pose, his legs parallel to the floor. His brothers broke bricks in their hands for fun. Tommy grew up reading about strongmen like Paul Anderson, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s childhood idol Reg Park, and O.G. iron fiends within football.

Which is a long way from Moffitt’s first college job. When Tennessee called in 1994, Moffitt was coaching at John Curtis Christian High School in River Ridge, Louisiana. The school had won three state titles during Moffitt’s time as a strength coach and assistant. And until television money beefed up college football’s payrolls, the move was not the bump in salary and benefits one might assume.