By Pat Harty
IOWA CITY, Iowa - If you were to rank the most influential and impactful members of the Iowa football team’s coaching and support staff, Chris Doyle should be near the top.
He has been Iowa’s strength and conditioning coach throughout Kirk Ferentz’s record-breaking reign as head coach and nobody on the staff spends more time around the players than Doyle does.
Doyle spent some time around the media on Friday. He spent nearly 30 minutes answering questions from reporters about multiple topics, including the progress being made this spring.
He talked about the weight-lifting record that Iowa offensive lineman Tristan Wirfs recently set and how it has helped to energize the entire team.
“They say the lead dog sets the pace for the pack, and so when you see that going on in the weight room, as much as anything, I’m a believer that it elevates everybody’s performance,” Doyle said. “And great leaders elevate the performance of the people around them.”
Wirfs put his name in the record book by hang-cleaning 450 pounds four times.
“That’s a really huge lift,” Doyle said. “That’s ridiculous. That’s a really impressive movement and lift. And then everybody in the rook looks over and says, if he can do that, well, maybe I can hang-clean 300 for four for the first time. Maybe I can do something that I’ve never done before.
“So that’s really important when you see the unselfish investment of everybody around there. Everybody there wants to see him excel.”
Doyle also talked about why so many former Hawkeyes, who go on the play in the NFL, return to Iowa City to train in the offseason. That includes All-Pro offensive guard Marshal Yanda, who has trained in the offseason in Iowa City throughout his 13-year career.
Doyle told reporters on Friday that Yanda has a pair of Nike shoes that he was given for making his first Pro Bowl. Yanda leaves the shoes in his locker in the Iowa Football Complex and still wears them whenever he works out as a reminder of what it took to make the Pro Bowl.
You could see the pride on Doyle’s face as he talked about Yanda’s allegiance to Iowa.
Doyle has reason to be proud because he played a key role in helping to change the course of Yanda’s life.
Yanda only played for two seasons at Iowa in 2005 and 2006, but that was enough time for him to show that he had NFL potential.
Doyle also paid tribute to former Iowa assistant coach Reese Morgan, who recently retired after spending the past 19 seasons on the Iowa staff.
“Reese Morgan and Marshal Yanda, two guys whose success is deeply rooted in humility and hard work,” Doyle said.
Doyle also talked about the importance of diet and nutrition for his players. He closely monitors what the players eat on a daily basis, and it’s much easier to do that now under the new rules that allow players to have three meals per day as part of training table.
“The building has provided the best facility to feed our guys and take care of our guys and just the wellness and well-being of our guys,” Doyle said. “But more than anything, the NCAA’s deregulation of food on August first, 2018 was really paramount in allowing us to feed the guys the way they need to be fed, to refuel and to stay healthy.”
The 50-year old Doyle is the highest paid strength coach in the country, and those close to him will say that he is worth every penny.
Doyle almost certainly has had chances to leave Iowa, but he has stayed loyal to Ferentz, and to the Hawkeyes.
Doyle grew up near Boston, Mass., but has lived nearly half of his life in Iowa City, with all three of his sons having graduated from Iowa City West High School. His son, Dillon Doyle, is a redshirt freshman linebacker for the Hawkeyes.
Doyle has helped Ferentz build a unique culture at Iowa where the team always comes first and where there are no short cuts to success.
Iowa also has built a productive pipeline to the NFL under Ferentz, but is now feeling the effects of a growing trend in which more players are leaving early for the NFL Draft.
Iowa had four players with eligibility still remaining who declared for the 2019 NFL Draft, including third-year sophomore tight end T.J. Hockenson.
Doyle was asked on Friday if this trend might change his calendar with regard to player development.
“That doesn’t affect our calendar,” he said. “We have a sense of urgency about improvement and we’re going to improve at as fast a rate as we possibly can. And that takes time. There is no microwave approach to physical development.”