It's easy to tune in to college football coverage at the beginning of fall practices, to see the accolades like preseason all-America teams and preseason all-Conference teams and not think about all the hard work that has been put in to prepare for the upcoming season.
Try telling that to the family of senior WR Troy Pelletier, though.
"My family is in New Hampshire and my parents are able to make almost every game," he told me my email. "[But] with my summer job and my commitment to the offseason workout program, I have only been able to spend four days at home since the past Christmas break."
Football players "appreciate the recognition" of preseason awards and nominations, senior OL Zach Duffy told me last week, but they also understand that most fans also don't see or appreciate the amount of work it takes to become the best football players they can be when there's no crowds, no reporters, and no crazy fans around.
Technically there are no official practices over the summer at Lehigh.
|QB Brad Mayes (Morning Call)|
"In FCS, the only countable coaches who are permitted to be present during a voluntary workout are those who are certified strength and conditioning coaches," an NCAA document on the subject states. "Any strength and conditioning coach who performs such duties on a depart-wide basis may design and conduct the workouts (Bylaws 220.127.116.11.2, 18.104.22.168.1 and 22.214.171.124.1.1)."
Workouts are voluntary, meaning attendance can't be recorded, reported back to the football coaching staff, and can't be penalized if for some reason they don't work out on campus.
Don't get the impression that those rules make it an easy time for the student-athletes, however.
For guys who have been on campus over the summer like junior QB Brad Mayes, remaining on campus means balancing summer classes and doing a lifting program on campus, while for others, like senior OL Brandon Short, it means doing an internship at a local business and getting back to his off-campus apartment in time to do workouts with the rest of his group.
"I am currently doing an internship with Whiting-Turner Contracting and working out of there Allentown office," Brandon told me. "Things have been going great, learning responsibilities of both a field engineer and project engineer and also the things that are a must in the construction industry.
"Having this opportunity has given me the chance to work within a nationwide company while still being able to be up here with the team working out," he continued. "I work from 8-5 Monday through Friday and then head straight to lift and conditioning. Bonding and being up here with the team is irreplaceable and is something that can't be achieved when training at home."
Brandon's internship works well because he is returning to Lehigh in the fall to pursue graduate school, while Brad is able to take a summer class to allow him to work towards his degree.
Aside from day jobs or classes, the student-athletes also find time to get together as a group to voluntarily work in a self-directed way with their unit groups.
"Throughout the summer we have had anywhere from 4-7 of our receivers on campus at a time," Pelletier said, "so after workouts we usually get together as a unit with Brad and/or senior QB Matt Timochenko."
Voluntary workouts can be attended even by students who are not officially enrolled yet but have signed a national letter of intent.
|The Brown and White|
Not only are there informal group meetings and the balance of jobs and a summer class, but each student-athlete is also hard at work developing individual aspects of their own game as well.
"I've really been trying to focus on just working out this summer and dropping some more weight and becoming more mobile so I'm able to do some more things," Brad said. "Trying to be more than just a pocket passer. I've been working on speed and loosening up my hips to become more agile and just becoming a real student of the game and knowing the ins and outs of our offense."
For Troy, who has been going to Taylor Gym all summer to work out, it's been an intense offseason with a lot of development as he continues studying the craft of being an elite receiver.
"Personally my biggest focus has been improving my overall athleticism," Troy said. "More specifically my top end speed, quickness in and out breaks and finding the most comfortable weight for me to play at. Also I have been watching film on other receivers around the country and just working on different crafty ways to get open."
With the offensive line, it's more of a collaborative effort.
"Besides getting stronger and faster, the biggest area I have been working on is being more and more of a technician with my technique," Brandon said. "Bouncing ideas off of each other, the O line as a whole has been working on techniques that will help us throughout the season."
Lehigh folks are happy to congratulate football players like Zach, Troy, Brandon, and Brad when they make preseason all-America teams and defeat Lafayette on the football field in convincing fashion. But it takes a lot of work over the summer to make it happen.