Juan Villa / The Collegian
Deep within the heart of Fresno State, tucked beside the football stadium on Bulldog Lane, is a building covered by tinted windows. From the outside, it resembles every other building in the athletic complex, but walk inside and thereâ€™s a whole other world.
Call it the factory.
It isnâ€™t a factory of breads, toys or cars. This is a place where Fresno State football players, like cattle at a finishing yard, stack on the beef that allows them to trade blows on the gridiron.
This is where Paul Williams packed 20 pounds onto his 6-foot-2 NFL frame. It is where Logan Mankins added the heft that has made him a Pro Bowl lineman. And where Ryan Wendell sculpts the frame that is now 25 pounds heavier since he graduated high school.
This factory is only around 11 years old, but it looks and feels brand new.
It smells like fresh rubber. The scent is known by anyone who has ever purchased new sandals or been inside a tire shop for bikes or cars. The sound of thundering rap and rock music makes the giant room feel like a dance club.
Bulldog logos are everywhere, on the walls and on the floors, and numerous mats lie on the ground. Twenty-six tons of rainbow-colored weights fill the room, each color representing different weight. Four bench presses and 16 squat racks crowd the interior.
The room is big enough to host around 100 athletes at a time, Monday through Friday, numerous times a day.
A giant strip of rubber floor runs through the middle of the room end-to-end.
Various white markings are on the rubber, and where the markings end a huge beaten cushion is mounted on the wall. This is where the athletes run the 40-yard dash.
Records for pull-ups, squats, long jump and other events line the walls, all divided by sport. Former Bulldog Richard Marshall is listed; 4.39 for his 40-yard dash time.
Unused rubber balls are in the corner. Weight belts are plentiful hanging near the rubber balls.
One belt is wrapped firmly around Wendell.
He is training in hopes to make a run in the NFL as a center. As he loads a colorful arrangement onto the barbell, assistant strength coach Moses Cabrera spots him.
Wendell places the barbell behind his neck, pulls out and squats.
Wendell roars with power as he goes down, then up. Cabrera said he just squatted 440 pounds.
â€œItâ€™s my job to teach the program. If they follow the program theyâ€™ll be good,â€ said Cabrera, speaking on behalf of all the strength coaches.
Cabrera has been a strength coach since 2002 at Fresno State and has seen many players come into the university undersized and leave, some for the NFL, fully developed and prepared.
Besides weight training, all the strength coaches also act as team nutritionists.
Cabrera said that every player needs to recover just as much as the next, regardless of position. Each player has to rebuild their muscles. One of the most common ways to do this at Fresno State, he said, is chocolate milk.
Coaches cannot provide supplements or vitamins, or even suggest them. The only two things they are allowed to give out in infinite quantity is Gatorade and chocolate milk.
Because of this, there is a giant refrigerator jammed packed with Gatorade and 16-ounce Producers brand chocolate milk bottles that players have access to at all times.
â€œEach bottle of chocolate milk has like 600 calories,â€ Cabrera said. â€œ Even if they canâ€™t eat breakfast we give them chocolate milk so they can at least get some calories in them.â€
It is also extremely important that players eat correctly before every single game, Cabrera said. Before home and away games everyone has the exact same meal: spaghetti, chicken, green beans and salad, with water, cranberry juice or Gatorade to drink.
If itâ€™s an early game the players can choose eggs and potatoes over spaghetti and chicken.
Fast food and alcohol are not an option, though Cabrera says he knows the staff canâ€™t always be around to watch.
When players and athletes are done at Fresno State whether they move on to the pros or not, the factory is a place they are always welcome.
â€œEx-players have a lifetime membership here. They can come back and work out forever,â€ Cabrera said. â€œThey paid their dues to us and we want to pay ours back to them.â€