Visit the practice field at No. 13 Eden Prairie (Eden Prairie, Minn.), and you’ll see a relaxed group of football players telling jokes and stories. What you won’t hear is yelling after missed blocking assignments, dropped passes and blown coverages.
“People might think we’re not very intense,” says coach Mike Grant. “That’s all by design.”
Grant’s cool, calm and collected demeanor comes from his father, former Minnesota Vikings coach and Hall of Famer Bud Grant, and his college mentor, St. John’s (Minn.) coach John Gagliardi. It has proven successful for the Eagles, who have won 95 percent of their games along with seven Class 5A state championships — last season included —since 1996.
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As the top-ranked high school football team in Minnesota, players are well aware the status can be fleeting. They’re also conscious of their size.
The Eagles makeup for their relative lack of size by developing explosive power.
During the summer, players gather four times a week for three-hour workouts. The first hour is used for sprinting and agility work, the second hour is used for strength development and the third hour is reserved for special teams conditioning.
Strength coach Jason Reader, who draws inspiration from the University of Minnesota, oversees the nine-week Eagle Power Program, which ends just as two-a-days begin.
Rather than further develop strength throughout the season, players work to maintain the strength they developed during Reader’s program with one-hour weight sessions twice a week.
With heavy metal music jamming, the team starts Saturday workouts by massaging muscles using foam rollers or lacrosse, tennis or golf balls. They then move on to a dynamic warm-up of jumping jacks or jumping rope. The warm-up’s progression is based on the day’s lifting focus (upper versus lower body).
Next up is link training, during which each player dedicates 10-15 minutes to strengthening his weakest area — be it hamstrings, lower back, hands, ankles, etc.
On Wednesdays, players gather at 6:15 before school. Much of the workout is similar to Saturdays — the bulk of the session involves multi-joint explosive lifts, such as bench press, squats, deadlifts and cleans.
“I’m not going to reinvent the wheel,” Reader says of his weight room workouts. Coincidentally, one of his signature exercises involves a clever use of a “wheel.”
The Eagle Wheel
The move targets the abdominals, building core strength needed to transfer power from the lower to upper body. Using a standard Olympic bar with a five-pound plate around each end, roll forward to extend arms, then pull body back up. Players perform for approximately 20 to 25 seconds or 2 sets of 15 reps.