Pitt’s football team opens its offseason training program Thursday with new strength and conditioning coach Ross Kolodziej promising to put players “in the furnace this offseason.”
Kolodziej, who played seven seasons in the NFL and four at Wisconsin, was hired Wednesday after spending the 2013 season as an assistant to former Pitt strength coach Todd Rice, who resigned.
Rice was at Pitt for two seasons (2012-13), but his tenure was marked by too many back injuries and hushed complaints from former players about the team’s strength program.
Kolodziej sounds eager to implement change. And the players seem to like him. Perhaps as an indicator of how the new strength coach has been accepted in the weight room, former Pitt defensive tackle Aaron Donald immediately retweeted my tweet of Kolodziej’s hiring.
“Our goal is to reassert the Pitt program among the very best in college football,” said Kolodziej, a seventh-round draft choice of the New York Giants in 2001. “We have a sense of urgency to build upon the momentum from our bowl victory. That starts in the weight room this winter.
“It is our responsibility to maximize our players’ abilities and opportunities at Pitt. They may think they know what work is, but we’re going to put them in the furnace this offseason. The great thing is our kids have told me they want to work and be pushed. It’s that kind of desire that produces results on and off the field.”
Kolodziej, who also was a shot putter in college, started 45 games for Wisconsin from 1997-2000 when the Badgers won consecutive Big Ten titles (1998 and 1999). He holds Wisconsin weight room records for a defensive player in the squat and clean. He also holds defensive lineman records in the 40-yard dash, vertical jump and pro-agility drill.
After leaving the Giants, he also played for the Minnesota Vikings, San Francisco 49ers and Arizona Cardinals. He was a full-time strength and conditioning intern and a defensive graduate assistant at Wisconsin when Pitt coach Paul Chyrst was the Badgers’ offensive coordinator. Kolodziej owns a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Wisconsin and also has a certification in USA weightlifting, level 1.