Photos by Sam Herder
The plate is literally and figuratively full for the freshmen football players at NDSU. Classes, practices, film, lifting and maintaining a social life makes for a jam-packed schedule. Having a redshirt season allows these young adults to ease into the student-athlete life. It also allows them to physically become a college athlete.
Football players especially are tasked with putting on a lot of weight. So how exactly is it done? Is it simply eating as much food as possible? Bison Illustrated followed redshirt tight end Josh Babicz to the dining center to find out. With a 6-foot-6-inch frame, Babicz has become a perfect example of how a month on campus can change your body.
Three Sizzling Questions
What is your favorite dining center meal?
Josh Babicz: “I really like the mac and cheese.”
What was your go-to pregame meal in high school?
JB: “We had stuff catered to us. It was usually like pasta and chicken or some kind of meat with vegetables.”
If you had to choose a meal to eat the rest of your life, what would it be?
JB: “If I were to keep it simple, it’d be peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. A full meal would be chicken and pasta with marinara sauce and a side of watermelon and mashed potatoes.”
You see it, you eat it
The man behind the scenes of North Dakota State football’s success isn’t so much of a secret anymore. Strength and conditioning coach Jim Kramer has become well known through media stories, coaches and players routinely giving him credit.
His work in the weight room transforms the bodies of young players, adding muscle and weight to their frames. But the weight room is just one piece of the puzzle. The diet and nutrition of athletes as they put on 10, 20, sometimes 40 pounds in a year is just as important.
Josh Babicz is one of many freshmen redshirting whose goal is to pack on the pounds. A 6-foot-6 wide receiver in high school, NDSU saw him as a tight end. He came into fall camp at 220 pounds. With his frame, the coaches want him at 250 pounds next fall when he can play on game days.
“I just feel heavier, I feel like I can still keep my speed, though.”
“We have a goal board that’s in our weight room and it’s per week how much you should be weighing,” Babicz said with four plates of food in front of him at the NDSU Residence Dining Center. “It goes on and on until our final goal or what they want us for the next nine weeks. They say I can hold 260 pounds, but 250 is my ideal weight.”
In mid-September, Babicz was already up to 238 pounds. In his case, he isn’t on some fancy diet. Coaches put him on the see-food diet. If he sees food, eat a lot of it.
“That’s literally what they told me,” Babicz said. “My position coaches just tell me to eat, eat, eat.”
The Barrington, Illinois, native typically eats 4-5 times a day, having breakfast, lunch and dinner with snacks in between. For his main meals, he averages 2-3 plates along with yogurt or other desserts and multiple glasses of milk.
The eating part isn’t a challenge, Babicz said. It’s putting on that weight while maintaining his explosiveness, agility and speed, especially when his body transforms quickly.
“I just feel heavier,” he said. “I feel like I can still keep my speed, though. So that part of it is fine. The quickness of it is just new to me. My senior year I tried to put on some weight, but it was only five pounds. Here you do so much more, like eating at the dining center whenever you want basically.”
Babicz credits Kramer for figuring out the best way to get the younger players at the right weight without getting sluggish. At 6-foot-6, he wants to maintain his athletic ability to be a threat in the passing game. But he didn’t have much experience blocking in high school, something he feels he’s improving as he gains weight.
As the arms race in college athletics gets more competitive, programs continue to find ways to get an edge. NDSU is certainly keeping up and adding amenities not many FCS programs can offer.
For example, the Sanford Health Athletic Complex features the Gate City Bank Fueling Station by the weight room that includes bars, yogurt, cheese sticks, bread and sandwich ingredients along with shakes. NDSU also just hired a part-time nutritionist, Samantha Fuhrmann, to manage the fueling station, assist NDSU teams with meal planning and provide nutrition education to coaches and student-athletes.
“It’s a nice perk to have,” Babicz said. “It’s really helped because after workouts I can grab a snack and go to meetings and stuff. The older guys didn’t have this in the past, so we try to utilize it a lot.”