Inside A&M's new training facility

COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- About two weeks prior to the date of the Texas A&M Player Development Center's scheduled completion, boxes of new weights arrived near the front door.

With the anticipation of someone moving into a new home, Aggies director of football sports performance, Larry Jackson, went to work, opening the boxes and unloading the weights with the help of several others.

"I just got so excited," he said. "Now to finally be moving your stuff in, it's like 'They can't be finished fast enough,' but you want them to do it right."

Take one stroll through the $9 million, 20,000-square foot weight training facility and it's clear that A&M has done it right when it comes to giving its football players plenty of resources with which to become better.

Head coach Kevin Sumlin knew the need to move from the Netum Steed Laboratory, the former home for strength training. He also understands what the upgrade to the new Player Development Center means to his program.

"It’s huge," Sumlin said. "It's state-of-the-art. You look at Netum Steed which was there 20-25 years ago, that was state-of-the-art, best of its kind. That’s where we need to be. That’s going to give Larry Jackson a place that has all the latest things, bells and whistles, things that can train, a great atmosphere in there for them. It’s a much-needed facility."

Inside the new facility, 16 platforms serve as the centerpiece. On each of those platforms, cutting-edge technology is installed in the form of a camera system and an attached tablet where players can sign in with their names and have their workouts recorded for evaluation by Jackson and his staff. The cameras yield data from a player's lift, such as the speed of the lift and how it compares to that player's best lift. All that data can be viewed on the tablet and the video can even be accessed by Jackson on a computer remotely.

The system, installed by a company called Elite Form, only exists at one other Football Bowl Subdivision school currently, according to Jackson: Nebraska. The Kansas men's basketball team will also soon be acquiring it. Having that kind of technology is important to Jackson in his effort to get the Aggies into the best shape possible.

"Anyone can erect a building, throw some weights in there, whether they're top-notch or not, and then boast about having the best weight room," Jackson said. "But what we try to do is, I want to use the latest technology in the weight room as well, not just have a weight room and lift all the players and everybody get stronger and run around and bark and scream and yell.

"So when we get a recruit that comes in here, he will look and be completely wowed with what he sees going on and then he'll know that we're not just saying that we're pouring resources into having the best facilities and the best team in the country, we're putting the money behind our talk. That's what they see when they come in here. They see that it is important to us, the player development."

Also inside the facility are flat-screen TVs, including a large, 25-television display monitor, offices for Jackson and the assistant strength coaches as well as a conference room. Outside, there are graphics that can be seen of Texas A&M players both past and present. Jackson said the building is the largest football-only weight room in the NCAA.

But his work with the team started well before the new building was completed. It's just that its existence will help him and his staff even more now.

"When you watch 'Any Given Sunday' and Al Pacino's talking about taking those inches and getting those inches, you don't earn those inches out on the football field at practice. You don't earn those inches when you're playing basketball in a game, you earn those inches when the game is not going on," Jackson said. "These guys started gaining inches back in January and every team in the country is trying to find a way to get those inches on the other schools. This development center will help me gain a lot of inches on a lot of programs."