SUWANEE — The clang of metal is deafening.
Double-sided racks line both long walls of Collins Hill's sparkling new weight room with inlaid, logo branded wood flooring glowing.
The middle of the room is a wide strip of turf for footwork and ab drills.
More than 100 players and coaches are in the room all at once, switching from station to station on whistle commands and instruction from new offensive coordinator Dante Williams in quick succession. The only real rest comes when one player is spotting another. Coaches are at each station for motivation and to keep an eye on technique. A wall-mounted TV shows the whole morning workout for reference.
“The turf in the middle gives us the speed factor,” said Williams, who came to Collins Hill from Grayson. “We can do movement drills, ladder drills, footwork drills. And it's allowed us to get the double-sided racks on the side. Logistically it's an absolute dream. We can fit so many players in there, but still be safe and be full throttle.
“It's amazing what you can do with structure.”
When Lenny Gregory took over the Eagles' program two years ago, a new weight room was one of 15 things he identified as necessary to be competitive with the elite of Gwinnett County.
“It's the foundation of your whole program,” Gregory said. “If you can't have a great strength and conditioning program, you can't have a successful team. That's something I have always believed in. Having taken over two program, that's the first thing that I've attacked.
“A lot of times, football coaches get so caught up in the Xs and Os, the scheme, anybody can do that. That's a minor part of building a successful program and creating a culture where the weight room is important.”
It took some time, but during the dead week surrounding the July 4 holiday, Collins Hill's new weight room was set up.
Senior all-county offensive lineman Cameron Kinnie was impressed when he walked in for the first time.
“It's like a college weight room,” he said “After we're gone, that weight room is here to stay and here to make this program great.
“You've got to be able to move people off the ball in 7A football and everybody out there is big. If you can't move no weight, you can't move no people so you've got to be able to translate from the weight room to the field. “
It makes getting up at dawn every day during the summer a little easier.
“There are no guys I'd rather get up at 6 o'clock and yell at and grind with,” Kinnie said. “It makes you want to get up at 6 o'clock to work out with these guys, to make each other better.”
Roll call is at 7:30 a.m. and there were no stragglers — everyone was on one knee listening to Gregory.
“The thing we're trying to drive home with our kids is for them to push themselves from good to great,” Gregory said. “We talked about that even this morning. It's difficult to be great. In order to be great, you have to push yourself. You have to think beyond what your comfort zones are. You go in there and strive to improve, which is not easy, you have a chance to be great. That's the culture we're trying to create.”
Some of that is in the details. Seeing matched weight racks all in black and green. Wearing matching T-shirts for morning workouts every day — which the team launders for them each night.
“A lot of times in programs, you overlook the little things and you don't put the extreme importance on the details in that weight room,” Gregory said. “One of the things we've tried to do is help the kids understand that not only is the weight room the most important thing, but OUR weight room. So many kids now, they get pulled toward trainers.
“We believe and what we talk to our kids about is nobody does this better than us.”
Attendance is up 30 percent from last summer and the hiring of Williams allowed Gregory to turn over the reins he picked up on the strength program when he arrived in 2017.
“It was an incredible weight program already,” Williams said. “The weight room definitely wasn't up to par, but with Coach Gregory's vision along with our principal, (Kerensa Wing) and everything they put in the weight room, it's state of the art.
“It allows us to do the things we want to do, which is to have a weight room that mimics our practice and our offensive philosophy — fast tempo, high octane. We're trying to go 1,000 miles a minute. That's the way the game is played so we want to train our players that way so that they don't miss a beat when they hit the field.”