Published: 11:28 PM, Mon Jul 30, 2012
E.E. Smith Golden Bulls get new practice equipment from NFL player Aaron Curry
Off to the side of E.E. Smith's practice field, not far from the water station, sit several all-black, weighted running sleds that have been relegated to backup status.
Along the opposite sideline, framed by a row of trees, the Golden Bulls' running backs are completing 100-yard sprints with neon green straps attached to their waists and encased, 45-pound weights dragging behind them. The new Nike SPARQ Power Sleds were gifts from Smith alum and NFL player Aaron Curry.
The sleds help backs such as senior Sulaiman Mustafaa, who rushed for 887 yards in 10 games last season, improve their explosiveness and technique.
"A lot of our guys aren't big, but they're fast and quick, so we teach them how to run stronger, how to run behind their pads," said position coach Ernest King, who was the team's defensive coordinator in 2011. "The sled teaches them to run with a forward lean."
Smith's backs fumbled too frequently and took too many big hits last year, the latter problem a product of upright running. With a focus on ball security, King growls and swats forcefully while the backs step through a ladder drill. If they fumble, it's an up-and-back jog across the practice field and through the grass of the adjacent baseball field to a distant foul pole that's barely visible above the roofs of parked activity buses.
That's a leisurely stroll compared with the speed required with sled work. Thigh fatigue tells Mustafaa that he's exerting the right amount of effort.
"To get your burst is kind of easy," he said, "but until you get finished, the body weighs down, and it's tiring. You gotta fight through it."
- Bret Strelow