CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) — When Illinois football needed a new strength and conditioning coach, they knew right where to look. Lou Hernandez was in that role when the Illini last made the Rose Bowl, and they want him to help them get there again.
In Lou Hernandez’s job, the results speak for themselves.
“Right now I just try to look strong as opposed to being strong,” Hernandez said.
While his competitive lifting days are long behind him, the 5-foot-8, 235 pound Illini strength and conditioning coach is still a walking billboard for how to get swole. The Texas native could once bench more than double his weight, making it pretty easy to buy what he’s selling. But long before Hernandez ever tells his players to stack a plate on the bar, he’s more focused on getting them in the right frame of mind.
“You get your mind right ready to go and then once you’re in here, we’re going to help you get there,” Hernandez said.
“You’ve gotta come in there with your head in the right spot, ready to work and ready to get better,” Illinois offensive lineman Doug Kramer said.
“Violent voice, he’s clapping he’s loud, you know when Coach Lou is in the building so you’ve got to get your mind right,” running back Reggie Corbin said.
“It’s about coming in ready to push, ready to attack, ready to conquer pain and discomfort and push your body beyond limits,” Hernandez said.
“Get Your Mind Right” is posted on top of the door on the way into the Illini weight room and the players have even started tapping it, just as a reminder of what’s to come. The original sign that Hernandez used when he worked here under Ron Zook is still up in the staircase down to the old weight room. And it’s the players from those teams that helped bring Hernandez back to the program a second time.
“How they came together in support of bringing me back, it has to be the greatest accomplishment of my coaching career to made such an impact on those guys,” Hernandez said.
“Everything you’re looking for in a strength coach, Lou is,” head coach Lovie Smith said. “Didn’t know him before I hired him. Talked to him one time and you kind of saw it, now we’re seeing it on the field.”
Hernandez’s role will only increase as the team heads into summer workouts, all getting set for fall camp in August.