Lou, Part II: Coaching Speed

Lou, Part II: Coaching Speed

There's a cliché in sports heard at every turn, "You can't coach speed." Apparently, UNC strength and conditioning coach Lou Hernandez didn't get that memo.

As a young assistant S&C coach at the University of Houston, Hernandez fell into a goldmine of information. It was furnished by one of the top trainers of sprinters in the United States, legendary Houston track coach Tom Tellez, who coached 12 Olympian sprinters, as well as tutored a client base that at one time included NBA legend Hakeem Olajuwon, when the former University of Houston player was coming off of knee surgery in 1998.

Tellez was the track coach in Houston for 22 years, and his love of the sport has prompted him to remain a volunteer coach for the former student who took over his job, Leroy Burell, whose world record in the 100-meter sprint was broken by Carl Lewis, another Tellez trainee.

Hernandez's first gig as an assistant in S&C came at Houston in 1992. During a decade of service at Houston (1992-2001) Hernandez learned all he needed to know about training for speed from Tellez.

"He'd come up and he'd tell me, ‘Lou, you know what, you know a lot about lifting, but you don't know anything about running,'" Hernandez recalled. "'If you want to know, you come spend some time with me, and we'll get that taken care of.'"

Hernandez took advantage of having that type of expertise at his disposal.

"I was out there every day and I learned how he went about his overall conditioning and how he went about, most importantly, the speed improvement," Hernandez said.

"The drills, the mechanics, the skills, the repetition, the progressions, the exercises – we spent a tremendous amount of time with him. Still, to this day, and throughout my career, I have not found anything better when it comes to his philosophy when it comes to speed improvement. It is track based and oriented, and I stayed with that all the way through."

Tellez also taught Hernandez that speed wasn't just for wide receivers and defensive backs.

"I feel fortunate to have learned from one the world's best, in Tom Tellez, on how to coach and train speed, not just in between white lines, but football players in general" Hernandez said. "It's important for everybody, down to the offensive linemen – they have to learn to run as much as anybody, just as much as a receiver, a defensive back, and a running back.

So, who is the fastest player on the current roster?

"The players are going to argue that one all the way across the board," Hernandez said, laughing. "To be honest with you, I have not had an opportunity to put a watch on these guys right now. Football speed wise, Romar Morris just seems to be shot out of a cannon when he comes out of that backfield.

"I'd be real interested to see if anyone can beat him on a straight ahead run. He's impressive. I think he's our fastest guy right now. What his actual time on a watch is, I am not exactly sure, I haven't had an opportunity to that, but I know fast guys that say they run a 4.4, and he's definitely in that category."

That expertise is going to be important as North Carolina looks to improve its team speed, a necessity not just in college football, but particularly in the overall philosophy on offense and defense favored by head coach Larry Fedora.

(Check back tomorrow for Part III of this interview, which will highlight the team's top lifters ...)

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