Following my talk with my defensive line coach, I started to take things more seriously...if only for a moment. The team had completed the regular season with a winning record of 9-3 and was chosen to play in the Orange Bowl. I was all set to enjoy the benefits of being on the team with a free trip to Miami for a week. I barely made the cut-off for the grades that were needed in order to make the trip.
Following the bowl game, there was talk of a large coaching change happening, more specifically my defensive line coach, who had been a involved with WVU for 29 years. The more time you spend around college athletics, the more you understand the concept of how it operates as a business. In my short experience, I've seen players and coaches fall victim to the "what have you done for me now?" side of the things.
Even though the team completed one of its most notable seasons in school history, apparently we were not where the head coach had visions of being within the next several years. This brought about the hiring of my new position coach.
At first, I found myself incredibly optimistic for the hiring of this new coach. He was a smooth talking gentleman from Texas with an incredible charismatic attitude. One of the things he said at our first meeting was that everyone had an equal opportunity to earn their spot to play. This was a chance for me to rise above my current job of being a practice dummy.
Over the course of the next few months, I really began to push the limits of how much weight I could gain in this short window of time before the Spring Game, the place in which I would have the greatest opportunity to reserve my role on the team. I pushed myself in the weight room harder than ever, slowly making my way to becoming the strongest member on the team. I was lifting weights that I never even imagined being possible in an effort to be on the top of every leaderboard that we had during the offseason.
My weight quickly escalated to the point where it greatly increased my performance in the weight room, but also greatly decreased my performance with drills on the field. The amount of pain I would experience in my shins from the constant impact of my body weight prevented me from participating on a handful of days. I was constantly in the training room icing my legs, stretching, and doing whatever I could to make being so large more tolerable. In the back of my mind I always knew that this was taking a serious toll on my health.
Come summer I was nearly 300lbs., and feeling every bit of it. However, I was beginning to see more and more time in practice as the off season went on. I was feeling confident leading up to the Spring Game until one day of practice.
During one of the drills, I sprained the ligament in my big toe simply due to the amount of force I was constantly putting on it. I continuously aggravated it, due to the fact that I thought a sprained toe was a pathetic excuse not to participate in practice. Regardless of how I felt about it, my performance on the field suffered immensely. I didn't even get one snap in the Spring Game. Once spring practice had ended, I was left with only the summer to try and figure out a way to make an impact on the team.
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