GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida’s new director of football strength and conditioning, Nick Savage, lives up to his last name.
His workouts have been the story of Dan Mullen’s first offseason as Gators coach, with multiple players tweeting about Savage’s “strenuous” program over the last two months.
The most challenging part? Valentine’s Day.
“Oh, I had a great one,” Savage said.
Savage became Mullen’s head strength coach in 2016 at Mississippi State, where he conducted a “Valentine’s Day Massacre” workout during the week of the holiday. Former Bulldogs players told SEC Country it was the hardest workout they did.
The weight-room massacre also got the best of the Florida football team.
“I would say,” Savage said. “Especially for this year, that is the most challenging workout.”
A handful of players took to Twitter to react after Valentine’s Day, with running back Lamical Perine tweeting that Savage brought the “animal” out of him. Savage was happy with how the team handled the workout.
“It’s intense,” Savage said. “We try to change the environment up in terms of decorations and all that. A lot of that is just to shock the system in terms of different atmosphere. We approach it as an away game. You never know what you’re walking into.
“Our main goal is to program that brain, no matter what’s in front of us, we’re going to go attack. So that was the ultimate goal there. … I think every day as we progress through the offseason has progressively gotten harder, but that day alone will probably stick in their mind.”
A few Florida players already have transformed their bodies under the direction of Savage, who was an intern for two years at Ohio State (2013-14) under former Gators strength coach Mickey Marotti. Savage’s style of training has been a welcomed change in the weight room.
“It’s definitely a lot different,” quarterback Feleipe Franks said. “I loved the last coaching staff, but Coach Savage is a bit more, I want to say, strenuous. It’s just different and at the same time, Coach Savage is a really good strength coach. He’s whipping us into shape real quick. You can already see the results.”
Franks and wide receiver Josh Hammond both said they lost body fat, with Hammond putting on seven pounds of muscle. Players also have made gains with their reps on bench press and other workouts.
Those immediate results helped make Savage’s transition smoother.
“I think early on it was immediate, it was an eye-opener that this was going to be different,” Savage said. “Obviously, change is hard for a lot of guys when you talk about the kind of work level and demand we put on our offseason conditioning program. But from Day 1 we’ve had zero issues in terms of attitude and effort.
“Guys have been completely in. Now, obviously, some individuals have got to develop more than others. That’s all of college football. But in terms of attitude and effort throughout the program what we expect, it’s been right there.”
Some players were not able to finish the Valentine’s Day workout, which featured banners with Cupid and hearts throughout the weight room. Even a strength coach named Savage has a soft side.
“Savage, he’s lovely,” linebacker David Reese said. “I love his energy. That’s a man that puts on his work hat every day and he’s going to give you his all. So it’s all love with that guy. He’s amazing.”