Specialized training helps athletes make transition from high school to college
By Todd Mishler /Contributor
(Published August 21, 2006, 9:29 a.m.)
Barrett Danz was a starter on the Williams Bay High School football and baseball
teams for three years, gaining all-conference recognition in both sports.
But he wanted more, and decided that a WIAA Division 7 program wasn't
the answer to realizing his dream.
So, a year ago, he transferred to Mukwonago High School, a perennial
powerhouse that had claimed the Division 1 state football championship
Danz became a starting linebacker for an Indians' squad that made it
to the state championship game last fall, losing to eventual titlist
But that still wasn't enough for Danz, who will play football for Carroll
College this fall. To make the transition from high school to college,
Danz has joined an increasing number of prep athletes who are taking
advantage of training and fitness facilities to achieve that necessary
edge in making a successful transition to a collegiate program.
The 18-year-old turned to NX Level Pro Performance Center near Waukesha,
a business that former University of Wisconsin standout Joe Panos opened
in May 2005. Danz's father, David, is an attorney in Elkhorn who found
out about the center from a friend in Delavan.
Danz began his conditioning sessions in December and finished earlier
this month. That's because he is practicing with the Carroll College
football squad after considering several NCAA Division III schools in
Wisconsin and Division I-AA teams Valparaiso and Butler of Indiana.
He has added about 30 pounds to his 6-foot frame since starting the
workouts, mostly with head trainer Brad Arnett, a three-year starting
offensive lineman at UW-Whitewater who worked with dozens of athletes
at the universities of Minnesota and Arizona for almost 10 years before
joining Panos' team.
"I'm up to about 245 pounds," said Danz, who's targeted to play defensive
end or linebacker with the Pioneers. "I went up there four days a week.
We ran every day and alternated between lateral and linear drills, and
there was always the strength training. My speed has improved so much,
and I've gotten a lot stronger."
But Danz said there's much more to it than lots of grunting and groaning
or bettering his 40-yard dash time or lifting more weights.
"You learn about your body and what all of these movements are for
and do them with a minimum number of steps," Danz said. "You break everything
down, you learn new techniques and throw out the wasted steps. You repeat
and repeat stuff until it becomes natural.
"The mental side is another huge aspect," Danz added. "Some days I
didn't feel like going or was lagging, but Brad pushed me hard all of
the time. You can't say that you're tired or go through the motions.
So he knows how to keep me motivated. I have too much respect for them
not to show up."
About 500 athletes of all ages and abilities train at the facility
that features a 3,000-square-foot weight room, a 60-yard sprint track,
a 40-yard football field, a hitting cage for baseball, golf and hockey,
and an area for plyometric exercises.
However, the impetus behind the center is taking the high school and/or
college athlete to the next level, thus the place's name, in their development.
So, individual and small-group activities provide the focus.
"We put everybody through an assessment and see where they're at and
why they're here," Arnett said. "We check their core strength and stability
to get all of the variables in place and create a road map from there.
Everything is based on strength and body weight, whether you're lifting
a 5-pound barbell or doing a 500-pound squat, and its relationship to
"Another key component is getting to know the kids, who have to realize
that if this stuff was easy then 50,000 of them would be doing it,"
Arnett added. "Everybody has a desire to win or be successful, but few
are able to internalize that commitment consistently and prepare to
be good. They have to endure the pain."
Arnett said that Danz is a prime example of what can happen if a person
buys into the system and gives 100 percent.
"Barrett came from a smaller school and didn't have the training background
that many of these kids had," Arnett said. "But once he started seeing
the improvement and that he could stay with these guys and understood
better what he was learning, you could see his confidence go up. He
started opening up and asking questions, and then he started doing more
and raised his expectations. He's aggressive with everything now and
is his own worst critic."
Danz has attended former Green Bay Packer receiver Don Beebe's House
of Speed program twice and the UW's camps four times and participated
in an offensive/defensive camp in San Diego. He's happy with his accomplishments
but realizes that striving to improve never ends.
"My dream was to play college football, so going to Mukwonago was the
best thing," he said of leaving home and friends. "It blew my mind how
dedicated the coaches and players were, and I improved drastically and
learned things like picking up reads and shedding blockers, stuff that
I probably wouldn't have improved on at a smaller school. That one year
and that kind of competition gave me a jump on college.
"I still wanted to add muscle and weight, and working at NX Level will
help me get off to a solid start as a (college) freshman," Danz added.
"When you walk into the place-and it's a great facility-but you meet
Joe and Brad and know what experience and credentials they have. I am
so much more prepared than I would have been otherwise and I'm still
Todd Mishler, a freelance sports writer and author in Janesville, is
a frequent contributor to The Week.