Loud Music, Strobe Lights, and Michael Myers: Return of UC’s Squat Fest

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At a glance, it looked like an ordinary Friday morning inside the Richard E. Lindner Athletic Center on the University of Cincinnati’s main campus.

But on level 200 of the building just off Nippert Stadium, through a long hallway and on the other side of a set of double doors, awaited one of the most anticipated events in the football team’s off-season schedule. of the Cincinnati Bearcats – Squat Fest 2K22.

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Loud music rumbled through the speakers and strobe lights cut through the dark, smoke-filled air as Cincinnati Football Sports Performance director Brady Collins kicked off his intensely designed fourth practice session in the venue. UC bodybuilding.

Collins – donning a black “Iron sharpens iron” hoodie and a pair of red, black and white Zubaz pants – put together a series of exercises filled with squat racks, push-ups, sit-ups, deadlifts legs and a netting section where players kick dummy pads covered in the opposing team’s logos.

While DJ OZ provided the music, the players sweated their last practice before taking a week-long break from preparing for the 2022 season. All the while, one of Collins’ assistants walked around the room in a suit Halloween by Michael Myers.

Friday marked Cincinnati’s fourth Squat Fest. The event, which began in 2018 as a simple “intense squat day,” grew into a chaotic but controlled culmination of the Bearcats summer spawned by the imagination of Collins and his team.

“We’re having as much fun as anyone in the country while working hard, so I want to give back as much as I can,” Collins, 36, said. “How do you do that? You make it an environment where they just have no choice but to grind – which they do anyway – but have fun. You add lights, you have a DJ you got crazy stuff all over the place. To my staff’s credit and just the way we’ve done it every year it gets better and better and better. Safe to say this one was definitely the craziest. I’m really proud of them.

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Bearcats head coach Luke Fickell brought Collins with him from Ohio State shortly after Fickell took over the UC program in December 2016. With Fickell’s on-court leadership and guidance from Collins in the weight room, Cincinnati has become one of the most successful programs in the nation, winning 44 of its last 51 games, winning back-to-back American Athletic Conference championships and advancing to the football playoffs college last season.

After the team’s spring camp in April, Fickell said the Bearcats’ success this season again hinged in large part on the players’ time with Collins over the summer. The players agree.

“He’s the heart and soul of this team,” graduate linebacker Wil Huber said. “He’s the power factor. He brings power every day. He doesn’t have a switch. When he’s there, he’s ready to go.”

Football Athletic Performance Director Brady Collins watches as the University of Cincinnati football team begins 2020 training camp Wednesday, August 5 at the Higher Ground Conference and Retreat Center.

Fickell is usually the one who fills the room with energy, but on Friday, the sixth-year Cincinnati coach watched Collins take the lead from afar.

With Fickell lurking in the shadows and 2022 NFL Draft selections Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner, Jerome Ford and Darrian Beavers cheering on their former teammates, the Bearcats fought their way through grueling training. Some (junior sniper Deshawn Pace) wore sunglasses, while others (tight end Josh Whyle) sported face paint. All maneuvered in the space surrounded by a red and black “Danger / Peligro (Spanish translation of danger)” tape with the common goal of improving and progressing towards another year of dominance.

“The big thing for me today was just to bring the guys forward, to bring the guys, to bring the brothers with me,” Huber said. “Everyone wants to squat heavy, want to bench heavy, but the reality is the team aspect is more important than all the numbers you’re going to put up.”

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While Collins’ goal wasn’t to see who could lift the most, some players still rose to the challenge, including senior wide receiver Tre Tucker and junior wide receiver Tyler Scott. Tucker (5-foot-9, 175 pounds) and Scott (5-foot, 11, 177 pounds) both squat 600 pounds, more than three times their body weight.

“We have to set the standard,” Tucker said. “That’s the main thing. Tyler, he’s like my brother. He’s a great leader too.”

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Tucker has crossed another item off his to-do list this summer. The speedster improved his running time by 40 yards, clocking a personal best 4.29.

“I trained really hard,” Tucker said. “To me, it’s just a sign of my hard work and God.”

Tucker also credited Collins with helping him get into the best shape of his career.

Cincinnati Bearcats wide receiver Tre Tucker (1) returns the ball during spring training at Nippert Stadium in Cincinnati on Thursday, March 24, 2022.

“I love Coach Brady,” he said. “When you go to college, there are really two people you spend the most time with: it’s your strength coach and your position coach. We spend the most time with Coach Brady. … He’s great. I love him. He pushes me. He has a lot of energy, I mean, every day. If you come in with low energy, it’s not going to work with him. He really knows what’s going on. ‘he does.

“I was a track guy, so I heard I needed to add weight, I was like, ‘No. I don’t want to lose my speed. But I haven’t raced on the track for four years and I’m kind of getting faster.”

Between a few encouraging phrases and a few friendly expletives, the word Collins spoken most often on Friday was “Fayetteville,” as in Fayetteville, Arkansas. This is where the Bearcats will open their 2022 season.

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In 64 days, Cincinnati will look to keep the momentum going when they take on Southeastern Conference foes Arkansas on Saturday, Sept. 3 in a nationally televised matchup (3:30 p.m. on ESPN).

“This countdown has already started,” Tucker said. “We just finished Squat Fest. Now we’re coming back with the OTAs and getting ready for training camp. All training camp, we’re just going to hear ‘Fayetteville, Fayetteville.’ By the time that happens, we we’ll be tired of hearing it.”

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