Mike Massey has a message for the University of Michigan football program s newest and perhaps most unexpected star.
Mike Barwis, you are overrated.
Tell him I said that, said Massey, a Wolverines senior tight end.
Sensing what Barwis, UM s director of strength and conditioning, might have in store for Massey and his teammates if he heard or read those comments, Massey added: Don t take that out of context.
Much has been made of Barwis unique and grueling conditioning program that he brought from West Virginia when Rich Rodriguez became UM s new coach. Players have to be in a different kind of shape to play Rodriguez s high energy style, and they get into that shape by working with Barwis.
Focusing on Olympic lifts, sprints and plyometrics, Barwis began to transform the Wolverines workouts prior to spring practice. When those 15 practices were over, a higher level of intensity was promised, and Barwis delivered.
He was absolutely, 100 percent correct. It was an extremely rough summer, senior cornerback Morgan Trent said. Before our first workout, we had to do some gassers, and we had to do like four of them for punishment and we almost died. All of us were like, How are we going to do this? The whole time Barwis was screaming, This is just a warm-up!
Two or three months later we laugh about it, because we do three or four gassers and it really is a warm-up.
Voluntarily, of course, the Wolverines worked with Barwis five days a week for about four months after spring practice ended. Rodriguez s staff is not allowed to be involved, but the coaches are constantly updated on how the players perform under Barwis watch.
Our kids are pushed as hard as they can be pushed in [workouts], just the way coach Rodriguez is going to push them [at practice], Barwis said in an interview available on the school s Web site.
Barwis spent 14 years at West Virginia, including the last five overseeing the strength and conditioning aspects of the football and men s basketball programs. He describes himself as high energy and intense, and the players agree.
There s no way you can really explain it in a couple sentences, Massey said. Mike Barwis and his assistants, they demand every bit of energy you have each and every workout. That s the coolest thing about it.
Former UM players now in the NFL like Braylon Edwards, Victor Hobson and Larry Foote caught wind of Barwis program and returned to Ann Arbor to work out with him.
When they were Wolverines, they trained under Mike Gittleson, a highly respected strength coach who had been at UM since 1978. Rodriguez has been careful to not to tarnish Gittleson s legacy by bragging about Barwis program, often saying the Wolverines new way of training isn t the only way.
Still, Barwis has received almost as much attention as any UM player since Rodriguez arrived in December.
There s no question Mike has gotten a lot of talk, probably more than any strength coach has in a long time, Rodriguez said. I think it s probably because the guys are talking about it. The former players Mike was training, or the current players, and [with] Mike s personality, he s a special guy. But it s not changed Mike Barwis.
Barwis has already changed UM, however. The players talk about never being this lean, in this good of shape, or this close as a team.
They sound ready for practice, which starts in six days.
When you re suffering together, miserable, it definitely brings you together, Trent said.