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Two-a-days back in the day were often brutal affairs

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Twice is nicer for AU players

Wednesday, August 09, 2006


Times Sports Staff pmarsh9485@msn.com

Two-a-days back in the day were often brutal affairs

AUBURN - Standing in the August heat on Auburn's practice field, Chette Williams grimaced and shook his head. Even after 25 years, the memory was still fresh.

Williams, now Auburn's team chaplain, was an Auburn freshman as Pat Dye headed toward his first season as Auburn's coach in 1981. Preseason camp wasn't so much about getting ready for the opener against Texas Christian as it was a test of will and endurance.

Auburn players, working now toward their Sept. 2 opener against Washington State at Jordan-Hare Stadium, practiced twice Tuesday for the first time in six practices. They are far removed from those early Dye days in more ways than years.

In 1981, there were no rules limiting the amount of time players could be on the field, no limit on how many practices a team could have in a day. Water breaks were rare. Instead of water, players at Auburn and elsewhere were given salt tablets. The pace was fast, the contact brutal. You could keep up or you could leave.

"Probably, in my 42 years of living, it was the toughest times I've had," Williams said. "I saw guys give up, quit and leave. I wasn't going to quit. I'd never been through anything that tough before. I think that pays off now for all of us who stuck it out."

As time passed, rules changed. Two-a-days as generations of college football players knew them passed into history.

Inspired partly by a spate of player deaths, limits were put on the hours players could spend on the field. Time between practices was mandated. Finally, two years ago, the NCAA mandated that players could not be required to practice twice in a day on consecutive days.

Until school starts, there can be unlimited walkthroughs without balls or helmets and unlimited meeting time. Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville, heading into his eighth season, says he has no complaints.'

"Two-a-days is the most overrated thing going as long as you can do something," Tuberville said. "We actually have a lot of two-a-day practices, but one of them is just a walkthrough."

Auburn team doctor Mike Goodlett does not mourn the passing of the test of manhood that was once August in college football.

"It gives you more recovery time, especially in intense heat like this," Goodlett said. "It gives you time to get the fluids back and to physically and mentally recover. I think we all rest a lot easier at night."

Things hadn't changed much when Quentin Riggins arrived in 1986 to play linebacker. There were at least two practices every day, the first just as the sun was coming up. Some days there were as many as four. There was full contact in the mornings and the afternoons.

"You woke up in the middle of the night with cramps," Riggins said. "No question, it was one of the hardest things I've ever done. Coach Dye had what he called 'perfect play.' Everybody on offense and defense had to be perfect. If they weren't, you did it over. If you messed up two or three times, he might start the whole practice over.

"Like Coach Dye said, you separated the men from the boys during two-a-days."

Goodlett says he looks forward to the day when two-a-days are completely outlawed.

"Someday a team will win the national championship and not do two-a-days," Goodlett said. "Then no one will do two-a-days anymore. That's what we like to think in the sports medicine community anyway."

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So true. Two-a-days in HS were absolutely brutal. I swear, to this day, that just when I think I can't do something, I think of Coach Meadors' two-a-day practices for reassurance that I can accomplish almost anything. I think I would have drank muddy water from a puddle during those days.

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Finally, two years ago, the NCAA mandated that players could not be required to practice twice in a day on consecutive days.

Key word here being "required." It doesn't say "voluntary practice."

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Those days were awful! People were falling like flies. The "three-a-days" were the worst! 4:30 am- juice and doughnuts, practice, shower, breakfast, meetings: 9:30 practice til noon or later - shower, lunch, meetings; afternoon practice- 2pm until Coach said stop, could be 4,5, or later, shower meetings, workouts, dinner meetings...

Very long, very hard, but it paid off.

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