COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Ohio State weight room will be decorated with hearts on Friday morning, but that won’t hide the suffering.
Friday marks the annual workout known as the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, one of two themed workouts strength and conditioning coach Mickey Marotti designs each year. It’s a special dose of pain for players, a reminder for them to put in the work in winter that leads to victories in the fall.
“Little hearts and little candies and stuff,” Marotti said with a sly grin last year when asked what players could expect from the workout.
It’s a source of dread for players and joy for the coaching staff. On Thursday, director of player personnel Mark Pantoni sent DT Robert Landers a friendly reminder of what awaited.
— Mark Pantoni (@markpantoni) February 16, 2017
So what does the workout look like? Only the players know for sure, but here’s how former Ohio State center Pat Elflein described it last year:
“It’s a workout, like the most talked-about workout of the year,” Elflein said in February 2016. “It’s early in the morning at 6 a.m. They won’t let you in the weight room. Usually we meet in the weight room. They won’t let you in and they’ll make you sit in the locker room and the strength coaches will decorate the whole hallway going down to the weight room. (In 2015) I remember (assistant strength coach Anthony) Schlegel had on a like a Jason mask and had a chainsaw, obviously without the chain on it, and he was ripping the chainsaw. We have video cameras and there’s a DJ in the weight room with speakers everywhere and it’s just a pump up, get the team hyped up, but it’s the hardest workout of the year.
“They’ll put, ‘We love you, we love to squat, we love to deadlift,’ and they’ll put like rose petals in there and they’ll just be in there beating you down and it’s nuts, but they make it fun.”
With so many early enrollees and an overall young team, the workout sends a message about what it takes to succeed at Ohio State.
“Those guys have no idea,” Elflein said. “It will be a little different for them, but they’re all treated the same. They have to learn how to grind through the tough parts.
“You’re done for the whole day. You can’t, they toast you. It’s another decision you have to make: Are you going to separate yourself or are you going to be average? And they put you in these uncomfortable situations to see how you respond. The whole thing, the whole offseason is just a mental game. They’re trying to mess with your mind and it’s tough. It’s a tough offseason.”