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February 4, 2014

Meet the new boss

Dwight Galt isn't that old school.

Judging by the general silence in Penn State's world-class weightlifting facility at the Lasch Building upon Galt's arrival - save for clanking barbells and grunts - at first, he probably could have fooled the Nittany Lions now working under his direction as the team's new Director of Performance Enhancement.

"Right now, we're quiet. We're in a silent mode right now," Galt said Jan. 24, just a couple of weeks into his new gig. "The players didn't say a word, which I was kind of surprised about. But in silent mode, you've kind of gotta earn the music, but I have a feeling these guys will earn that music pretty quick. These kids work hard."

Didn't take long.

Having proven themselves as extremely hard workers, within days, Galt's weight room was back to blasting music, "taking strength and conditioning out of the dinosaur stage to the new era" as his 96 new proteges are molded into peak athletes.

Introduced to the Penn State media for the first time nearly two weeks ago, Galt quickly ingratiated himself, at once genial and authoritative in his craft. In a current climate obsessed with comparisons though, Galt asserted that he is not, in fact, Craig Fitzgerald.

The former Nittany Lion strength and conditioning coordinator, now working with NFL head coach Bill O'Brien and the Houston Texans, was a complete 180 from his predecessor at Penn State, John Thomas.

From a complete abandonment of the program's "HIT" (High Intensity Training) methods in favor of pure strength power, Olympic training, the entire overhaul of the Lasch Building's weight room, and maybe most acutely, his "unique" motivational tactics, Fitzgerald brought a thorough transition to the Penn State football program. Stepping into a facility that is completely suited for his teaching methods - "When I got to Vanderbilt three years ago, the facility was inadequate for our needs. We literally could not get accomplished what we needed to get accomplished" - Galt faces none of those challenges at this, his third stop in 25 years working at the collegiate level.

"Walking into this situation, they've been trained very, very well for the past two years, and I get maybe the nicest weight room in the country? I've died and gone to heaven," Galt said. "It's just an unbelievable opportunity for me and my staff to really hit the ground running, continue to build on what Craig did. I can't reiterate how nice of a factor that is for me being here."

Already well-documented at this point, of course, Galt knew quite well the foundation Fitzgerald had been building at Penn State the past two years.

As the original Fitz, he should.

A mentor to Fitzgerald for years at Maryland, and the father of one of Fitzgerald's assistant coaches, Dwight IV ("Deej"), the intersecting ties between Penn State's most recent past and present are plentiful. That doesn't mean, however, that Penn State fans will see Galt bounding about in shorts and a t-shirt in single-digit temperatures or ripping his shirt off and doing the worm on Saturdays leading into football games.

"I had no contribution to that part of Craig," Galt said with a laugh. "That was Craig. I saw it early, he's been a wild man ever since.

"I can tell you all some stories, not on the air, but I'm a little bit more background. I like getting fired up when it's just me and the kids but you're not going to be seeing much in public like that. I take a little bit of a different strategy."

As it relates to football, Galt's strategy for developing the Nittany Lions athletically is fairly straightforward.

Relating a mistake he'd made at the beginning of his career with the Terrapins, Galt built one of the toughest, strongest teams in the ACC with the numbers to back it up… except in the wins column. "We were getting killed on the field. We were strong but we couldn't move. There were just so many things we couldn't do. So that's where the movement model, the speed improvement, the agility, over a five or six year period, started integrating into the program and we started winning."

Since, Galt has been preaching a method of "dynamic, diverse" weightlifting with firmly planted roots in the basics. Through trial and error in more than two decades of work, Galt asserted that the "old school stuff" - weightlifting, speed improvement modalities - has given his teams the most success.

"The old school stuff is a derivative of power lifting, which is squat, bench and deadlift, and Olympic training, which is snatch and power clean," he said. "You put those two together and you've got a strength component and a power component. Power is strength with speed. There's nothing in football that doesn't require great speed of movement. It's not a slow sport."

And so, for the past three weeks, the Nittany Lions have been hard at work with Galt.

Whether or not the time spent has been a "miserable experience" for the players, as new Penn State head coach James Franklin stressed they should be at his press conference, remains up for debate though. A building tool for "mental and physical toughness" while "setting the tone" for the entire organization - that of a hard-nosed, blue collar team - Galt said the atmosphere is far from being devoid of fun.

"I think it's the most enjoyable experience we have!" Galt said. "Morning workouts - yes, they're very aggressive - but yeah definitely, we have some fun.

"You know when you do something really hard, how good that feeling is when you're done? Well let me tell you, when that winter workout is over, our players are ecstatic, so we're actually making them happy. It just takes about an hour and ten minutes to do it. They're very aggressive, very well thought through, very well organized.

"The players, they'll be fine, but it's going to be an adjustment, let's just say that."







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