Three years ago, I wrote Speed Kills, a manifesto of my football ideas and a celebration of a freshman football team that outscored their opponents 458-38. The title said it all. Everything we do as football coaches should be an attempt to attract speed, develop speed, and preserve speed. Think about it.
Everything we do as football coaches should be an attempt to attract speed, develop speed, and preserve speed.
I still believe in everything I stated three years ago. Flash forward to the state football playoffs, 2016. Plainfield North will play for the 7A state championship against the winners of last year’s state track meet, East St. Louis. Ask any football coach what Illinois team has the most team speed and the answer will be unanimous … East St. Louis. No one else comes close. Or do they?
I know Plainfield North’s football players very well. I coached our seniors when they were freshmen (9-0). I coached our juniors as freshmen (9-0). In addition, I coached our sophomores as freshmen (9-0). This year I was moved to offensive coordinator of the sophomores. We finished 8-1. By the way, Paul Palandech coached this year’s freshmen to an undefeated season. Our freshmen have logged five consecutive undefeated seasons, “the streak” is at 48 games. The combined record of the 2016 Plainfield North program is currently 28-3. We have talented players, hard-working coaches, and lots of speed.
In addition to my lower-level football coaching, 18 of our varsity football players had me as their Honors Chemistry teacher. In this article, I will make the case that Plainfield North is a fast team, but you wouldn’t believe how smart they are.
The third connection I have with Plainfield North’s football players is speed training, and for most of them, track & field.
When does speed training occur? As head freshmen coach, one-third of every summer football session was devoted to speed training (the rest of the time was spent teaching kids to lift weights and implementing our offense). Since 2006, Tim Kane (head football coach) and I have co-directed a speed & strength winter program open to all Plainfield North athletes. And don’t forget, I coach track. Think about it … summer speed training, then football season, followed by winter speed training and track season. Sounds like a speed is a priority at Plainfield North.
Over the past couple years, our varsity football program has evolved into a “less-is-more” approach. Practices are intense but playing fast has become the priority. In the past two months our varsity has taken several days off, literally going home after school. The mood is upbeat and music is present at the beginning of every practice. Players sometimes show off their dance moves. Tim Kane’s motto this year has been “Fast and Fresh”. This upbeat, less-is-more approach has been an evolution for Coach Kane whose DNA comes from the founding fathers of football.
For those of you who don’t know me, I teach speed by intensely coaching kids during speed drills followed by timing them in 40 yard dashes and 10 meter flys with Freelap. Kids learn to sprint by sprinting. The best secondary way to improve sprinting is by jumping (plyometrics). The weight room may be important for football players but nothing in the weight room has a direct correlation to speed.
The weight room may be important for football players but nothing in the weight room has a direct correlation to speed.
30 varsity football players have run track for me at Plainfield North. 42 of our varsity football players are multi-sport athletes. I’m so proud of our athletic program.
Doing the right thing isn’t always easy. Last year, my track team was counting on Tim Donnahue. As a sophomore, Tim Donnahue ran 52.3 in the 4×4. We expected Tim to run 50-low as a junior. However, Tim Donnahue is a three sport athlete. In addition to being a 6’2″ 200-pound defensive end, Tim Donnahue is a superb wrestler. Last year, wrestling at 195, Tim broke his leg and missed most of the track season. When I asked him if he was going to wrestle this year, he said yes, probably competing at 220. Not only do I support his decision, I have to encourage it. No matter what, I have to promote multi-sport participation. It’s the right thing to do.
Plainfield North Speed Numbers
The first number listed will be their best 40 time (hand-held, leaning start, spikes, hard surfaces, average of best two in one day). The second number is their Freelap automated best 10m fly time. When I time in the 40, I also time the last 10 meters of that sprint to find the 10 meter fly time. The 10m fly time is a sprinter’s “max speed”. In my opinion, max speed is the #1 predictor of athletic speed and explosiveness.
- Tyler Hoosman 4.34, 0.99, senior, team’s leading rusher (1625 yards, 7.1 ypc), track athlete, long jump 20’6.5″
- Dillon McCarthy 4.37, 1.01, also a top defensive back, only a junior, baseball player
- Joe Stiffend 4.37, 0.97, only a junior, expected to be a key performer, missed entire season with ACL, all-state track athlete, 4×1 (41.72), 4×2 (1:27.61)
- Carlos Baggett 4.20, 0.94, senior, 2nd leading rusher (9.4 ypc), has not played in playoffs (turf toe), all-state track, 10.84 in 100m, fastest guy in PN history, shown in header picture getting baton from Jordan Gumila.
- Colin Creghin, 4.49, 1.04, only a junior, missed entire season with ACL, baseball player, may run track this year
- Anthony Capezio 4.51, 1.05 (freshman numbers), sophomores’ leading rusher, 52.46 in 400 as a freshman, 19’9″ in long jump
- T.J. Kane 4.68, 1.08, senior, track athlete, featured in article Can Your Kid Sprint?
- Connor Peplow 4.67, 1.04 (without spikes), senior, ISU commit (baseball), Connor’s fastball has been clocked at 91 mph
- Ryan Kryztofiak 4.70, 1.08, 6’3″ senior, ran one year of track, 400m 55.3 as a sophomore
- Nico Capezio 4.40, 1.04, senior, long jump 20’8″, triple jump 41’2″, high jump 6’0
- Jalen Watkins, 4.48, 1.03, only a junior, track athlete, 23.7 in 200 as a sophomore
Offensive/Defensive Linemen & Linebackers:
- Arinze Ekowa, 4.73, 1.11, senior, 6’0″ 238-pound defensive tackle and offensive guard, one of the top returning discus throwers in Illinois, 162’0″ in discus, 48’2″ in shot
- Tim Donnahue 4.43, 1.01, senior, 6’2″ 210-pound defensive end, wrestler, 52.3 in 4×4 as a sophomore
- Shane McGrail 4.47, 1.05, only a junior, defensive end, track as a sophomore, 24.51 in 200
- J.J. Frey 4.78, 1.09, senior, 6’1″ 220-pound linebacker, came out for track as a junior, 25.9 in 200
- Will Stoll 4.77, 1.10, senior, 6’0 210-pound linebacker, football only
- Nick Wood 4.39, 0.99, only a junior, linebacker, track as sophomore but injured most of season
- Dillon McCarthy, 4.37, 1.01, also a versatile running back, receiver, and punt & kick returner, baseball player
- Kevin Block, 4.36, 1.00, senior, also returns kicks & punts, ran track last year but had to quit due to 7-on-7 conflicts
- Zach Nadle, 4.60, 1.08, only a junior, track as sophomore, 25.01 in 200
- Anthony Fumagali, 4.61, 1.03, senior, baseball player
- Rob Ostapkowicz, 4.86, 1.14, senior, football only
- Jordan Gumila, 4.33, 0.96, senior, track athlete, 400m (51.1), triple jump (43’3″)
- Johnny Goodson, 4.61, 1.02 (sophomore year), senior, missed speed training and track last year with ACL
- Michael Wagner, 4.53, 1.03, senior, track, 24.4 in 200
I do not have speed numbers on our 6’3″ junior quarterback, Brady Miller. Brady is very busy as a three-sport athlete. I’ve coached some terrific freshmen quarterbacks but Brady ranks #1. This year, Brady Miller has completed 59% of his passes for 1868 yards, 20 touchdowns, and only 6 interceptions. In addition to his football skills, Brady is a key player for Plainfield North’s basketball and baseball teams.
Do you see a trend here a at Plainfield North? Coaches working together and encouraging multi-sport athleticism?
Any football coach bragging about their “year-round” football program should be replaced. No research supports specialization. Coaches who hoard their athletes are not educators, they’re egomaniacs. Check out the stats just released by Tracking Football.
- 28 college football players have rushed for over 1000 yards this year, 26 of those 28 ran track in high school.
- 15 college football players have intercepted five or more passes, 13 of those 15 were multi-sport athletes in high school, 9 of the 16 ran track
- 17 college football players have over 1000 receiving yards this year, all of them were multi-sport athletes in high school and 12 of the 17 ran track
- 7 college football players have 10 or more sacks this year, all of them were multi-sport athletes and 5 of the 7 were track athletes
I will close this article with a three-year study of two very different kids.
Tyler Hoosman is the brother of Quintin Hoosman. Quintin ran track for me and had a terrific senior year in football rushing for a state-leading 2400 yards and 32 touchdowns in 2014. I met Tyler Hoosman in the summer of 2013 as an incoming freshman football player. Tyler was a 5’4″ 132-pound running back who ran a summer best 5.43 in the 40. Tyler was a good running back for our freshman B-team. Later in the spring, Tyler Hoosman’s best long jump was 16’8″. Last year Tyler long jumped 20’6.5″. We expect big things from him this spring.
Check out Tyler’s progression in the 40-yard dash.
Check out Tyler’s progression in the 10m fly.
Tyler’s speed numbers ranked him 119th at Plainfield North as a freshman, 25th as a sophomore, and 5th as a junior. What will Tyler Hoosman rank this winter?
Tyler Hoosman’s times (4.34, 0.99) compare favorably with former Plainfield North star, Kapri Bibbs (4.35, 1.02) now playing with the Denver Broncos. At 5’11” 195, Tyler Hoosman has gained 1625 yards on only 230 carries. His 7.1 yards per carry would look good in the NFL where Ezekiel Elliot is averaging 4.9 ypc. Tyler has yet to sign and inexplicably has no Division-1 offers.
I met Ari Ekowa in the summer of 2013. Like Tyler Hoosman, Ari had a brother who was a star athlete. J.D. Ekowa started at quarterback for Plainfield North in 2013, 2014, & 2015. Ari thought he was a fullback as a freshmen. At 5’8″ and 175 pounds, Ari moved well. We moved Ari into the line and he thrived.
Some people don’t understand the connection between linemen and speed. Every year, the fastest offensive linemen at the NFL Combine are the first picked in the NFL draft. Speed is even more important for defensive linemen.
As a freshman, Ari ran 5.08 in the 40. Two years later he was running 4.73. His 10 meter fly time improved from 1.19 to 1.11. These numbers may not turn heads but Ari is now 6’0″ and 238 pounds. When huge defensive tackles run 4.73 and 1.11, Division-1 coaches might want to take notice.
I am not writing this article to boast and brag about our Plainfield North athletes. I write the article as a possible blueprint for success at other schools. I hope other schools make a commitment to multi-sport athletes. I hope other schools commit to speed training as their key focus in off-season development.
For more information, read my article about PN’s winter program, Record, Rank, & Publish: 8 Weeks of Alactic Training. In addition, read Can Your Kid Sprint?. If you really want to buy-in, attend the Track Football Consortium IV, hosted by me and Chris Korfist.
As coaches we must continue do what’s best for athletes. If you work in a school that encourages specialization, maybe you should share this with your athletic director. If you work at a school where coaches are failing to do what’s right, maybe it’s time you rattle their cage.