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TUESDAY, JULY 3, 2007
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Athens High players Lewis McDonald, left, and Justin Rogers go through a summer morning workout as they and their teammates prepare to defend their Class 5A state football championship.
Daily photo by John Godbey
Athens High players Lewis McDonald, left, and Justin Rogers go through a summer morning workout as they and their teammates prepare to defend their Class 5A state football championship.

Working to
stay ahead

Players for defending state champ Athens spend summer working on speed, agility

By Josh Cooper
jcooper@decaturdaily.com 340-2460

ATHENS — Nestled in between the Athens High football and baseball stadiums, on an uneven field of grass, is where the road to the 2007 Class 5A state football championship begins.

About 20 to 30 players from the last season's champs, the Athens Golden Eagles, work out under the eye of former Alabama linebacker Conley Duncan, a conditioning, speed and quickness expert based in Decatur. The players are paying for Duncan to teach them, and they participate in speed and agility drills from 8:05 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays.

"Some of my friends think I am crazy," Golden Eagles offensive lineman Justin Rogers said. "They say, 'Why pay to run when you can run for free?'

"I think it's well worth it."

Rogers has had surgery on both knees to repair ligaments, and he said he feels more limber because of the summer workouts.

Athens running back Justin Brown has trimmed his 40-yard dash speed from 4.6 seconds as a sophomore to 4.37 now as he heads into his senior season.

Even recently graduated quarterback Rob Ezell, a potential walk-on at Alabama, got into the act.

On this particular Tuesday, the players were mostly doing agility drills, changing directions and working on explosiveness.

On other days, they do resistance drills. On some days, they work on acceleration.

"What I do is specific in terms of speed and agility," Duncan said. "It frees (Athens coach Allen Creasy) up to get more stuff done in their program and frees me up to do more speed work and the agility part of their team. They have had some good success."

About four years ago, Creasy attended a strength and conditioning camp in Knoxville. While there, he heard one of the speakers talk about the importance of speed training and how it could help a football team.

When Creasy returned to Athens, he spoke with Duncan about doing some kind of speed training with the Athens football team.

Duncan agreed. The first year of the workouts last summer saw about 10 Athens players enroll. But as the players saw the dividends, more and more of their teammates joined.

This pushed the number up to the current 20 to 30 players who work with Duncan twice a week.

He also conducts camps with East Lawrence High and Austin High.

When the players are on the field with Duncan, they are talking about repeating as state champs, because "everybody has their eye on us," Brown said.

And Duncan helps, too, as he shouts motivational words into players' ears when they're running around, trying to pick up that extra step heading into the 2007 season.

"You're always looking for the edge or the advantage, and I think there is no substitute for hard work," Creasy said. "Whenever you have the opportunity for your guys to go for good instruction with a highly motivated instructor, they have a better chance to succeed."

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