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BYU football: Team seeking better physical fitness with help of nutritionist

Published: Thursday, July 5 2012 5:03 p.m. MDT

BYU's first day of spring football practice.

Tom Smart, Deseret News

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PROVO — BYU tight end Marcus Mathews has five phone numbers listed as “favorite contacts” on his iPhone. Four of them (his mother, father, his brother, Mitch, and his wife) would appear obvious choices, but the fifth (Dan Wilcox) would appear slightly out of place.

Wilcox is the new nutritionist for the football program. He’s assigned to help the players eat smarter in order to achieve maximum physical fitness relative to their specific positions. Some are seeking to get more trim, while others are looking to bulk up, but, regardless of the need, Wilcox is there as a ready source.

If Mathews’ favorite-contact list is any indication, the players are tapping that source frequently.

“He told me to call him whenever I need him, and I’m taking him up on it,” said Mathews. “He’s been a huge help and we’re going to be much better physically this season working with him.”

Every off-season the players regale the media with tales of working harder than ever before without citing specific examples. While there’s no tangible proof regarding how hard the team has worked, there is tangible proof that they’re working smarter in achieving better fitness levels.

Take senior offensive lineman Braden Hansen, for example, who strolled into media day looking the trimmest and fittest he has been since his mission.

“I’ve lost 25 pounds since last season and I feel great,” said Hansen. “It’s all about being smarter with what we’re eating, when we eat, and you have to give a lot of credit to Dan Wilcox and his advice. He’s already been a great help to me and to a lot of other guys.”

Coach Bronco Mendenhall and his staff determined that his team needed to reach a better level of physical fitness following last season. The hope is to execute better down the stretch of the season and during key situations, being at tip-top shape physically.

“Tip-top shape” is relative to each position and, in fact, to every individual player. While Hansen, and most of his fellow offensive linemen, are looking to shed pounds, Mathews is looking to add some.

“I want to play at 245 pounds and I’m 238 right now, so I’m close,” said Mathews. “Last year I was able to help the team splitting out, but this year I want to prove I can be an every-down tight end and help out in tight formations blocking off the line.”

Adding any kind of weight isn’t optimal for a collegiate athlete, but through working out specific menus, Mathews is putting on the right kind of weight. “You don’t want what I call ‘McDonald's’ weight, but weight that doesn’t slow you down while making you stronger,” said Mathews.

For Hansen, the big key is to eat specific items throughout the day so as not to binge on unhealthy food items. Wilcox has helped a lot with this, along with others in his life.

“My wife is completely on board and has done an amazing job helping me and cooking the right meals at home,” said Hansen. “I’m eating things every two hours, so I never feel hungry, so that’s key, and I feel better and more ready for the season, as a result, than I ever have.”

While players and coaches believe Wilcox and his diet plans are a great benefit to the program, the players are the ones putting the food into their mouths.

“It’s ultimately up to us and how hard we want to work at getting physically fit, just like everything else — you have to want it and be dedicated to it,” said Hansen. “In being around the guys I’ve seen a lot of dedication, and we’re going to see the results of that on the field. It’s going to help us so much in everything we do, and I think a lot of us are going to have our best seasons yet.”

Email: bgurney@desnews.com

Twitter: @BrandonCGurney

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