Most football coaches have that one mentor they had back when they were a player they admired. They will also will model their game in one way or another to somewhat mimic a past coach they've had or admired and respected.
While a strength and conditioning coach may not necessarily be viewed in the same way that an offensive or defensive coordinator or head coach, they do similar things.
Penn State's new strength and conditioning coach Craig Fitzgerald has taken that same approach that some coaches do by mimicking and borrowing.
Fitzgerald spoke at the DuBoistown VFW on Thursday evening with fans about conditioning and Penn State football. He has had various different mentors, and while he's learned from all, South Carolina's Steve Spurrier is his biggest influence.
"(They've all had) different ways of motivating the team. Coach Spurrier, I thought he did a heck of a job of having the guys ready when they needed to be ready and I took that as a strength coach, like when do we want to peak our guys? How to keep them going throughout the year, and I learned a lot of how to work a team," Fitzgerald said.
Fitzgerald joined a whole new staff at Penn State, including head coach Bill O'Brien who hired Fitzgerald from South Carolina. The new coaching changes bring with it a new philosophy, and that's no different for Fitzgerald.
"I think everybody has their own playbook, if you're offense or defense or strength and conditioning. I believe that this playbook is the best playbook there is," Fitzgerald said. "I believe this works best for our guys. Barbells, free weights, full body movements, works a range of motions, flexibility and overall body strength."
Fitzgerald said he is already impressed with the work his players have put into the weight room and conditioning drills as they prepare for the Sept. 1 season opener vs. Ohio.
"They were good recruits out of high school and they work, work, work. My problem is holding them back sometimes in the weight room to be honest with you," Fitzgerald said. "But I'd say they're farther along than even we thought they'd be, but they're right where we want them to be, so we're excited."
With college class schedules, Fitzgerald and his other strength and conditioning staff block off certain amounts of time for groups of players with similiar schedules. Fitzgerald has the Nittany Lions working 4 days a week, 2 hours a day as per NCAA rules. And while the groups of players may be a handful of different positions - quarterbacks, running backs, offensive and defensive lineman - Fitzgerald and his staff have a routine in place to work specific position players.
"There's a lot of carry-over. One thing I don't want to do is make a different program just to make a different program," Fitzgerald said. "Some guys need different stuff, some older players who are already pretty strong need to work on flexibility and some of the younger guys need to lift a little bit more, spend more time in the weight room. So you kind of guage it to that, but there are some different drills that we do for different spots on the field."
Strength and conditioning coaches may not share the limelight that head coaches and coordinators always get. While fans may not view them as being the most important coaches, Fitzgerald knows how important strength and conditioning are for the players, but he also wants to make sure the program they're incorporating with the players works and produces the desired results on the field.
That's done by Fitzgerald through incorporating individual goals.
"At the end, we think testing's important. Lot of strength and conditioning (programs) don't test anymore. We tell them, here are your goals, we want you to meet them. I think it's a good lesson in life, also we want to see how the program worked," Fitzgerald said. "We want to be accountable for how we train the guys. We think it's an important job, that's why we do it."
Bill O'Brien's debut as Penn State head coach is Sept. 1 vs. Ohio in Beaver Stadium and the game will kick at noon and air on ESPN.
Following the Sept. 8 game at Virginia (noon on ABC), Penn State will host Navy on Sept. 15 for the first time since 1974. Kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m. on ABC or ESPN2.
The Nittany Lions' Oct. 6 Homecoming game vs. Northwestern (12 p.m., TV TBD), Oct. 20 contest at Iowa (7 p.m. CT, BTN) and Oct. 27 home game with Ohio State (6 p.m., ESPN/2) had previously been announced.
Additional Penn State kick times will likely not be announced until the Big Ten's 6/12-day selection process begins with its TV partners, starting with the Sept. 22 game vs. Temple.