From Players To Coaches: Two Packers Prepare For The Future

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They instructed them on proper warm-up and lifting technique. They ran them through agility drills. They preached becoming bigger, faster and stronger.

However, the "they" were not Packers strength and conditioning coaches Barry Rubin and Mark Lovat but the players themselves.

This role reversal was part of the Packers player development program, which secured internships for running back Chris Robertson and guard/tackle Atlas Herrion. The players served as strength coaches for the first time at Green Bay-area high schools, allowing them valuable experience for life after a career in the NFL.

"I've gone in and talked to schools," said Herrion, who helped out with the strength and conditioning program in March and April at DePere High School. "But I've never had the hands-on experience of going in and actually help out."

Herrion helped the student-athletes with their weightlifting technique, particularly power lifts such as power cleans, power snatches and squats. He also assisted with speed training, introducing new quickness and agility drills.

"He was basically there every day as a resource for our young men to talk with and see what he's done to make himself successful," said Greg Rabas, head football coach at DePere, a school with 1100 students.

Robertson served a similar function at Green Bay Southwest High School, which has an enrollment of 1400. In addition to teaching technique, he instilled a business-like atmosphere in the weight room, making sure the kids treated it as a place to work rather than socialize. On the days the weight room was closed, he taught warm-up exercises to hurdlers and offered tips on how they could release out of the starting blocks more quickly. He provided encouragement after each of the track meets. And the athletes bought into Robertson's tutelage.

"When you see a kid looking and listening, then you know they're getting something out of it," said Scott Mallien, Southwest's head football coach, assistant athletic director and social studies teacher. "They were absorbing what he was trying to tell them."

At first, the students were star struck by being in the presence of Packers -- except for DePere's Bryant Dorsey. Dorsey, a rising senior wingback and linebacker is also the son of Packers director of college scouting, John Dorsey, and knew of Atlas and joked with him from the get go.

But for the rest of the players, their wide eyes eventually narrowed. Mallien could tell that Southwest kids became comfortable around Robertson when they started addressing him as "C-Rob."

"Then I knew the kids liked him, and he was having an impact," he said. "I don't want to say [the star factor] wore off, but he was like any other coach, someone the kids could go to."

"They really bonded well," added Rabas. "After a few days, they're in there talking to him like he's one of the team."

Herrion could see the impact he had upon DePere's students.

"You could tell all of them appreciated it," he said. "They'd come up and shake your hand and give you a big hug."

The Packers got just as much out of the experience as the kids. Mallien taught Robertson about the day-to-day activities of the coaching profession, including watching film, doing paperwork and organizing the practice schedules. Such hands-on work should go a long ways toward helping the players with their post-football aspirations.

Herrion wants to coach and teach on the high school level. The latter would follow in his mother's footsteps. She taught physical education, social studies, history and geography in Robert Still, Ala., for 31 years.

"He's going to be successful with whatever he chooses to do once he's done playing," Rabas said. "That was pretty evident from watching him work with our young people."

Robertson hopes to become a high school athletic director and football coach, something the Southwest strength coaching internship prepared him for.

"This was right up my alley," he said.

Turner Gill the director of player development for the Packers, made this preparation possible. He asked the players for their post-football interests and then approached the schools. He then filled out all of the paperwork requested by the NFL.

"He was the one who arranged it and he was the go-between," Mallian said. "He kind of set it up."

These Packers players were just the most recent participants in a continuing relationship with the schools. Running back Ahman Green, a talented high school baseball player, coached baseball at Southwest in the spring of 2001. Former Packers like running back Herbert Goodman, linebacker Jared Tomich and defensive lineman Steve Warren have coached at DePere in the past.

The Packers, students and coaches plan to stay in touch. Herrion and Robertson said they would attend a few high school football games during the season, and both schools' coaches said they would welcome back the players with open arms in 2006.

After their internships, the two Packers players compared notes.

"It was a great opportunity for us to get out and see what we want to do after football," Robertson said. "It was an invaluable experience that I can't wait to do next year."

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