FORT COLLINS — It wasn't that Mike Kent didn't appreciate the new state-of-the-art weight room.
After all, what wasn't to like about the spacious room, part of a $16 million facility, completed in 2009, with towering windows built adjacent to Moby Arena?
It was simply that Kent, upon being hired by Colorado State in 2012 as the football team's strength and conditioning coach, felt a closer connection to a room down a dimly lit hallway 50 yards away.
"The first thing that struck me when I got down here was you look on the walls and see the Mountain West championships," Kent said. "We said: How about we borrow from the past and rekindle that spirit as one of our goals?"
Kent, a 53-year-old with a booming voice befitting a drill sergeant, first saw that spirit as an opposing coach. He was the strength guru for Louisville from 2000 to 2003 when the Cardinals and Rams played three tooth-and-nail games decided by a combined nine points. Jim McElwain, CSU's head coach now, was a Louisville assistant during that stretch.
"Of all the teams we played back then," Kent said, "there is a thing called 'earned respect,' and Colorado State earned it. They played hard, they were precise and they didn't make mistakes."
When he arrived at CSU, Kent moved the football team's strength program into the old Everitt weight room, a modest, windowless space with neat rows of weights and benches.
"I like it because it is secluded and it's just us," tight end Kivon Cartwright said of the room affectionately labeled "the dungeon" by players. "It's not very glamorous, but it's a good place to stay focused and get hard work in."
Kent's work in the dungeon the past three years has paid dividends for a program aiming to take the next step after winning its first bowl game in December since 2008.
No members of a college football program are more important during the summer than the strength and training staff. NCAA rules give those coaches eight hours per week to interact with players. That time is critical not only to helping make players stronger, but also helping them avoid injuries when the season kicks off in August.
McElwain said Kent is an expert at making the most of the time he's given.
"He's really taken it into the science of body movement," McElwain said. "He's gotten specific with the strengthening of functional and dynamic parts of the muscle body. It isn't just about how much (weight) you can push off your chest. It's about focusing on those body parts that really take that pounding."
Kent begins each summer by handing out a book to every player that serves as a blueprint of the sweat-drenched journey ahead.
Over time he creates a physical and mental profile of each player, an evolving catalog of their strengths and weaknesses. The detailed documents reveal how players can best be motivated — information, Mc- Elwain said, that is vital to the on-field staff during the season.
"It says a lot that he cares enough and loves the job enough to take the time to profile every single player on the roster and find out exactly what it is that person needs to succeed," Cartwright said of Kent, who has trained the likes of NFL all-pro cornerback Darrelle Revis and former Broncos defensive end Elvis Dumervil.
Kent has never veered from the use of free weights to increase players' flexibility, joint integrity and lean muscle.
"We're very traditional," he said, "but at the same time we are pushing that biomechanical envelope by taking an auxiliary lift or a supplemental lift and making it specific to a movement that is required for them to play, in order to produce power."
Nick Kosmider: 303-954-1516 or nkosmider @denverpost.com