Pete Thamel has a long, up-close profile of Bret Bielema’s Arkansas and how much – and how successfully – it differs from Bobby Petrino’s Arkansas up at Campus Rush. It’s a great read. At the heart of the change is a little trick strength coach Ben Herbert brought with him from Wisconsin.
Prior to Wisconsin’s 2009 season, strength coach Ben Herbert bought two oversized houseplants from the Home Depot and stationed them in the weight room. One plant’s nametag read: “I’m The Governor. I take pride in how I care about myself. I focus on nutrition, hydration and meal frequency.” The other’s tag read: “I’m The Deacon. What’s going on? I’ve heard all these things about feeding the body well and hydrating, but I’ve got this far doing it my own way.”
Over the next four weeks Herbert fed The Governor heavy doses of Miracle Grow and water. He fed The Deacon cheap whisky, Miller High Life and crumbled bits of Oreos and Doritos. “The Governor shot up and looked beautiful,” Herbert said. “And The Deacon looked and smelled so bad that guys were begging me to get it out of the weight room.” Herbert’s plant parable resonated to such a degree that a few weeks ago a Central Michigan transfer who debuted for Wisconsin in 2009 shot Herbert a message. “I’m in Governor mode,” J.J. Watt, the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year, texted after a strenuous workout.
House plants go for as little as $5.99 a piece at HomeDepot.com and a pound and a half of Miracle Gro goes for the same price. Herbert taught his players a lesson his words could never accomplish for the price of one Andrew Jackson. Brilliant.
Herbert also created a culture where players strived to become the best workout warriors on the team, and the reward was a harder workout.
Herbert also instilled a unique incentive to the weight room, as the program’s top four performers—Williams, junior linebacker Brooks Ellis, junior defensive end Jamichael Winston and senior receiver Keon Hatcher—earned invitations into a special Black Room workout. Throughout the summer, only those four were allowed to enter the converted closet where they endured separate, more rigorous workouts than the rest of their teammates. The Black Room serves as motivation for the best workers on the roster, and it features a photograph of Mike Tyson. The accompanying quote doubles as a mantra for the Hogs: “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”