Boise State senior receiver Shane Williams-Rhodes fell asleep the first time he tried it.
Senior cornerback Donte Deayon had no interest in it.
Strength and conditioning coach Jeff Pitman admits “I was not a fan of it.”
It is yoga. Safeties may not be saying “namaste,” but many college teams have embraced it for its ability to improve flexibility. The Bronco football team, which used it on an optional basis last summer, has made it a mandatory part of conditioning this summer.
Deayon even has a favorite pose — the Flamingo.
“Honestly, I haven’t been a yoga guy, but now that we’ve started doing it, I actually like it, I feel like I’m a master at it,” Deayon said. “I’ve noticed it a lot, getting more explosive coming out of things, hips-wise, just being able to stretch and be flexible has made me faster, I feel like I’ve got faster than last year and more explosive.”
Pitman, when asked Friday about the key changes this summer, he said “we made a bigger push with the yoga.” On Wednesdays, the team gathers with outside instructors leading them. He said at first, nearly a decade ago at Colorado, it first was introduced to him, and he was hesitant, but even since then, the game’s changed.
“It’s more of an outside game — we still pride ourselves on lifting heavier and power and all those things - but the change of direction has become such an emphasis now,” Pitman said.
Even Williams-Rhodes, pound-for-pound one of the strongest, fastest players Boise State has seen in recent years, has found plenty of positives in the sessions. He said that he and “everyone has bought into it.”
“For me, I really like it, because I’m not flexible at all,” Williams-Rhodes said. “A lot of people assume I’m flexible because I’m fast, but I am not. I’m probably the least limber on the team.”
In addition to the yoga, Pitman said there has been more of an emphasis on nutrition, too. Last summer was the staff’s first with the team, so tweaking the program slightly is expected, the fact that the team knows what is expected helped immediately going into it.
“It’s been better in that regard,” Pitman said.
Pitman’s staff of three, which includes assistants Brandon Pringle and Tyson Gale, has full-time focus on football. Pringle sees himself as the “speed guy,” to which Pitman said the speedier players have bought more into lifting than last year. Gale, who came to Boise in May, works with the linebackers, tight ends and running backs.
“I’m from Oklahoma originally, 2007 (in the Fiesta Bowl), they broke my heart, had to kind of deal with that,” Gale said. When I was at Marshall playing, we had some common opponents with Boise, was able to watch them, and really liked the way they played, liked the way the program was set up.”
The trio has kept the team fit, flexible and fast, pushing it as hard as ever, and hopes to get the team hitting the ground running when fall camp opens Aug. 6.
“It’s been the hardest summer I’ve had since I’ve been here,” Williams-Rhodes said. “The thing about it, with it being the hardest summer, you’ve seen a lot more guys come together and us help each other. Even myself, struggling to get through some of the things we had to do, I feel like we keep picking each other up, and I think it’s making us more of a tight-knit group.”
WHO IS THE FASTEST BRONCO?
The Broncos test returning players in the spring in some of the measurables the NFL Combine uses. What gets the most attention is the 40-yard dash. So, who ran the fastest?
“OK, to be honest, it’s (junior running back) Devan Demas,” Deayon said. “I was second. I ran a 4.40, he ran a 4.38. We knew Devan could run, but to be honest, if Shane would have ran his 40 again, he might’ve been the fastest one, but we’re all up there at the top. Numbers don’t lie.”
WILLIAMS-RHODES A ‘FREAK’
Even though he didn’t run the fastest 40, it’s tough to find a more complete athlete than the 5-foot-6, 168-pound Williams-Rhodes. He bench-pressed 300 pounds recently and has squatted 500 pounds three times. It prompted Pitman to nominate him for national writer Bruce Feldman’s All-Freak Team, saying “it’s pretty rare for a guy that size to be able to do that.”
“Most of the time, people here, they say it’s because I don’t have to go down far,” Williams-Rhodes said.