Thursday, July 30, 2009

Away Games

Preparation for away games is not much different than for home games, but the experience is unique. The only thing we do is practice with recorded crowd noise on the huge sound system spread around the field and silent snap counts. But in all reality, nothing can replicate the actual sound of a roaring Coliseum or Autzen stadium.

In 2007 when we played at Autzen stadium for College Game Day, the noise was so loud that when I was in the huddle I could not hear the play being called and had to actually read Nate Longshore's lips to get the call. If I didn't understand what he was saying I had to ask, Guard, Noris Malele to relay it to me, which required him to be about 2 inches from my ear and scream as loud as he can. Can you imagine being in a sea of green and yellow, essentially deaf to all sound?

As we approached the line of scrimmage I could do nothing but take a quick glance at the location of the defense and after that, my eyes were glued to the ball. For almost all of the play prior to the snap, I was blind of what was going on around me and had to use the Center and Guard as my eyes and ears. As a Tackle, you are so far down the line that seeing the ball is extremely difficult. A flinching defensive player could appear out of your peripheral as the Center snapping the ball, which could lead to a false start. My eyes had to be glued to that ball! At Guard, the ball is easily accessible in your view and you don't need to stare it down. The Guards become the eyes for the Center, who is looking under at the QB's signals, as well as eyes for Tackles who cant see the defense to well. They assist in making points for protections and run plays for the whole Offensive Line. The Guard's role is pivotal in our success.

As soon as the ball is snapped my eyes snap back to their proper location and I begin executing the assignment given in the huddle. The Battle begins. This is when team unity and functionality as a unit is huge. Not being able to hear each other requires us to know what we are going to do as a unit without conversing. I can honestly say that Noris and I didn't speak one word to each other outside of the huddle calls. Everything we did was through knowledge and understanding of each other due to a bond that was established through continuous repetitions at practice. We didn't need to talk because I already knew what he was going to say and do.

(Side note, I remember hearing that the Cal Vs. Oregon game in Autzen for College Game Day in 2007 broke or tied an NCAA record for loudest game. I have no idea the decibels [dB] we hit...)

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Keeping The Body Going (Part 2)

A large help to our training staff are the Sports Medicine Interns (SMIs) and the HydraTechs. Both groups spend almost equal amount of time with the athletes in the training room or field as do the actual trainers.

Many of my rehabilitation is done with a SMI. SMIs are college students that are usually pre-med bound trying to earn degrees from UC Berkeley in areas such as Biology and Molecular Cell Biology, but not limiting to those areas. While the training staff usually evaluates injuries, the SMIs are near by learning the proper techniques of evaluation and rehabilitation for the particular injury. SMIs also assist our trainers by stretching, deep tissue massage, ultrasound, and other various pre-practice needs by players when the training room gets busy.

Hydratechs on the other hand are usually paid interns that assist in hydration of the athletes at the practice. Bluntly, they are waterboys (or girls), but are pivotal to making sure I and the rest of the team don't die out on the field during these hot summer days.

Without the help of both groups, the teams success would not be the same.

Keeping The Body Going.

Over my tenure at Cal I have experienced two major injuries outside of your standard knicks and bruises. Both injuries required reconstructive surgery and rehabilitation. My recoveries from both could not have been done without the assistance of our medical and training staff.

Both my injuries have healed to a hundred percent and I have seen no difference in their functioning thanks to our hardworking staff. For my ankle injury, our head athletic trainer and training group worked with me religiously three times a day, every day for about a year, to make sure the ankle and the areas around it were in superb condition for the rigors of football. They did this with a more "hands on" approach. This style allowed for them to feel and judge my strength on a daily basis. The trainers could then make decisions on my progress and manipulate my rehabs to best fit my needs.

A technique, one that is much more painful than your standard rehab, is called Grastin (I don't know the exact spelling, pronounced grasstin). Grastin is a style of rehabilitation that breaks up the scar tissue with the use of metal tools. These tools are nothing short of torture tools, but they work. The trainers basically scrape the metal tools along the athletes injuries which helps to break large portions of scar tissue for increase range of motion and increased blood flow to the area to help in the healing process. If you ever walk into the training room, look around, and you happen to see what looks to be a trainer stabbing an athlete with metal tools and the athlete gripping the table trying to escape , don't worry, its rehab.

For my second injury, my pectoral tear, the training staff took a different approach by letting me control the amount of rehabilitation I did. I still came into rehab multiple times a day, but they took a more "stand back" approach and observed my work habits, similar to a coach observing and critiquing his player's technique. I think they took this approach because of the lack of severity in comparison to my ankle injury. Yes, tearing a ligament is severe, but I was in an environment doing a specific lift to work out that specific muscle. The ankle injury was an incident that damaged the whole area and demanded that style of attention.

Both methods were extremely affective and I can not thank them enough for their hard work in getting me back on the field.

(Dont worry SMIs and HTs you're coming soon!)

Monday, July 27, 2009

Last Week Before Fall Camp

This week during summer strength and conditioning we are testing for the summer. Today was Bench for the Offense and Squat for the Defense. Lifting our max weights for this week is a benchmark, or rather an overview, of how much our strength has improved over the whole entire summer.

For my bench today, I warmed up with 225 for a set of 6, 275 for a set of 4, 315 for a set of 3, 365 for a set of 2, 395 for a single, and 420 for a single before attempting my max of 435 pounds. Taking the proper warm up reps is important for preventing injury. If you jump up too rapidly without being warm your chances of tearing muscles and/or ligaments is greatly increased. I know first hand. I was unsuccessful in my three attempts at 435, but I was extremely close. With my efforts getting the weight almost three quarters off my chest, locking the weight out at the top was my hardest portion of the lift. I am certain I will get the number this upcoming Friday on my second attempt.

Other acknowledgements for today are Ernest Owusu's unsuccessful attempt at Squatting 600 pounds. He too had similar problems as I did locking out the lift towards the top. On a more positive note, some of our successful's were Nian Botang's bench of 315, Justin Cheadle's bench of 405, and our vegetarian Richard Fischer's bench of 405. (It still blows my mind we have a veggie on the OL)

Along with our max lifts, both Offensive and Defensive Lineman did their BodPod measurements. The BodPod is a large egg shaped looking machine that you sit in that determines the individuals body composition. It also gives you a description of the lean muscle mass of your body and your lung capacity. There is nothing greater in life than having a machine tell you that you're obese and need to lose weight on top of the constant reminder of a coach. (Sarcasm...) I would gladly meet the creator of the statistics that says my body fat fits in the obesity category and line up against him/her in a race of any distance less than a mile. I'll blow them out of the water.

More to come for the rest of the week...

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Life At Berkeley. Taking Advantage Of Its Surroundings.

One of the most amazing things that I enjoyed the most this past off season is the surrounding Berkeley hills behind Memorial Stadium. My friends have always talked about the Berkeley Fire Trail as a unique spot to work out. It incorporates a great uphill quad burn exercise along with a distance that the average runner is challenged. (I believe its about 6 miles, but you can weave your way through areas if you want to keep going to extend it into North Berkeley.)

In December 2008, a close friend of mine, a former Cal Rugby player, invited me to come on a run with him. The team had just beat Miami in the Emerald Bowl and the days off between the game and the semester were being taken advantage of with nothing but lounging around. Taking those days off are important to recovery, that is if you played a lot in the season...

With the time off I saw a perfect opportunity to start getting back in great shape. I had knowledge of our Rugby team running the trail as a conditioning test and thought it would be kind of fun to see how I fit with my time trial. The rugby boys run from their club house on the East side of Memorial Stadium up to the top of the connector. The connector is an extremely steep portion of the trail which is approximately 100 yards longs and about 30+% steep grade to it. The distance from the club house to the top of the connector is about 1.3 miles.

On a chilly January morning, I got up early in the day, threw on my workout clothes, my lucky high school football socks, grabbed my iPod and began hiking to the south parking lot of Memorial Stadium for a quick stretch. After the stretch I began walking to the Rugby club house. I took about 5 minutes to think about the path, the pace at which I wanted to run it, where water was, etc etc etc until I realized, you just have to run it! I pushed play to my workout mix on my iPod, started the timer on my watch, and started sprinting. I worked my way along the side of the softball field, up to Strawberry Canyon Pool, and to the parking lot of the entrance to the Fire Trail. I then began running up the constant uphill climb of the trail and soon got to the beginning of the connector. At this point, I took the time to look up the connector. I knew it was going to be an extremely hard challenge, especially after that past portion that I just completed, so I turned my music to my Game Day playlist. Within the 5 to 7 seconds I took off to look up the hill, my quads began screaming at me. I could only imagine it was four letter words my mother would slap the heck out of me for, but they didn't like what we were doing, and neither did the neighboring Calf muscles; they were screaming too. With my counter argument consisting of death metal screams in the background I proceeded sprinting up the hill. I was almost finished. I got about 3/4 of the way to the top and couldn't sprint any more and began jogging. As soon as I got to the top I laid down on the dirt. My heart was racing easily over 200 beats per minute and my breathing was as if I was hyperventilating. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a "Call Box". As I laid on the ground I began laughing. I started imagining why there happened to be a "Call Box" right there. This is where my warning comes in.


(Picture you and a friend racing up the connector, you get to the top and turn around to see where his progress is. He should be right behind you, Right? Wrong, He's laying on the ground turning blue... use the "Call Box")

I finished in the low 15 minute area. I never checked to see where that fit in with the Rugby teams times, but after it all I was very pleased with what I had accomplished. I began walking home after and realized that the Fire Trail was a natural geographical advantage that I should exploit on a regular basis. From then on I ran the trail religiously from January to early March. I dropped about 20 pounds faster than the Stanfurd tree can fall and was probably been in the best shape of my life then. I occasionally run it to see how I hold up. Every time I try it still kicks my behind.

(If you're looking for something to do prior to the Maryland game, take a hike up it and check out the amazing view and scenery! )

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Hard Hitting Practices. Why Pummeling Your Own Pups Is Necessary

One of the most important portions of practice is simulating situations for the Offense and Defense. By simulating these situations, be it 3rd and longs, 2nd and mid yardage, 1st and ten, we get close to game like experiences. The best way to do this is through "Live" team drills. During this time QB's are quick whistled if anything might happen to them, but for the rest of us its full go--everything is legal. Offensive lineman will "free-lance" for work, cut defensive lineman, cut Linebackers, and cut the rest of the secondary if in proximity, Fullbacks will hold nothing back on lead blocks, and Runningbacks will dip on anyone who tries to tackle them. Oh and Jahvid and/or Shane will make you look stupid if you try tackling him in open field...standard.

Now, I'm not saying that the coaches are going to throw in a freshman that has been here for a month and a half for summer workouts up against me as the title of this blog might suggest, but it might happen. Usually we get the secondary Defensive line to go against the starting Offensive line for a couple plays, as well as 1st team Defensive line versus 2nd Offensive line, but then we rotate back to 1 on 1's, 2's on 2's and so forth.

As a 6th year senior, it is still important for even I to get the exposure needed during a season. But it is a pivotal role for the growth of the younger athletes on the team to experience what game speeds are like. It is important to have a 6'6" 320 Tackle running at you full speed and at about a yard out try sticking his helmet on your play side knee cap so that you can practice using your hands to press off, shedding the block, get back up and try to make the play. If you don't practice it how will you be able to perform when it actually happens in a game? You wont.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Getting Psyched For A Game. Getting Into the Zone.

Getting Psyched For A Game actually isn't as hard as you may think. If you're not excited for the clash between two teams, the battle of each others physical prowess and mental wit, then you're not mentally ready to play-- Don't go out on the field. There is never a game where running out of the tunnel into the sea of Blue and Gold shirts doesn't get me excited. Now, getting into the zone is a slightly different story.

Prior to the game I listen to music in the locker room. Let me start off saying that not many people listen to my music, let alone enjoy it. I prefer genres of music such as Metal and Metalcore. (A couple examples from my favorite bands are "A Romance By The Wings of Icar" by It Dies Today and "My Last Serenade" by Killswitch Engage). I then usually grab all my gear, sit in a corner on a stool, turn the volume of my iPod up to a point where it blocks out all other noise, pause about 10 seconds while listening to it, crank it up a little more, then proceed to get dressed. After getting ready I usually just sit in the corner. As sad as this might sound, sitting in the corner is a very pivotal part of my preparation. It allows me to listen to my music to get into the zone, mentally prepare myself for whats to come, and envision myself performing my blocks and assignments. This ritual usually keeps me going until the first series on the field.

When I walk out on the field at the beginning of a game, only the first few plays do I recognize the fans. I can look a fan in the face and we can share expressions. Fans disappear after those first couple plays then just become another blur around you. From there, I am in the Zone. For an Offensive Lineman being in the zone never leaves you. There is always someone rushing against you. Every play is a battle. Adrenaline is always flowing. Your focus can never drift, otherwise pass protections fall apart and...well, picture a Zack Follett and Erik Ainge encounter... :-/

The biggest thing for us is to not dwell on the previous play, good or bad. Stay focused on situations, the current play, the technique your coaches have taught you, and play your heart out. If you do that, nothing but success will ensue.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

What Does A 320 Pound Offensive Lineman Eat....

While having dinner with a friend yesterday, a fan came up to me to tell me about her excitement for the program and wished me the best of luck in preparation for the season. But something that caught me off guard in our conversation was when she started ( I don't want to say Mocking me, but) questioning me for eating a chicken salad. Her belief was that offensive lineman were on a "See-food Diet"... Anything you see, you eat. Incorrect Bears! It all depends on the individuals goals and where they want their weight to be at. Our lighter group of guys are obviously going to be worried about caloric intake more than an OLineman like myself, where gaining weight is a breeze.

I think the most important part about our weight management, and one of the hardest to do I might add, is to keep our weight at our desired number while becoming as lean as possible. That stereotypical Fat slob offensive lineman is out the door and the Lean, Mean, Fighting machine is comin' on in. It requires a lot of discipline. There are many nights I walk down Telegraph and Durant avenue in search for a healthy meal, but a couple double bacon cheeseburgers from I.B. Hoogies, a box of pizza from Blondies, or that 2.64 pound burrito the boys over at Sam's Market make is more enticing than that chicken salad. Hey! Winning requires risks and sacrifices all the time. Even if those sacrifices are at your taste bud's expense.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Thank Yous!

So, with my day off from weights and conditioning I had kind of a difficult time thinking of a topic to write about. But one thing I haven't had much time to do in the past is thank all the Cal, football, and sports fans in general for all the support and positive encouragement over my tenure. Like I posted yesterday, I have experienced some ups and downs (I swear I am not trying to dwell on them!). Athletes in general have an emotional roller coaster they must deal with on and off their respective arenas while balancing many other aspects of their lives. I am certain that all athletes concur with me in saying, Thank you! Go Bears!

More eventful posts to come!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Beginning

Hello Folks! This is my first blog posting. I have never been into blogging, but social networking (Myspace, Facebook, Twitter) has always been something I am interested in. So, here we go...

For those of you that don't know me, my name is Mike Tepper. I am a California Golden Bear. I bleed blue and gold. I am projected to be the starting Left Tackle for the upcoming 2009-2010 Football season. With my entrance to the program being in 2004 when our Golden Bears should have been in the Rose Bowl, to 2005 and 2006's lack of cohesion of the group, to 2007's rush to number two in the nation mid season and subsequent downfall there after, to 2008's quarterback battle and decent success, I have seen my share of ups and downs. (I say 'decent' because I expect much more from our group then the turnout we had)

Today, July 21st 2009, we have exactly two weeks and two days until Fall Camp for the Cal Football season begins. When I say this, Chills and goosebumps come racing down my body. I have never felt like this prior to a season. Maybe before a game, but never before a season.

I have always been confident in our group of gentlemen, but when I say, "This is the year", I believe it. Our group has so much potential it's almost unbelievable! Potential is only potential though. You need to do something with it to make it worth anything, And we are. The summer workouts are going great. Everyone is working hard and getting bigger, faster, and stronger thanks to our Strength and Conditioning coaches. The cohesion of the offense and defense is coming along very well in our player organized sessions. I'm super pumped up to get the pads on and see how we do in Live situations. Lets Go! Go Bears!