Nov. 3, 2010
By Max Ramos-Paez, Seminoles.com –
It’s highly likely that you will hear Florida State first-year head strength and conditioning coach Vic Viloria before you see him. Viloria’s booming voice not only carries across the field and weight room, but more importantly, it carries the message of head football coach Jimbo Fisher. A three-year captain and standout linebacker at Southern Methodist University, Viloria essentially serves as Fisher’s Sergeant of Arms—among other muscle groups—and is charged with shaping the Seminoles into a championship contender. Like Fisher, he demands perfections. Shortcuts are not optional.
Q: So coach, what brought you to FSU?
VV: In my position, you’re always looking for different challenges. As an assistant at LSU, Coach Fisher and I became friends and I worked with a lot of his individual players, particularly the quarterbacks: JaMarcus Russell, Matt Flynn, and Ryan Perriloux (and) the receivers that he worked with on the offensive side of the ball. So we became close. When he came to Florida State I went to SMU, my alma mater, and took over as the head strength & conditioning coach, and was able to help bring them to the first bowl win in 25 years. Coach Fisher had an opportunity to become head coach (at FSU)…and when the opportunity came, he offered me the job. It had to take something really special for me to leave my alma mater. But this was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up, being that it was Florida State and I was working for someone that I trusted—someone that I knew was passionate about winning and someone that took my job seriously.
Q: Growing up in Louisiana as a football player for a prominent program, what was your impression of the Florida State football program?
VV: I always enjoyed watching Florida State. On a kind of personal note, Warrick Dunn was a Louisiana kid who trained under the person who taught me a lot of what I know now, Gayle Hatch in Baton Rouge, La. He was someone that I followed as a high school and college athlete and because he came to Florida State, Florida State was a team that I cheered for. Florida State has always been really special. I think it’s unique because of the uniform, the war chant, Chief Osceola and Renegade…the fact that I had a connection with Warrick and some of the other kids that came out of Louisiana who came here—it was always something, I think, that every young football player that really liked and could see themselves playing there. For me, I wasn’t a big-time recruit, at least at this level, but it was a place that I would’ve loved playing for, and I’m very fortunate to be here now.
Q: You’re a proponent of the Hatch System. What are some of its principles?
VV: Coach Hatch is and was a former U.S. Weightlifting coach, so he works with a lot of Olympic style lifters—guys who are competing for the Olympics. In addition to that he works with a lot of high school football players and athletes in all different sports—guys and girls. Coach Hatch was someone who taught me and my mentor (LSU S&C Coach) Tommy Moffitt the techniques involved with the Olympic movements—the progression of why to go heavy, when to go heavy (and) how much volume to do. He taught my former boss, then my boss taught me the same movements, and when I got the job at Baton Rouge, I spent a lot more time with Coach Hatch understanding why he was doing those things and seeing the results that he head. It was something that I grew up in, something that I continued as a young coach at LSU. But it’s something that I will always support because of the success that it’s had.
Q: In an overall sense, how much of an improvement have you seen on the Florida State team through the first nine months in the program?
VV: A lot of our guys got stronger and fast and conditioning levels really increased, but I think the overall culture and work ethic has changed from our football players here at Florida State. Everyone does power clean, everyone does back squats, everyone does bench press. I didn’t reinvent the wheel: it was just a way of structuring it that these kids had not done before. Just like the practice tempo—the things they do and when they do it are different on the football field. Our kids have never been in a strict routine training-wise. We’re fortunate that we’re Florida State and we’re always going to get the best athletes in the country, you don’t want them to leave as the best high school players in the country. You want them to have an opportunity to play at the next level and progress as an athlete. I think the biggest thing our kids have learned this year is that work ethic. It wasn’t weights, wasn’t in the fancy equipment we have and the beautiful facilities. It was inside of them. When we renovated the weight room, we didn’t take a couple of days off because the weight room floor was getting redone. We moved equipment outside and lifted as if nothing had changed, and that’s kind of the message I shared with them this summer—something that they accepted and really thrived with. It was kind of like Rocky vs. the Russian for a while.
Q: How important is nutrition in conjunction with the Hatch System?
VV: It’s absolutely vital for the overall success of our athletes. Coach Fisher was really huge in making this the best strength program in the country by allowing me to bring in coaches that could help in every aspect of each athlete’s overall training. You don’t just lift weights, you have to run, you have to stretch, you have to do speed work, and you have to eat right, you have to fuel your body. If you don’t fuel your body, you’re not going to get good results in your training. You don’t put a NASCAR vehicle out on the track with cheap gas if you want to perform at the optimal level. You have to put good fuel in your body. That’s why our players have had huge changes: it’s because they’ve done a strict weight-lifting program. They’ve stretched, they’ve understood how to recover, how to take care of their bodies and rest. And they’ve also been put on a strict diet—a strict nutrition routine—that’s allowed them to keep coming back for more training.
Q: So the players have embraced their new eating habits?
VV: Yeah. In times of change, they’re not going to initially love it. We’re going through a coaching change and that means things are different. Our players like eating hamburgers and cheeseburgers and french fries, which we all do. But I don’t play football anymore; the average fan doesn’t play football, they don’t have to squat like our kids do. So the fact that our players had to learn how to fuel their bodies to train and to practice and to play games is something new to them. If you eat cheeseburgers and french fries and you stay up late and you drink alcohol, you’re not going to be able to practice and go to class and lift weights heavy like we do. You may be able to do one of those things well but not all three or four tasks you have in a day. So I think nutrition is one of the biggest parts of a college athlete’s routine.
Q: Several teams have won national championships within several years of implementing the Hatch System. Can you speak to possible reasons for this?
VV: Florida State and the top-tier schools around the country…that have been successful the past 15-20 years, they’re all going to have good recruits constantly. They’re going to have top-tier coaches because that’s the level and expectations that the fans and administration have set. We’re going to have the best facilities, the best coaches and we’re going to recruit the best players. Once you have all those things in place, what sets us apart from those other schools that are doing the same things? Obviously I’m going to be a little biased, but if you have nice facilities, great coaches and great athletes, and you don’t train hard, then you’re not going to beat a team that has nice facilities, great coaches and great athletes but they train hard. So the reason that these schools have been successful is because they’ve constantly kept up with the coaches. They’ve maintained and upgraded so they get those top-tier athletes, but then on top of that, those athletes have worked their butts off and they’ve created an atmosphere of, “We’re not coming in to be the players we were recruited. We’re coming in to be the best players in the country as freshmen, then we’re going to progress to the sophomores in the country, and the best juniors and have an opportunity to play at the next level.” They’re preparing their bodies physically and mentally to play in the NFL. And that’s why you see teams like Alabama and LSU and UF and USC win national championships. Those schools always have the best athletes, the best facilities, and they train hard.
Q: Does Coach Fisher’s philosophy as head coach mirror or connect to yours?
VV: Absolutely. Everything I do in the weight room is for him. He’s the head football coach. It would be an injustice to these kids—and it would do him a disservice—if I created athletes in my eyes, or what I want athletes to look like and play like. Every coach that I’ve worked for, their athletes had to be different. They recruit differently. If I run a spread offense, my athletes are going to be different than if I run a pro formation or if I run a triple-option. The quarterback is going to be different; the lineman are going to be different. So the same thing goes for the training. We run a pro-style offense and we run a type of scheme that requires us to be big, strong and physical at the point of attack. But it also requires a ton of top-end speed. So we’re going to recruit big guys, strong guys that can run, and that’s how we train our athletes. We’re never going to sacrifice speed and agility in our training. I don’t care how much a guy can bench press. If he continues to develop his lower body, his explosion out of his hips and his flexibility, that means he can jump high and run fast. Because he’s maintained flexibility, he can jump higher and run faster than a guy who can squat or bench 500 pounds. It’s not a power lifting or weightlifting competition. It’s football. It’s preparation for football.
Q: Have you seen an overall change in attitude in the players?
VV: Absolutely, and I think that starts at the top. Coach Fisher is a guy that’s demanded that our culture here change, and it started with our offseason training—the Fourth Quarter program. Our—Coach Fisher’s motto—is “Toughness, Effort, Discipline, and Pride.” How do you create toughness? You can sit out there and play three weak opponents and try to create toughness, or you can go through two-a-days and create toughness. You can teach young kids how to practice harder or increase their effort, or coach them during a season, but sometimes you may go through those growing pains and lose a ballgame. So in today’s strength & conditioning field, that’s where a lot of that stuff has to be developed in the offseason. The toughness has to come from heavy squats and running when you don’t feel like running in the heat. The effort comes from coaches in the offseason—my staff—pushing guys to their limits and beyond. The discipline—we’re very strict on our discipline. We make them run, start from behind the line on the whistle on command, and a lot of times the kids don’t understand why they’re doing it. But then you put it in a perspective that they understand. “Why do you have to be behind the line? Why not in front? What’s the difference?” Well, when you play football, there’s such a thing as the line of scrimmage. If you’re in front of it on defense you’re offside. If you start in front of the line instead of behind it as a receiver then that’s an illegal formation. You go on the whistle and you stop on the whistle. Those are things that our kids didn’t really understand, but now as they go through football practice and they’re behind the lines and they’re being coaches, they understand why Coach Vic and his staff said those things. So everything we do is in direct correlation to having success on the football field, making the lives of Coach Fisher and his staff easier.
Dressed in all black, wearing a bucket hat, Viloria begins each practice barking orders as the Seminoles loosen up: “Nole Jacks! Team Ready? Nole Jacks! Team Ready?”
Each question is answered—loudly and in unison by the players: “Yeah!”
Viloria counters: “N-O-L-E-S HIT. Breakdown!”
The Seminoles respond with three claps and sprint to the first period of practice.