Body by Glass: Strength and conditioning coach making Cowboys the best — and biggest — athletes they can be

Rob Glass

Rob Glass, Oklahoma State assistant athletic director for speed, strength and conditioning, has continually turned Cowboy football players into better, faster and stronger athletes, leading to the creation of the phrase "Body by Glass".

The sweat is his body crying out for help.

Oklahoma State quarterback Mason Rudolph runs up the steps at Boone Pickens Stadium on a sweltering Friday morning in July. Beads of sweat stream down his face like tears.

His body is being broken, pushed to the brink of its physical abilities. He hates every second of it. But with each step, a transformation is taking place. Rudolph is getting stronger, building more stamina, becoming equipped with physical skills to make him an elite football player.

Rudolph and his teammates must run up 100 steps and then walk back down to start over. The amount of times this process repeats differs based on position. For Rudolph and the other quarterbacks, the number is 18.

It is part of the offseason training Rob Glass, OSU assistant athletic director for speed, strength and conditioning, puts players through. The other exercises don’t get any easier. Glass stresses high-intensity and heavy lifting in his program. The emphasis is on squats and power cleaning, to build a lethal combination of power and speed.

“Our guys come in here, and we want them to just have a tenacious, relentless type of training attitude,” Glass said.

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The program is tortuous for first-timers. But if they can make it through the first year and decide to stay, the transformation is unbelievable.

Emmanuel Ogbah was listed at 235 pounds coming out of high school. He’s now listed at 275 pounds on OSU’s roster as a redshirt junior.

When Mason Rudolph came to Stillwater, he was about 205 pounds, he estimated. He’s up to 220. He remembers not being able to stand up straight the day after his first workout because of the surfeit of ab exercises Glass subjected the team to.

Safety Tre Flowers said that his transformation under the guidance of Glass has been one of the biggest.

“I came in 155 – 165 soaking wet; that’s what they say,” Flowers said. “But I got a lot stronger and a lot bigger than most people in my class did.”

Flowers is a redshirt sophomore, and has jumped up to 190 pounds in three years’ time. He remembers his first time working out with Glass. After the team ran, Flowers thought the workout was over, but Glass called them into the weight room to start lifting.

“The day after I was so sore,” Flowers said. “I remember doing curls, and I couldn’t even sleep. Just my neck and shoulders, it was crazy.”

Even though he got used to Glass’ intense workouts, they haven’t gotten any easier. Flowers still gets sore after workouts sometimes. But the transformation makes it all worth it.

“There’s been times working out with coach Glass that I couldn’t touch my shoulders, couldn’t squeeze my elbows together,” he said. “Before and after, you’re a complete different person. People go in there and leave looking completely different. It’s just a different feeling.”

Glass has become so well-known for turning lanky high school kids into chiseled beasts that his program has developed a moniker: Body by Glass. He’s not sure where the name came from, but there’s no denying it fits.

“'Body by Glass’ means you are sculpted like a Greek god,” Flowers said.

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Glass was born in 1961 in Newkirk, a town with a population of about 2,000 people.

He played football for class 2A Newkirk High School because, as he puts it, “pretty much everybody did back then.”

But he has the most fun hunting and fishing. Those activities take him to places where it is quiet and he can sit back and enjoy nature.

One of offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich’s first memories of Glass is going quail hunting with him. Glass invited a bunch of the OSU coaches out to his friend’s ranch just south of Ponca City, where the group spent the day fishing and hunting.

He personifies the small-town demeanor. He doesn’t speak unless he feels he has something important to say, which makes players listen more intently when he does talk.

“The terminator,” Flowers said. “You don’t really know what he’s thinking. It’s kind of hard to talk to him sometimes because you don’t really know what to say. You don’t want to say the wrong thing.”  

But when it comes time to get down to business, Glass doesn’t hesitate. He knows what he needs to do to get the most out of his players.

“He’s one of the best in the business,” Rudolph said. “He’s fiery. He’s competitive. He loves bringing the jazz every day. That’s his big deal. That’s kind of his slogan. He brings the best out of players.

“He can be calm and very peaceful, and then he can switch on a dime like that. When he’s working us out, he’s high-energy, high-jazz, and really makes sure you know what you’re doing and lets you know if you’re not doing it the way he feels it needs to be done.”

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Glass’ career is something out of a dream.

He has worked with two Heisman trophy winners in Barry Sanders and Danny Wuerffel, and countless All-Americans. He worked them just as hard as he would anyone else.

He still remembers coach Steve Spurrier at Florida telling him to stop making Wuerffel lift so heavy.

When Detroit drafted Sanders, he called Glass to tell him the Lions didn’t like his heavy-lifting either. Sanders was used to doing squats and power cleaning, but the Detroit wanted him to try a new technique.

“(They were) trying to get him on the machines and do some stuff,” Glass said. “I just told him you’ve got to stick with what got you there. But they’re looking at it from an investment standpoint, so they didn’t want him to risk getting hurt. You’ve got that side of it.

“What we do, people don’t realize how much we do with these kids. We wear a lot of different hats. We delve in a lot of different areas. There’s a tremendous amount of time we spend with the kids. Anything from nutrition to flexibility to eye-hand coordination to mental imaging to just power, speed — there’s a lot of things. It’s a lot going on.”

Glass began his career with Oklahoma State as a graduate assistant after earning his bachelor’s degree in 1984. He worked under strength coach John Stucky, “the legend in the field.”

He spent summer and winter under the tutelage of Stucky, watching him develop workouts and train players.

“The big thing from John was just the fundamental foundations of strength training,” Glass said. “He was a big believer in some of the Olympic movement and the power movements. You got exposed to a guy that, from an Olympic-lifting perspective, was pretty highly acclaimed. That was a good opportunity to learn and watch the coaching techniques from a guy that was really, really good.”

But after about four years of serving as Glass’ mentor, Stucky left to take a job at Arkansas. Pat Jones, the OSU coach at the time, didn’t have time to search for a replacement because the position opened during a busy recruiting period. He asked Glass to fill in on an interim basis. In 1989, Glass was hired full time as the strength and conditioning coach.

He stayed until 1995, when he packed his bags for Gainesville to take over as Florida’s coordinator of strength and conditioning.

Funnily enough, his teams played against Stucky’s, for his former mentor was now the strength coach at Tennessee. Glass was part of a program that enjoyed immense success at Florida, playing in two national championship games and winning one in 1996.

Glass worked at Florida until 2005, when he received a call from Mike Gundy, who was set to become the new coach at his alma mater, and wanted Glass back. The last time Gundy and Glass had worked together, Gundy, OSU’s quarterback, was working under Glass. But Gundy wanted to change the program, and he felt like Glass could be a part of that.

“That was kind of my greatest challenge: to come back to my alma mater and try to do things that had never been done in the football program,” Glass said. “We had a tremendous run at Florida and won a lot of SEC championships, played for two national championships, and I thought, ‘What greater challenge than to come back to your alma mater and try to put it on a national stage?’”

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Nobody knows more about the players than Glass.

“He’s around the guys in the summer more so than probably anybody,” Yurcich said. “Just from a relationship standpoint and getting to know some of the players, he has a good pulse on the team. If you need to know anything about a certain individual, you go to coach Glass and he’ll give you the low-down.”

But managing strength and conditioning during the season can be a difficult task. Players have less time to spend in the weight room and more games to play, meaning that even when they do come into the weight room, often times their bodies are already beaten up.

Glass strives for his players to have a high pain tolerance. On Sundays, the workouts are lighter weight, designed for recovery. The players will run, do cardiovascular work and work on flexibility. By Tuesday, the game’s effects have vanished. Players report to the weight room at 6:30 a.m., ready to lift. This is when most of the heavy lifting is done. Thursday, they meet for a primer before the game on Saturday.

Glass spends a lot of time doing research developing these workouts. It’s not something one would be likely to find at a local gym. They are designed for the purpose of building speed and power, and also in a manner that won’t wear down the players’ bodies too much.

“The sequence order of the exercise is critical,” Glass said. “Recovery is critical. There’s so many things that go into trying to put the thing together to develop mass and still improve athleticism, speed, power, ability to change direction.”

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With the success he has had and the way he carries himself, Glass commands the respect of both coaches and players.

He’s coached so many great teams and players, and is able to take from his past experiences to teach players the ins-and-outs of being physically prepared for games. But it doesn’t end there.

“He’s one of my favorite coaches on this team,” Rudolph said. “He can really provide knowledge about the places he’s been, the people he’s coached. Obviously, he’s going to get you right physically, but mentally, he’s going to make you feel right at home.”

The coaches like him because players work with him and come out drastically changed. They are able to absorb harder hits and take the play farther down the field. His focus on recovery after games, getting the players right for the next contest is also something coaches appreciate.

“The biggest thing that I’ve seen is the guys have a very high pain tolerance and the ability to strain over time and continue to do that,” Yurcich said. “You’re going to build that pain tolerance that you need. You’re not going to have that instantly from high school to college. There’s a transition. Obviously, coach (Glass) has a way to program our guys to understand what that effort level is and what it takes and the ability to endure that pain, and that’s when strength gains occur.”

Although Body by Glass is the nickname, Glass swears that he strives for results on the field instead of how a player looks. A better body might be a result of the work, but it’s not Glass’ ultimate desire.

“Our goal is to build the fastest, most powerful athlete we can,” he said.

The body is just a bonus.

sports@ocolly.com