PSU Strength and Conditioning Coach Insane (In A Good Way)
Most of you reading this have probably seen the 90s Nickelodeon show “Hey Arnold!” at some point and likely remember Coach Wittenberg, the intense little-league coach who screams at a bunch of ten-year-old kids despite not knowing what he is doing or being able to do any of the things he demands.
Well, recently hired strength and conditioning coach Craig Fitzgerald is essentially Coach Wittenberg, except he actually does know what he’s doing and can do it better than most. After re-watching an episode with the fictional coach above, I have a feeling Arnold could probably beat up Coach Wittenberg if he really wanted to. On the other hand, if Fitzgerald tells you to drop and give him fifty, you’re gonna do one hundred out of fear without even thinking about it.
A strength coach will normally fly under the radar. Fitzgerald is not even listed under coaches on the official football website. They rarely do conference calls during a season and will never be mentioned the day after a loss for making a bad play call or not being prepared; off-season conditioning is their time to shine.
Last Friday morning at 5:20 a.m., Fitzgerald could be spotted wearing shorts and a T-shirt in twenty degree weather. He would later reveal that he typically works out by himself around 3:30 before running stuff with the players. This video does not fully cover it, but for thirty minutes all one ever heard was:
“(Cue whistle) Okay, face our house [Lasch Building]. Fifteen sets of [insert name of drill here] go!” (Cue whistle)
“(Cue whistle) Now, face Holuba Hall. Ten sets of [insert drill here]. When you get to the twenty [yard line], do [insert drill here].” (Cue whistle)
In this half hour span, Bill O’Brien interrupted him only once to comment on a drill. Besides that, it was Fitzgerald’s show to run. He may go through 50 whistles a season for as long as he’s here.
After the workout, Fitzgerald spoke about focusing on technique and athleticism. His Olympic style methods that focus on free weights is in stark contrast to former strength coach John Thomas’ High Intensity Training which emphasized machine weights and repetitions. “I didn’t move away from HIT. I’ve just never done it”, said Fitzgerald. Changes to the Penn State weight room are in the works that will support his methods.
Fitzgerald and O’Brien worked together when O’Brien was the running backs coach and Fitzgerald occupied the Assistant Strength and Conditioning post at Maryland. “I believe in Billy. He’s a great family guy, and I know he’s gonna do it the right way.” Before accepting the job on O’Brien’s staff, Fitzgerald spent three seasons with South Carolina, and it appears O’Brien stole one from the Gamecocks here and made a terriffic hire.
If you’re reading this and are not a football player, thank someone. Passing the ball to Tucker sounds a lot less physically exhausting.