NC State football drill turns into team-building exercise

jgiglio@newsobserver.comFebruary 28, 2013 

— Tires were tossed, weight bars were spun and ropes were pulled during N.C. State’s conditioning drills on Thursday morning.

The Wolfpack football players were expecting a grueling morning of wind sprints. Instead they got the inaugural Wolfpack Olympics.” There were conventional relay races, and those involving a 200-pound medicine ball, and a traditional tug-of-war. It was all devised by new coach Dave Doeren in the name of camaraderie and competition.

“It was fun,” Doeren said. “It was just a chance to celebrate some hard work and get ready for the grind that’s about to start after spring break.”

Doeren’s first spring practice begins March 19 and the Kay Yow Spring Game is scheduled for April 20. Doeren and his new staff has only been allowed to work with the players on conditioning. Thursday’s drills felt like an old fashioned “field day,” except that instead of second-graders competing for ribbons and juice boxes, it was eight teams of college football players running around a cold, muddy field – and occasionally acting like carefree second-graders.

The tug-of-war was the highlight for the players and Doeren. Junior quarterback Pete Thomas’ team, anchored by tackle Tyson Chandler, won the rope-pulling contest, which didn’t go off without a little verbal sparring between sides.

“It’s a good accountability and toughness drill,” Doeren said. “I love that drill. It’s always fun to finish with something like that.”

The Wolfpack Olympics was also a chance for the players to interact with their new coaches. Running backs coach Des Kitchings is the only holdover from Tom O’Brien’s staff.

“It was good,” senior defensive end Daryl Cato-Bishop said. “We need to work hard and we need to build team unity.”

Thomas credited his own drafting prowess, notably the selection of senior linebacker Zach Gentry, for the overall team victory. Thomas, who sat out last season after transferring from Colorado State, said the Wolfpack Olympics was a success but he’s anxious to get back on the field for real.

“We all love lifting and stuff but we are all tired of it,” Thomas said. “We’re ready to get on the field and throw some routes and hit people and get this thing rolling.”

Jason Veltkamp, the strength and conditioning coach, has been able to work out the players and get them ready for spring practice. Veltkamp ran the drills on Thursday and enjoyed the break from routine.

“At this point in the winter, they’ve been going for so long, it’s good to have something that changes their mindset and is a little bit fun,” Veltkamp said.

Veltkamp said Thomas, senior safety Dontae Johnson, senior linebacker D.J Green and senior tight end Asa Watson have been the leaders in the offseason workouts. There’s still the element of the unknown for the new staff and the players they have inherited, Veltkamp said.

“We’re excited to get on the field and see what we’ve got,” Veltkamp said.

Assistants: Veltkamp added former N.C. State linebacker Dantonio Burnette and Brad Stewart, who worked with Veltkamp at Arkansas, as his assistants. Also, former linebacker Sterling Lucas, a captain on last year’s team, will work for Doeren as a graduate assistant.

Giglio: 919-829-8938

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