LINCOLN — Nebraska strength and conditioning coach Zach Duval stepped out of the shadows and spoke to the masses on Sports Nightly Thursday night.
Duval, who has declined all interview requests since being hired, gave insight into Nebraska’s workout regimen during the season, what he took over in 2017 and told a brief story of how he learned his calling.
Duval’s father, Rick, was on Nebraska’s staff when he was growing up in Lincoln.
“Wandered down to the weight room when I was four or five and saw these big, huge dudes throwing these weights around and I was hooked from that point,” Duval said. “I knew exactly what I wanted to do from a very young age.”
Duval ended up becoming a student assistant for Boyd Epley in 1994, then a graduate assistant in 1995 and 1996 and assistant strength coach from 1997 through 2002. He was hired later by Scott Frost at Central Florida, then followed Frost back to Lincoln in 2017.
Frost brings up Duval often, saying in the offseason Duval changed the bodies of his players.
“He’s elite at what he does,” Frost said this summer.
Duval now oversees strength and conditioning for all sports and was given a raise this summer. He now makes $400,000 a year.
When Frost and the entire coaching staff moved from Orlando to Lincoln in 2017, Duval said they looked at the data and saw a team that was "trending in the wrong way."
"You were increasing fat and decreasing muscle mass, and you want to do the opposite of that,” Duval said. “Year one was very interesting. We flipped the script 100% on them.”
Because of that, Duval said there were a few players on the roster who must have wondered, “what did we get ourselves into" early on in the process.
“After a couple weeks, they probably put two feet in the water, it wasn’t consistently, but they were getting into it. Year two you got a bunch of guys that are both feet in.”
Duval called the winter and summer conditioning “phenomenal,” and the changes “vast.” But said it wasn’t where they wanted it yet.
“Winter conditioning that’s probably our best phase. It’s a get to work phase. It’s really high intensity, and a lot of hard work, a lot of trash cans, puke buckets laying around, you can really forge some identity there because you have stimulus nonstop,” Duval said. “It’s an environment where you’re teaching them how to win — and that’s a process as well — but they’re learning.
Duval said they had to change the winter conditioning regimen after the first year. In one of the first workouts, two players were sent to the hospital after a workout and were diagnosed with rhabdomyolysis
“We had to make an adjustment on that, because they just weren’t ready for that type of work load, but more so that type of intensity. That’s something that we’re working through.”
Other notes from Duval's time on air:
» Duval knows exactly what he wants for the new Nebraska facility.
He didn’t name any specifics, but said the weight room will need to be big enough to fit all of the players Frost wants to bring in — he wants a roster of more than 150. Duval said Nebraska had the best weight room in the country when Epley was around, and wants it to be like that again.
» During bye weeks, the weight room workouts go up in intensity as the practices become lighter.
» Every 14 to 17 days Nebraska maxes out to maintain all the gains made in the summer.
» Duval said he’d like to print the results of the performance index tests in the paper again. Nebraska did that in the 1990s under Epley.