By Pat Harty
IOWA CITY, Iowa – Nobody spends more time around the Iowa football players than Chris Doyle.
His job as Iowa’s strength and conditioning coach requires Doyle to maintain a constant line of communication with his players, even when they’re away from the football facility, and during the offseason.
He oversees the players’ training and physical status throughout the year, from weight lifting to monitoring their diet and sleep habits.
He is sort of like their mother, father and big brother all rolled into one, a builder, a nurturer, and above all, a leader.
Doyle is used to controlling his world with a meticulous and detailed approach, but now his world has been turned upside down by the COVID-19 pandemic, and it’s been a major adjustment, emotionally, mentally and physically.
“I’m no different than anybody else,” Doyle said Wednesday while participating in a zoom conference with the media. “Every single person in the building at Iowa football wants to get back to work.
“Sometimes, when things like this happen, I haven’t been through anything like this ever before, but it’s often a time to reflect and you just miss going to work. You miss walking in and thirty guys come through the door. So you just miss that and you can’t wait to get back to that again.”
And while it’s true that everybody associated with Iowa football wants to get back to work, Doyle is different because of his job and the influence that comes with it.
You could argue that Doyle is the second most important piece to the Iowa football puzzle behind head coach Kirk Ferentz because it’s Doyle’s responsibility to turn teenagers into young men from a physical standpoint.
It’s Doyle’s responsibility to make sure that the players are reaching their full potential from a strength, speed and endurance standpoint.
He still spends countless hours reaching out to his players either on zoom, or on social media, but it’s just not the same.
It isn’t the same as having all the players in Iowa City and training at the football facility and eating the best food and getting the right amount of sleep and encouragement.
“Simply put, nowadays when we train, it’s supervised, it’s on campus and it’s monitored, and we don’t have that anymore,” Doyle said.
One of the first things that Doyle did after the lockdown occurred was make sure that every player on the team had access to a workout area, either at a facility or at home.
He broke it down into four different programs and matched each player with a program.
“The number one was do kids have access to a program?” Doyle said. “The second was the garage-gym program, so if guys had access to a bar bell and rack. The third was do you only have access to dumb bell or a kettle bell. And then the fourth program was do you have any equipment that’s body weight only?”
“So we counted four different versions and then we individualized from there.”
As for running and jumping, Doyle has relied on the players to meet those demands.
“Everybody can run and jump,” Doyle said. “You can go to a field and you can run and jump and you can mark off 55 yards or 15 yards, and you can put a hat down or a t-shirt down and get some cones.
“So everybody can run and jump. It’s a water-downed version of what we would do here. We don’t have all the equipment available that we do here, electric timers and things like that. But guys can run and jump. So that was fairly standard, the running and the jumping.”
Doyle has been a mainstay on Ferentz’s staff since the beginning in 1999, and Doyle is now the highest paid strength and conditioning coach in college football, and one of the most respected in his field.
Iowa has played in 17 bowl games since 2001 and has had 75 players selected in the NFL Draft under Ferentz, and Doyle has played a major role in all of the success, both team and individual.
He expressed his sympathy for the players on Wednesday, especially the seniors, who are coping with an unprecedented event with time running out on their college career.
“Believe me, these guys, they have a small window,” Doyle said of the players. “These guys, they have one sophomore year, one junior year, one senior year, so that guy, this is his senior year.
“He wants to have a huge year. He wants to play in the National Football League. He wants you guys to be talking about them this time next year after the draft and here, he’s locked out. So have empathy for our players and I just can’t wait to see them and get back to work.”