New strength coach takes over for Nittany Lions

Dwight Galt spots quarterback Christian Hackenberg during a weightlifting session.    NABIL K. MARK / Centre Daily Times
Dwight Galt spots quarterback Christian Hackenberg during a weightlifting session.    NABIL K. MARK / Centre Daily Times
Posted: March 08, 2014

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. - Penn State football players worked out in silence during their first week under the new coaching staff. They had to earn the music, and they earned it quickly.

Dwight Galt, the Nittany Lions' new director of performance enhancement, who arrived from Vanderbilt with head coach James Franklin, has mixed feelings about that.

"Now you say they must have earned it because we all have to clean our ears out," said Galt, not a fan of the Lions' contemporary playlist that resonated through their weight-room session Monday. "I feel really good about where we are at right now."

At first glance, the 56-year-old Galt comes off as an older version of Craig Fitzgerald, Penn State's last director of strength and conditioning, who has joined former coach Bill O'Brien with the Houston Texans along with Galt's son, Dwight IV, whom Fitzgerald had brought to State College. Fitzgerald and the elder Galt share a burning passion for weightlifting and have similar mustaches with goatees - albeit Galt's is gray. The two worked together at Maryland from 2000 to 2005, so they agree in many ways about workout philosophies.

But not every way.

The players faced an inevitable transition with the departure of Fitzgerald - "There's only one of him, and God made him special for us," Galt said. Galt will have the Lions lift often and he will have them lift hard, even on some days when they are expected to participate in football activities. They will not be used to practicing with soreness, he said.

Galt values the players' mental perseverance as much as their physical prowess.

"The first and the third quarters, it's kind of an even playing field. The second and fourth quarters are kind of a different dynamic," Galt said. "You've got a little more lactic acid down there, you're a little more fatigued, you don't have as much energy. That's when you kind of draw from within."

The days of Fitzgerald's inspirational stripping are also over.

Before a game O'Brien's fiery assistant often would rip off his shirt, even in freezing temperatures, and do the worm. These days, Galt does not hesitate to reach for his jacket.

Despite these differences, Galt has made every effort to build rapport with every member of the team. Within his first nine days on the job, Galt could put 96 players' names to their faces. He did this by studying every day.

"Everybody knew who I was, so it was the least I could do to know who they were," Galt said.

His new guys responded. Galt got them going with short speeches before and after their workout routine Monday. The Lions took turns maxing out the bench press over the course of an hour. Galt hopped from station to station, spotting as many guys as he could.

Players joked around, converging on a bench in herds whenever one of their teammates leaned back. This is the kind of supportive atmosphere Galt and new coach James Franklin want to see in the weight room.

"That's one thing that Coach Franklin and I are working on strongly . . . to get them to be more vocal," Galt said. "But they work so stinkin' hard that they don't need any motivation. They are already motivated."

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