Friday, January 21, 2005

MEN-DO-ZAA! | by Pat

Charlie Weis continued to make his mark on the Notre Dame football program as Ruben Mendoza was hired as the new strength and conditioning coach for the Notre Dame varsity athletic teams. Mendoza comes to Notre Dame from the University of Mississippi, where he worked alongside current ND assistant coaches David Cutcliffe and John Latina, and will take over for the departed Micky Marotti.

Keeping with the "football tough" attitude that Weis is instilling in the program, Mendoza describes his approach to strength training in similar terms.

"We have a simple philosophy here at Ole Miss that combines a 'no-nonsense' approach with an 'old school' attitude," said Mendoza, who joined the Rebel athletic department in January 2001. "We have a balanced, well-rounded program. We incorporate a variety of training methods from dynamic-conjugate training to Olympic-style movements. Everything we do here is geared toward developing speed, power and strength.

"We want to instill in our student-athletes work ethic, discipline, intensity, attitude and pride. We want the student-athletes to come into the weight room in the frame of mind that they want to work hard to get better every day. Our student-athletes understand what it takes to strive for and win championships."

The 6'6", 320 lb Mendoza is no stranger to hard work himself as he graduated from Wayne State as the football team captain and a Kodak and NAIA All-American offensive lineman. After college he spent time in the NFL for the Green Bay Packers, Miami Dolphins, and Phoenix (now Arizona) Cardinals before returning to college to coordinate strength and conditioning. That sort of size and experience will come in handy should Mendoza decide to "pull an Orgeron" in the weight room.

A widely respected strength coach, Mendoza appears to always be on the lookout for ways to improve his teaching and training. While at Ole Miss he traveled to Nebraska to study their legendary weight training regimen and according to one article, "implemented a new system in Oxford where the players actually perform strength and conditioning drills in deep sand. The sand, according to reports and physical studies conducted by physicians at various research institutes, helps joints strengthen and also stabilizes the bone."

One of the perks that helped to draw Mendoza to South Bend has to be the upcoming opening of the new
Guglielmino Athletics Complex. The new football facility will be one of the best in the nation and will house the football offices, which will move from the JACC this summer. Mendoza and his staff will get to run the new 25,000 sq. ft. weight room which will include three track lanes for speed work and 40 yards of the new Prestige Turf that was recently installed on the field in the Loftus Center. No word yet on whether Mendoza will get his sand pits.

Mendoza was widely credited for increasing the strength and physicality of the Ole Miss football teams in the few years he worked with the program. Add in the fact that he has NFL O-line experience and has already worked with offensive line coach Latina at both Clemson and Ole Miss, and I think it's safe to say that the strength of our offensive and defensive lines won't be an issue. And while it doesn't seem that Mendoza is a strictly "bulk is better" type strength coach, the addition of the Gug speed training areas and returning speed coach Shawn Gaunt should help to provide the lightning to Mendoza's thunder approach.

Oh, and one more time...