Strength Elite’s Five Minutes With: Rusty Whitt

I count myself very fortunate to know some great men. I don’t use the term “great” loosely. These are men who inspire me to be better, every day. I thought it would be doing the world a service to share some insights into these men, their unique outlooks on life and unwavering grit and determination. Instalment one is a great friend of mine, Rusty Whitt.

strength elite


Rusty Whitt | Age: 45 | Profession: Head Strength Coach, Texas Tech Football

Background: Collegiate Strength coach since 1995- Took a 6 year hiatus to join the US Army from 2003-2009.  Served with the 10th SFG in Iraq.  Returned to coaching Feb 2009.  Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist with the NSCA.  Masters in Kinesiology, University of Texas Austin (2007).


Completing the US Army Special Forces Qualification course at 34 years of age.  It beat the shit out of me.  I’m proud of the kids that survive our conditioning program.  We kick them in the nuts daily.  I’m proud of my staff that works 15 hours a day.

Social media: Instagram @texastech_fb

Question 1.  What have you been up to this last week?

We are finishing up the semester, had some max effort testing.  We had another player hit over 300 on his power clean.  We have 30 at that level now, after having only 2 this time last year.  We had a challenging anaerobic conditioning session yesterday.  We call it the “Raider Run Challenge”-everyone on the team passed.  You can’t bend over, or show any negative body language.

Question 2.  What’s a normal day look like for you?

I arrive at work around 4:50 AM.  Our head coach is already working out at that time.  We train 5 day a week during the summer.  We typically do a 4-day split.  We run 3 days a week.  We perform MMA style combatives once a week.

Question 3.  Who or what has had the biggest impact on your career? 

I have many mentors in the field that have helped me.  My father taught me persistence.  My mother taught me patience and to have a sense of perspective.  Coach Jerry Wilson got me a scholarship at Abilene Christian U.  Cliff Felkins (throwers coach at Texas Tech) was my first strength coach and taught me the value of developing strength; he helped create my passion for the field. Rock Gullickson (currently at Univ. of Tennessee) gave me my break through a job at University of Texas in 1996.  My Team Sergeant in the Army taught me skills that kept me alive in Iraq.  My army teammates persevered through many trying times and helped me keep my sanity.

Question 4.  What drives you to keep on pushing the limits in your physical and mental/emotional game? 

The realization that people have endured tougher circumstances than I have and have thrived. Prisoners of War in Vietnam?  World War II veterans in the pacific campaign?  Soldiers under General Patton that walked 100 miles in snow to fight?  The Band of Brothers who held out through overwhelming odds in Bastogne? C’mon. 

Question 5.  What in your words makes a good person/human?

Someone who thinks about other people more than they do themselves.  Someone who directs compassion the right way.  Someone who will push their body to limits to help others.  I believe in right and wrong in the world.  I admire those who stand up against wrong.  I believe in fighting against oppression. (Oppresso De Liber)  I admire people that endure hardship.  My friend in the Army passed selection with stress fractures in both tibias that required him to get a soft shoe profile and no PT for about a month.  He never mentioned he was in fuckin agony the whole time.  Selfless people.  Soldiers.  Warriors.  Cancer fighters.

Question 6. What in your mind and words are two or three things you would do consistently to keep your conditioning (strength, endurance etc) up…things you think are important?

I believe in Squats.  Deep Squats.  I believe in running sprints.  I like push/pull days.  Pull ups are a necessity.  I believe in early volume running in a training cycle and peaking with speed conditioning.  Freshmen can do 10-15 reps.  Seniors can too, just not as often.  I believe in meticulous power clean technique taught every week.  I believe in small improvements daily, and know that is a realistic goal.  I like to read about advances in the field, and try to determine what has meat to it and what is bullshit.

Question 7.  Favorite quote?

“It is easier to find men who will volunteer to die, than it is to find those men who will endure pain with patience”  Julius Caesar.

Question 8.  How and why is your physical preparation so important to you specifically, and how does it impact you as a person…what are the benefits you see?

We live in a trivial world.  An impressionistic world. First impressions can determine an athlete’s overall view of your program.  We interact with recruits daily.  I have to look the part.  I had a total physical 2 weeks ago.  The doctor said all my vitals are typical of that of a college athlete.  Quality of life is critical to me.  I love to ski and be active.  My appearance and work ethic is a direct reflection of the athletes we produce.  What people put in their body, and their activity level (or lack thereof) determine their quality of life as we age.  I want a high quality of life.

Question 9.  Best advice you’ve ever been given?

It was back when I was playing college football.  My new defensive coordinator came into my school late in my career.  I’d been a player for 4 years.  I thought I had earned my scholarship and had a set place on the team.  He sat me down and we had a discussion.  I told him that I had proved myself.  He said “You haven’t proved shit, what you did yesterday was yesterday.  You have to prove your value to this program EVERY DAY.”