There are two reasons to check in with Oregon State strength and conditioning coach Bryan Miller.
First, there's the Beavers freakishly strong defensive tackle Stephen Paea. He might be the strongest football player in the United States -- NFL included. How the heck did that happen? Then there's the Beavers' outstanding reputation for developing players (see seven players drafted by NFL teams in 2009).
Miller has been the head of the Sports Performance Center staff since July of 2008 and he arrived at Oregon State in 2006. He is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), a Specialist in Sports Conditioning and a Level I Club Coach (U.S. Weightlifting).
Here's what he had to say.
So were you always a guy who focused on strength and conditioning as an athlete growing up?
Bryan Miller: Absolutely. I'm the son of a high school coach in Chicago. So being properly prepared throughout the year was taken very seriously in the Miller household.
How did you get into this as a profession?
BM: My undergrad degree was actually in marketing. But the further I got into my senior year of college, the less I wanted to wear a coat and tie and sit at a cubicle. So, like a lot of people in my family who are coaches -- football and baseball coaches -- that's definitely the pedigree of my family. It was just something that came naturally.
I realize this is a big question, but how would you summarize your philosophy?
BM: I would say it is a very methodical series of progressions for the total growth and development of the athlete, from when they are freshmen to when they are seniors.
It seems like coach Mike Riley is very good at finding guys in recruiting who aren't top prospects and turning them into NFL players -- 6-foot-5 offensive linemen who only weight 220 pounds as high school seniors. As his strength and conditioning guy, is that something you specialize in?
BM: I would say the room we need to make up for in development is a lot more than some of the other schools that are bringing in those five-star recruits. They are getting linemen in the door who are 6-5, 300 pounds who are already pretty strong and very athletic. The guys we're bringing in are 6-5 but, like you said, as low as 220. So the room we have to make up to put them on the field is a lot.
How do you motivate guys who aren't big fans of conditioning? Are you a carrot or stick kind of guy?
BM: Definitely a carrot. I think one of the philosophies we have here that is different from other schools is we work on our conditioning all year round -- January to January. So at any point during the year we're in very good shape. With the exception of incoming freshman, with everybody else on the team, when we start our first day of summer conditioning, it's never really that hard because we are already in pretty decent shape going in. The other thing is, with the size of players we bring in, our starting offensive linemen are under 295. Same thing with our defensive linemen. We don't have many guys over 300 pounds. From that standpoint, conditioning comes pretty easily to our guys.
Say you're a 15-year-old who wants to play college football: What are the most important things for him to be doing, strength and conditioning-wise, to get a scholarship?
BM: The first thing is proper, usable strength. I say proper and usable because we get some freshmen who think because they can bench-press 300 pounds they're strong enough to play their position. But most freshmen we bring in the door can't do 10 push-ups the right way. So all the freshmen who come in the door here, they don't do any bench press for the first five months. All they do are different types of push-ups.
Speaking of bench press: We've seen the video of Stephen Paea: Is he just a freak of nature or is that about a lot of that hard work?
BM: It's a combination of both. First is, genetically, he's got strength out the butt. He probably had no idea how strong he really was. It was just something that came naturally to him. Then once we got him into a very organized training program, his strength dramatically took off. Again, it came very easy to him, so it was something that he embraced. Having done that, he sets a very good example for all the younger players.
How many times do you think he'll bench 225 at the NFL combine?
BM: I'm going to shoot for the moon and say 50 [which would be a new record].
Who is another one of your hardest workers?
BM: [Defensive end] Gabe Miller, he's a stud. He's actually one of our faster guys and he's 255.
Do you have an all-time workout warrior?
BM: I feel like I'd be leaving people out if I only mention a couple of people. Hmm. Al Afalava he's definitely at the top. And Joey LaRocque and Victor Butler.