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FAT’S ON THE FIRE AT SDSU : Luginbill’s New Conditioning Program Has Especially Targeted the Weightiest Matters

Would the people who tinkered with the scale in the San Diego State weight room please fess up?

The fulcrum of the balance arm must have been moved, because some of the weights that have registered lately could not be correct.

Already this spring, Joe Heinz, a sophomore offensive tackle from Chula Vista High, has been seen weighing in at 255 pounds.

Four months ago, Little Joe tipped the scales as much as Hoss did--around 330.

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Defensive tackle Carlson Leomiti, who weighed 368 in January, passed up his final semester at Banning High to come to SDSU and then passed on 50 pounds. And he expects to lose 30 more by the end of spring practice.

Senior offensive tackle Chuck Hardaway reportedly haschucked 35 pounds from a frame that once carried 310.

Something’s awry. The figures don’t figure.

How can a football player who loses 75 pounds in 3 1/2 months be expected to deliver a crushing block, let alone survive one?

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Has Coach Al Luginbill, who used to be a wall at 220 pounds but now is just a rail at 175, been watching too many Richard Simmons Shows?

What’s going on, or coming off, at SDSU?

It’s simple. To borrow Bill Murray’s line from the movie “Stripes,” Luginbill wants a lean, mean, fighting machine.

“You can’t be carrying around excess baggage if you’re going to play football,” he said. “However, I certainly don’t want them looking like me.

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“I like them to be big, don’t get me wrong. But we want them in shape. I’ve never seen a football team, in my mind, that can play a physical football game if it is not in top condition.”

Luginbill wants a top-conditioned team, and a top 20 team. One of the first things he said after being named coach in November was that the Aztecs should have a big-time program. He said SDSU should be banging heads with, and beating, the big boys.

One of the first actions he then took was to reduce some of his big players.

He implemented a mandatory off-season conditioning program for all of them. And he ordered Heinz, Hardaway and Leomiti to go on diets with this edict: Shape up, or you will no longer be an SDSU football player.

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Dr. Daniel Bressler, who specializes in internal medicine, and Margaret Forys, a nutritionist, were consulted to provide personal programs, and the players were to report to Dave Ohton, the conditioning coach, for weekly weigh-ins. A five-pound-per-week loss was the minimum requirement.

Losing so much weight over a short period was a concern, but Ohton said, “I was not worried about them becoming anorexic or having any health problems because they were under constant supervision.

“We were a little concerned with their initial loss in strength, but that will come back. They will be just as strong as before and a lot more mobile.”

Luginbill was so adamant about the program that when Hardaway was overweight one week, he was suspended from the team.

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“He didn’t actually believe he was on a diet,” Ohton said. “When (Luginbill) suspended him, (Hardaway) had a hard time dealing with it.”

Said Hardaway: “Coach was pretty upset. He said that Hardaway didn’t have the desire to be here. I had to prove to him that I wanted to come back.

“He told me, ‘Hardaway, I don’t think you’ll make it.’ I don’t think he meant it, but he used it as a motivational thing. It took a lot of will power and turning away a lot of meals, but I made it. Today, I’m a handsome, slim, trim guy.”

Well, he’s 275 and moves much better than he did at 310, as does Leomiti, who arrived at SDSU from Banning in January.

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“I remember when Leomiti first showed up,” Ohton said, “he was approaching the 370 mark. And he couldn’t run a lap to save his life.”

Now, says Leomiti, “I feel real good. I feel my stamina has increased a lot. I don’t get nearly as tired as I used to.”

Whereas Leomiti potentially stands to lose the most weight, it is Heinz who has everybody wondering what happened to his other half.

He is the poster child of Luginbill’s first conditioning program.

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His secret: “Two Lean Cuisines a day and a little exercise.”

“That’s it,” he said. “No more fast food. I think the main contributor to all my weight was fast food. Roberto’s at Broadway and H in Chula Vista.”

In high school, Heinz said he was 275 as a sophomore, 285 as a junior and 310 as a senior, when he made the all-section second team in 1986. Last season as a redshirt freshman, he weighed as much as 332.

“For some reason, I didn’t think it was that bad,” Heinz said. “I felt I could still play at that weight.”

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Luginbill disagreed. “At the weight these guys were at, they were of little use to our football team,” he said. “Now they’ll be able to make an impact.”

Heinz started his weight loss program with a goal of 260 pounds on Dec. 20, his 19th birthday.

Bressler advised him away from certain foods and told him to watch his intake and get plenty of exercise. Heinz stuck to his diet and began losing chunks of weight, sometimes daily.

At first he weighed in daily, but once he proved his effort was sincere, he needed only weekly checks. Ohton says that Heinz was concerned about getting weighed only once a week. He wasn’t sure if he could do it. But he did, losing about seven pounds per week.

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At one of those weigh-ins, Ohton recalls Heinz was supposed to weigh 308.2 pounds and had weighed 305 just a few days before. But when he stepped on the scale for the official weight, he was at 309.

Ohton, who normally would have punished Heinz with extra running, decided to go easy on him because he knew Heinz had been working hard and had been under the weight two days before.

After Heinz left, Ohton said, “He called about 10 minutes later and said, ‘Would it be possible for you to punish me?’ I couldn’t believe it. He said it just like that: Would it be possible for you to punish me?

“I told him it was OK, just make the weight tomorrow. And he said, ‘I promise to be under tomorrow or else you can punish me double.’

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“It was the funniest thing I had heard in a long time. But I didn’t want to laugh because he was dead serious.”

So is Luginbill.

Aztec Notes

Steve Blyth, a senior center, ruptured a tendon in his right knee Tuesday at practice. He will be operated on this morning at Mercy Hospital by team physician Dr. Robert Straumfjord. Blyth, who was moved to nose tackle last season from the offensive line, was moved back to the offensive line this spring by Coach Al Luginbill. He will miss the rest of spring practice but should be back by the fall.

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