ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- The pet wolves died last year. Mike Barwis had two of them which, to anyone who knows Michigan's strength and conditioning coach, is hardly a surprise.
"Nobody would dare mess with him," said Jason Seville, a former West Virginia wrestler who swore he once saw the 195-pound Barwis force a 300-pound Mountaineer heavyweight to -- in MMA terms -- "tap out."
"Whenever he'd give us that tongue lashing we were scared for our lives."
|Junior Brandon Graham got stronger while shedding weight. (Getty Images)|
Barwis' attention is now focused on his pet Wolverines. Not that the young, bombastic, fired-up, brilliant Philadelphia native doesn't deserve the attention. But, like everything else associated with the Rich Rodriguez regime, some old-line Wolverines are wondering WWBT?
What Would Bo Think?
"It's definitely a culture change," said senior cornerback Morgan Trent. "It's still ongoing. What first hit us was the strength and conditioning aspect. That was rough. It still is rough but it's fun to see your body change."
That's what gets Barwis going -- the physical change. Everywhere. He and Rich Rod took one look at Michigan's weight room in December and decided to gut it. It was outdated for their needs. Six weeks and more than $1 million later, there were machines in the building that a layman would never recognize. To get to the weight room, players passed under a sign with a bold proclamation:
Through these doors walks the best-conditioned, hardest-working team in America.
It's more than a motivational line. The word has gone out about Barwis. Thirty-six pro and amateur athletes have been through the facility this spring and summer. Most of them are former Michigan players in the NFL. But there also have been a couple of NHL players, an Olympic wrestler and a handful of former West Virginia players -- notably Avon Cobourne (in the CFL) and Steve Slaton, who came in to get ready for the NFL Draft.
Veteran NFL linebacker and Michigan alum Larry Foote was so impressed with his workout that he offered to pay Barwis. He was politely turned down.
All of it has been accomplished while treading lightly around the legacy left by Mike Gittleson. Barwis replaced Gittleson, one of the pioneers of the profession, who had been at Michigan since 1978. All respect is being paid to the old regime, but the intimation is that different is also better.
"We cover more than anyone in the world," Barwis said. "We're kind of the pioneers of the most progressive strength program in the country. We (West Virginia) were the strongest team in the country the last four years -- best conditioned, the fastest, most balanced, best body awareness, and most explosive."