ShareThis Page

Panthers pulling weight for new strength coach

Jerry DiPaola
| Thursday, April 17, 2014, 10:15 p.m.

Somewhere in a long forgotten corner of the University of Wisconsin weight room are the testaments to Ross Kolodziej's hard work.

Plaques that signify his weightlifting, agility and 40-yard dash prowess — he set a lifting record for Wisconsin defensive players in the squat (675 pounds), for example — are stored out of sight, but they also convey his vision for Pitt football: “To be the most physical team in the ACC and to be the strongest on the line,” he said.

Kolodziej was hired this year to replace Todd Rice as Pitt's strength and conditioning coach. His job directing players in the weight room and on the field is one of many that must be completed successfully for Pitt to pick itself up and become a force in the conference.

“We work, we grind, we turn up the heat,” he said, mindful that Pitt's South Side practice facility was built where a J&L steel mill once stood. “You have to burn out those impurities.”

Kolodziej, 35, said the players' enthusiasm for their work began to emerge while Pitt was preparing for its bowl game and later basking in the victory against Bowling Green.

“That was a huge turning point for our guys in this room,” he said. “You felt really excited because the light went on for them. They understood why you do what you do.

“Now, they want more information. ‘How to take my game to the next level. How do I add 5 pounds to my (lift)?”

Kolodziej, a former Wisconsin defensive lineman who spent seven seasons with four NFL teams, has a degree in sociology, plus certification in USA weightlifting, level 1. While his playing career was ending in the United Football League, he spent two offseasons as a strength and conditioning intern with the Badgers. A year after coach Paul Chryst came to Pitt, he hired Kolodziej as Rice's assistant and promoted him this year.

Kolodziej cited a few examples of what has been happening in the weight room in recent months: • “(Linebacker) Todd Thomas is a guy who really bought in and busted his butt.”

• “(Wide receiver) Tyler Boyd has come in and grinded. He senses the opportunity of what he can do here.”

• “(Running back) James Conner, pound for pound, had some of the biggest gains through the winter.” • Offensive lineman Artie Rowell and linebacker Ejuan Price lift the most weight in the bench-press.

He also mentioned Pitt All-American Aaron Donald as an example of what hard work can produce. Donald, projected to be a first-round choice in next month's NFL Draft, has been an almost constant presence this spring in the weight room, at practice and in video sessions with players.

“He's a guy who is coming in here at 7 a.m., training like he is still getting ready for the Combine,” Kolodziej said. “He is the most relevant example of a guy who literally transformed himself by his mental approach.”

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.