Linemen shed pounds after football careers end

On any given weekday of this spring semester, the Norwich University football team is in the bowels of Plumley Armory training for the upcoming 2015 season. The training consists of heavy weight-lifting, agility drills, and various forms of stretching.

For the offensive and defensive linemen on the team, the strenuous workouts precede quite large meals, in order to prepare their bodies and to gain the strength and size of those who play “in the trenches”.
After their football careers at Norwich are over however, many former players have much different dieting plans and exercise routines than the days that they suited up for the maroon and gold.
Many former linemen look to “slim down” for a variety of reasons. This is understandable because the artificial weight linemen carry during their football careers can be unhealthy after an extended period of time.
Even at the NCAA Division III level, it is common to see linemen easily above 300 pounds. Many schools look to recruit players of larger size, especially at the higher levels.
James Short, 21, a criminal Justice major from Aurora, Col., has lettered three consecutive years at Norwich. He agreed that the size of lineman is key to success.
“Size matters, especially when you’re trying to get in someone’s way. Size can also equal strength although not always. Size is a critical factor but not the determining factor,” Short said.
Short has seen time at center and offensive guard in his four football seasons at Norwich. He said, “Size is definitely an important factor in getting an advantage [in making a block]”
Associate Head Coach Bill Russell agreed with Short; “I think it’s really important. However I think today it is more about athleticism. It used to be about eating a ton and lift a lot and get as big and strong as you can—now it’s about explosiveness, overall athleticism, and footwork combined with size and strength, so I still think it’s important but there’s much more of an emphasis on linemen being athletes, as well.”
Many players still do put quite a lot effort in maintaining a high weight and body mass, which for some positions is prime football form.
“The whole game centers around the offensive and defensive lines. You always want to be bigger than the guy across from you,” explained Kyle Pownall, 20, from Frewsburg N.Y., who studies mechanical engineering and lines up at right tackle for Norwich.
Most players find it to be fun and enjoyable to essentially eat as much as you want as long as you make gains in the weight room.
Tyler Carbone, an engineering major from Keene, N.H., who switched to the interior offensive line halfway through his career at Norwich, said “When I went to the chow hall after I transitioned, I basically ate awful. I tried to enjoy the ability to eat what I could while I could because I knew it would be ending soon.”
When football ended for these seniors in November, many if not all, of them transitioned to a new stage in their lives. No longer were massive amounts of calories at the chow hall preceded or followed by massive weights in the gym the norm.
A total ‘lifestyle change’ is in order as Bruce Mackey, 24, put it. “You see it all the time, in the pros or whatever guys have lived their entire lives and only known football and some end up getting serious diseases such as diabetes or heart diseases and some completely change and lose tons of weight.”
The physical education major and Fort Valley, Ga., native played four years on the defensive line for Norwich, knows it’s a big change. “It’s more than just diets or exercising more, it’s all about a whole lifestyle change and not just for a season but for life.”
At Norwich, sometimes it can be hard for football players to bulk up to play offensive or defensive line and yet be in the Corps of Cadets, where there is always a certain pressure to maintain the Corps fitness standard. “It was definitely a challenge to stay healthy during my career here especially at a military school. There is always a line you can push,” added Short.
Short and Mackey took on a special challenge during three of their four years of Norwich football. They are both infantrymen in the Vermont Army National Guard.
“It’s still tough”, laughed Short. “We’re still kind of dealing with that now” added Mackey humorously.
Mackey went on to say, “It was really tough as we [Short] both got hurt this past season, and it takes us big guys longer to recover and time is really not on our side for us to get back to the level they want us at. We had to be very careful as you didn’t want to be too small or you’d get thrown around at football, or too big to meet the standards for the Army.”
“We also got pretty lucky on both sides that there was an understanding that our coaches knew we were in the National Guard and the National Guard knew we were football players. As long as we were working hard for both there was a very good understanding and there wasn’t any negative pressure,” elaborated Short.
Both Short and Mackey have made a commitment to the Guard, as well as their own personal lifestyles and are looking forward to positive change.
“It’s going to be great to take a lot of pressure off my joints and just feel more healthy. (Losing) pounds are great but it’s all about perception,” quipped Short. “Look good, feel good, be good y’all. That’s my motto” agreed Mackey.
However with a new challenge such as losing weight and changing a lifestyle, there is definitely a “method to the madness.”
“When I first started it was hard at first but so far it’s been good. Everything is hard when you change something but it just takes a while to adjust and you just work at it. Once you lose the weight and get used to a new lifestyle it’s like anything else. It just takes time,” said Carbone.
“I didn’t like being that big. It wasn’t natural but it was worth it to play football,” Carbone added.
The general consensus is that keeping an artificial weight “definitely is a sacrifice,” Pownall said.
Carbone, who transitioned from tight end to offensive guard after his sophomore season, put on a notable amount of weight to break into the starting lineup his senior year.
The coSIDA (Capital One Academic All-District) team member is familiar with how to gain or lose weight now.
Carbone said, “You just have to know your body. Learn how it works. I don’t want to say low-carb, but that’s an oversimplification. You really have to learn to make good choices and the science behind weight loss. I credit my roommate and teammate Mike Pulaski, he really helped me and some of my other teammates out a lot.”
The Cadets kick off their 2015 campaign September 5th at RPI.

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