You can hear Oregon strength and conditioning coordinator Aaron Feld before you can see him. And that’s momentous, considering his larger than life dance moves and body builder physique bulging from his all-black Oregon-Nike-Air Jordan collaboration outfit.
From 100 yards away I can hear Feld, clear as the sunny mid-August Eugene day, scream, “Turn it upppp!!!!”
The beat drops to Hypnotize by Notorious B.I.G and the Ducks start their 10th fall football practice, buzzing.
“If you had my arms, you’d be the biggest running back in the country,” Feld says to sophomore Cyrus Habibi-Likio, who ran with the first-team offense. Habibi-Likio laughs, turns around and mouths to me with a shrug, “He’s right.”
Just 15 yards away, the leadership style is much different. Senior quarterback Justin Herbert lines up, commanding the quarterback unit with precise stretching, smiles and quiet high-fives. Lingering nearby, a Los Angeles Rams scout dutifully watches him.
The juxtaposition is palpable.
Actually, the mustache and arm element ring true.
The 2019 Oregon football team looks to these two completely different leaders in preparation; and it’s working for the Ducks.
Let’s start with the loud. Feld has been igniting energy into the program since January of 2018. It’s easy to see the focus in the weight room is paying off; much of the team has exceeded personal records in most lifts. Last year, Oregon had 29 players who could squad 400 or more pounds. That number has almost doubled to 56 players in the “400 club”, according to coach Mario Cristobal. 15 Ducks can squat 500 pounds compared to three a year ago.
Yes, the Oregon Ducks are feeling swole, hanging around the Hatfield-Dowlin Complex with their sleeves filled.
If you haven’t heard of Feld’s “Fill the Sleeves” motto yet, this tweet will explain.
Day 16 | TUTORIAL: One easy step to block out all the outside noise. Also tried out BFR for the first time. Might have overreached a bit. Be careful when trying stuff for the first time 🤷🏻♂️ #45DayChallenge #FILLtheSLEEVES #LICENSEDtoFILL #BlockTheNoise 🙅🏼♂️🔇🚫 pic.twitter.com/31C2TcWMSO— Aaron Feld (@coachfeld) August 2, 2019
Their more muscular physiques are adding up to increased physicality, durability and upgraded size. While every position group has benefitted, the difference particularly on the offensive and defensive lines is impressive. Which is imperative, considering the Ducks have a date with Auburn in week one and the better team in the trenches will likely be the victor.
Feld’s most impressive work may be getting UO’s incoming freshmen ready for the college game. Freshman defensive lineman Kayvon Thibodeaux had never squatted before becoming a Duck and he just joined the 500-pound squat club. Brandon Dorlus and Keyon Ware-Hudson are raw talents that may be able to make an impact on the defensive line this season.
Feld can be heard at practice, while Herbert can be seen.Steady eddy Herbert, standing at 6-foot-6, 240-pounds, on his final season at Oregon, is months away from making millions in the NFL. Entering the second week of fall camp, there hasn’t been much news of the Heisman Trophy hopeful. His junior campaign flashed brilliance that caused NFL scouts to project him as a top pick in the 2019 NFL Draft had he chosen to leave school.
A rare slight on the passer with the powerful right arm and sneaky fast wheels from scouts was his “shy” and/or “immature” personality. That notion has drifted away through Herbert’s evolution. His teammates have noticed exponential growth in his leadership.
"Justin has never been the athlete he is now," Offensive lineman Shane Lemieux said. "Especially off the field, he’s such a better leader… He’s always the one that brings us back in."
Herbert isn’t going to get in your face, unless he needs to. Herbert’s leadership is truly set by his example.
“He’s exactly what you want on your football team,” Cristobal said. “He acts like he’s a freshman that just got here and is trying to prove something. He lives each day as if he’s the guy who’s trying to prove that he belongs here. When your best players are doing that, you’ve got a chance to be a good football team.”
Quiet, loud…whatever… It’s working. The Oregon football team is motivated and 18 days away from the national spotlight.