In his introductory press conference Dan Mullen elicited laughter when relayed a message to media. Mullen said he told his team in their very first meeting together to go home and enjoy their Christmas break because they were going to have a January to remember with Nick Savage.
The players, too, probably laughed. They’re all Division I athletes, physical specimens. What could they possibly be put through that they haven’t done in some form or fashion?
They weren’t laughing long.
“I think early on it was immediate it was an eye-opener that this was going to be different,” Savage said. “From day one on the campus run we took and then the first couple of weeks in the weight room. As we’ve progressed through obviously it’s not pedal down all the way from day one. You’ve got to kind of take your steps and build them up. Once that pedal got cranked down, it was a real eye-opener.”
Then there was the infamous Valentine’s Day workout. It’s designed to be tough, to get the most out of guys, push them past what they thought their limit was. Going along with the theme of the day, Savage did some decorating in the weight room.
“All Valentine’s,” Savage said laughing. “Hearts, banners, Cupid, everything. Custom shirts. Yeah.”
But the workout was not hearts and candy. It elicited tweets like this.
@CoachSavage got that animal out of me today pushed me to limits I never thought I could reach ….
— La’Mical Perine (@LP_deucedeuce) February 16, 2018
@CoachSavage You got me today.. I give it to you, you’re about that LIFE ✊🏾
— Emory Jones (@eXjones6) February 16, 2018
Yo I am DEAD @CoachSavage
— HITMAN 11k (@gloryboy_Sean) February 16, 2018
Savage, who turns 29 next week, has risen through the ranks at an incredible pace. A native of Youngstown, Ohio Savage attended Youngstown State. He earned his Master’s from Toledo and then interned at Bowling Green and Ohio State. His time with the Buckeyes is where his career got a kick-start under Mickey Marotti.
Mullen and Marotti had a previous relationship while both coached under Urban Meyer, which made it easy for him to get a recommendation from Marotti when he needed to add someone to his strength staff, which Savage did in 2014.
When Rick Court left Mississippi State for Maryland, Mullen gave Savage a shot to run the strength program as the Bulldogs prepared for the Belk Bowl. Mullen was sold and Savage got the job permanently at just 26 years old. When Mullen took the job at Florida he wasn’t going to leave Savage in Starkville. He knew the expectations of Florida fans and the expectations he would have for his team.
It didn’t take long for Savage to earn that respect and begin to lay the foundation for the culture change that Mullen wanted to create in Gainesville.
“I loved the last coaching staff, but Coach Savage is a bit more, I want to say, strenuous,” quarterback Feleipe Franks said. “It’s just different and at the same time, Coach Savage is a really good strength coach. He’s whipping us into shape real quick. You can already see the results.”