Friday, January 10, 2014
The Medal of Honor Bowl players stand at midfield in uniform rows, stretching and warming up before practice to fight the cold. Their conditioning coach weaves through the lines directing the exercises, face hidden by a hoodie with a hat underneath.
Everyone mimics the movements he demonstrates. They listen closely as he instructs, and for good reason. Under the hood is Olympic gold medalist Maurice Greene.
When Medal of Honor Bowl Executive Director Brian Woods needed a strength and conditioning coach for this week's event, he turned to an old friend.
Greene won two gold medals in the 2000 Sydney Olympics in the 100-meter and 100 relay, setting a world record in the 100. He added a silver and bronze medal in the 2004 Athens Olympics and is a five-time World Championships gold medalist.
“Everything that this stands for in honoring the Medal of Honor, the Wounded Warriors and the United States, I wanted to be a part of it,” Greene said. “(Woods) knows I've been coaching and training a lot of football players. I love being around the sport. I love being around the players and I thought it would be fun.”
Since retiring in 2008, Greene has transitioned into training athletes. He spent a year volunteering with the UCLA track team but lately is focused on the personal training with track athletes and football players.
This week, he's helping 92 football prospects prepare for their upcoming audition for the NFL. Greene's main responsibilities include helping players stretch and warm up properly but several have reached out to him for help with their speed training.
National team cornerback Steven Clarke (Vanderbilt) is a former high school track star. He and Greene formed a natural bond over track and have talked about continuing training together as Clarke tries to make the NFL. The 40-yard dash is one of the most popular measures of a defensive back prospect. Clarke says having someone on his side once known as the world's fastest man could be a big advantage.
“It's unique having him watch you,” Clarke said. “Getting ready to run a 40 is like preparing for a track meet. You have different techniques and stuff. He knows those different types of techniques. He was one of the world's fastest. He knows all those things to tweak and help you run as fast as you can.”
Greene roams the sidelines during practice. He lets the football coaches do the coaching while he keeps an eye on the players' movements. He watches how they run, move out of breaks, when they accelerate — different things that could give them an edge. One of the best to ever run is there to make sure the prospects are ready to take the field and anything else they need, he's open to help.
“The most important part it the technical part of it,” he said. “There's a lot of talent out here. There are only so many spots so they all have to do their best and do what it takes to try and get to the next level.
“I'm just here to make sure they're ready. Any other questions they have for me, they can come and ask or talk to me about anything. I told them I'm here for them.”
The Medal of Honor Bowl kicks off 2 p.m. Saturday at Johnson Hagood Stadium. Tickets are available at www.mohbowl.com or www.etix.com. The game will be broadcast live on SportsRadio 1450 AM and www.charlestonsportsradio.com. Follow @fjmansfield //