The strength coach for any major college athletics team is no different than his or her colleagues on the official coaching staff when it comes to days off.
Those days are rare, to say the least. And when a morning arrives with little on the day's agenda, it usually feels like a momentary blessing.
Steve Englehart, the strength coach for the Colorado men's basketball team, encountered an unusual obstacle on those rare days off in recent months. More often than not, Englehart's off days were interrupted by a phone call from Dallas Walton.
Though he spent the entire 2016-17 season on the sideline while taking a redshirt season, the 7-foot Walton embraced his challenges in the weight room with almost maniacal zeal. Walton has added more than 20 pounds of muscle to his frame, and while head coach Tad Boyle admits the strengthening of the skinny kid from Arvada West remains a work in progress, the physical transformation Walton has embraced over the past year is an encouraging sign for a player who expects to be a contributor during the 2017-18 season.
"The ones that want it, I've had my share of waking up on an off day and getting a message, 'Coach I want to go lift.' But I can count them on one hand," Englehart said. "I'm pretty sure it was (Walton) wanting to prove other people wrong. He's had doubters, and I think that's what fueled the fire the most."
Most of those doubts likely were the result of consecutive torn ACLs in his left knee Walton suffered during high school, first during his sophomore year and again as a junior. When he arrived at CU, Walton's first official weigh-in topped out at 208 pounds. Moreover, due to the knee injuries, Walton couldn't even perform a single squat press with adequate form, instead getting sent against a wall by Englehart to perform weightless squats until his legs strengthened and his form improved.
This summer, Walton has checked in at 230 pounds and, more importantly, he has made monumental strides in the weight room. After building up to a 315-pound squat with a 26-inch box beneath him, Walton moved to an 18-inch box — a significant amount of added depth for a 7-footer — and built back up to 330 pounds. When Walton first arrived he could bench press 185 pounds exactly twice. Now Walton can lift that weight 12 times with a max bench press of 255.
Late in the spring Walton finally was able to shed the bulky knee brace he practiced with all last season ("I felt like Forrest Gump, breaking out of his braces and running free," said Walton) and he flexed his newfound muscles over the summer. A year ago, when the Buffs alumni squad Team Colorado worked out in Boulder, Walton was physically overmatched. This summer, vets like Marcus Hall regaled Englehart with how impressed they were over Walton's physical transformation.
"I give a lot of credit to coach Steve. He made getting in the weight room a fun thing to do," Walton said. "I lifted every day, and over the course of this year I found myself working a lot harder and challenging myself a lot more. We had July off, but I made sure I was there every day working on some part of my body. During the season it was hard for me to move these guys easily. Come now, I find they're struggling to move me a little bit."