KENT: Kent State football coach Darrell Hazell isn’t a fan of social media such as Facebook or Twitter. But he isn’t lost on the convenience of modern technology, either. He loves to text.
When Hazell thinks about something he wants to tell one of his players, it’s not unusual for him to grab his Blackberry, type a quick message and hit send.
That’s the primary way Hazell kept in touch with running back Trayion Durham earlier this summer when Durham, a sophomore running back, went home to Cincinnati for a couple weeks to deal with what he called “a nagging ear problem.”
Hazell didn’t mind Durham going home to seek treatment. But Hazell was concerned about how much Durham would keep up with his conditioning while he was away from campus.
So Hazell often sent texts to Durham, checking on his medical progress, encouraging him to keep up with his workouts and yes, even warning him to stay away from consuming too much of mom’s home cooking.
Knowing that Durham is a laid-back guy who goes with the flow, Hazell was concerned he’d come back to Kent State overweight for the start of preseason practice last week.
“My premonition turned out to be true,” Hazell said. “He came back a little bit out of shape.”
In his defense, Durham said he tried to stay away from a majority of mom’s home cooking, ate “mostly salads” and worked out four days a week by running hills at a nearby middle school.
“Sure, he was eating salad all right — potato salad, macaroni salad,” Hazell said with a laugh, noting Durham came back to campus at 246 pounds — about 11 pounds over his optimum playing weight.
“I got here last year at about 250 pounds, and they wanted me at 245, 240 pounds,” Durham said. “This year, my goal is to be able to get down to 230, 235 pounds by the end of camp.”
That might not be very difficult considering the Golden Flashes began the first of 10 scheduled two-a-day practices Wednesday, with the first practice going from 9:30 to 11 a.m. and the second running from 3:30 to 5 p.m.
All joking aside, both Durham and Hazell are aware of the difference Durham can have when playing at his optimal size. A bigger back that uses his size to power through opposing defenders, Durham can also be light on his feet at the right weight.
“My weight can be an issue, it’s something that I’ve had to watch since my senior season [at Cincinnati’s Colerain High School],’’ Durham said. “I don’t want to say I got big-headed, but everything was already set for college, so I just took a little off.”
It’s exactly what Hazell was trying to avoid heading into camp this season.
“He’s a great kid, but sometimes I kind of feel like he just goes through life without much of a plan,” Hazell said. “To be honest, and I’m not being funny, he’s just oblivious to some things — it’s just the way his personality is.”
It’s not that Durham won’t work hard; he still needs a little push to do so.
“He will work at it if you’re with him and holding his hand,” Hazell said. “But I knew when he went home; his idea of working out was going to be a lot different than what he’d be doing here.”
A lesson in calm
If Hazell is half the football coach that he is motivator, then he’s likely to enjoy a long career. Before practice began this week, he used a stunning current event to bring home the importance of the team remaining calm under all circumstances.
“Three nights ago we talked about Flight 1549, the flight that went down in the Hudson [River],” Hazell said. “We listened to the audio and watched some video and marveled at just how calm the pilots were. You could hear it in the voice inflection and how they handled the situation. I told our guys, ‘the reason they handled an emergency like that so well is because they were so prepared.’ That’s what we’re going to refer back to this season.”
The famous picture of the plane’s passengers all lined up on the wings of the plane as it floats in the Hudson awaiting rescue, hangs in the Kent State locker room to serve as a visual reminder of the importance of remaining calm.
“We’ll refer back to it all the time because there’s going to be things that happen during the course of the game that we’re going to not only have to handle, but handle with calmness,” Hazell said.
Stephanie Storm can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Kent State blog at www.ohio.com/flashes. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/SStormABJ and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/sports.abj.