Ex-Hawkeyes defend training, rave about coach Doyle


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Ask Matt Bowen his first impression of Iowa football head strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle. Even 12 years after his final season with the Hawkeyes, the former Iowa safety still speaks with a hint of awe in his voice.

“This guy is not only a strength coach, he’s also an academic when it comes to the industry of strength and conditioning,” said Bowen, who played safety at Iowa from 1995-99 and for seven years in the NFL, He is currently a columnist for the National Football Post and the Chicago Tribune.

“[Doyle] did things that we never saw before, and no disrespect to coach [Hayden] Fry’s staff,” he said. “He was so dramatically different in his techniques and the way he trained us.”

Bowen said he and his teammates didn’t need long to see results, which were “eye-opening.”

Doyle has served as the Hawkeyes’ head strength and conditioning coach since Kirk Ferentz took over the program in 1999. Prior to Iowa, Doyle made stops at Utah (director of strength and conditioning), Wisconsin (assistant strength coach), Holy Cross (offensive line coach), and both Notre Dame and Syracuse as a graduate assistant. He was an offensive lineman at Boston University (1986-1988), where he received his B.S. in human movement as well as a master’s of education.

Bowen said safety was never an issue when he was in the program.

“He never put my teammates in danger,” Bowen said. “He knows how to push your limits and push you past that threshold, but he doesn’t put you in danger.”

The Glen Ellyn, Ill., native said he spoke with Doyle since last week’s hospitalizations of 13 current players, but he declined to comment on their conversation.

A more recent graduate of the program, former offensive lineman Julian Vandervelde (2006-10), agreed. The second-team All-Big Ten left guard — who said he has completed workouts similar to those that led to the hospitalization of 13 current players last week — said players “aren’t pushed to do anything they can’t do.”

That doesn’t always mean they don’t want to, though.

“College football is such a pride-filled community,” Vandervelde said. “Nobody wants to be that guy who says, ‘I’m hurt.’ Doesn’t matter if it’s your arm or your leg, if you can walk, the suck it up and walk it off mentality is there. Even if that’s not the mentality that’s preached by the program.”

Bowen credited Doyle’s effectiveness as being his knowledge of functional training, meaning that “he trains you to become a successful football player.”

“Any strength coach can go in there and tell you to do bench press, tell you to do sprints, gassers, conditioning, that’s fine,” Bowen said. “But you have to get in shape to play football and play football for four quarters.”

The former Green Bay Packer pointed to two ex-Hawkeyes who are offensive linemen in the NFL — Robert Gallery and Eric Steinbach — that started at Iowa as “tall and lanky.”

“We used to beat them up [in practice] when they were scout-team tight ends,” Bowen said.

By the time they left, they were first- and second-round draft picks as offensive linemen.

“Now, we’re getting into stuff that isn’t written about by the national media,” he said. “It’s just swept under the rug. These coaches at Iowa care for you more than what you do on the field. They really do.”

Current Indianapolis Colt and former Hawkeye linebacker Pat Angerer (2005-09) said Sunday in a statement released by his agent, Jack Bechta, on the National Football Post’s website, “I am tired of all the negative attention the Iowa strength staff is getting.

“[Doyle] took an undersized Iowa kid who wasn’t ready to play college football and turned him into the 63rd pick in the 2010 NFL draft,” Angerer wrote. “Coach Doyle changed my life.”

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