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Carolina Panthers

Kenn bringing balance to weight room


CHARLOTTE - In the final minutes of a closely contested game, Joe Kenn won't be in position to call plays or make personnel decisions that could make the difference between the Panthers winning or losing.

Still, the coaching that Kenn does well before the game could prove to be the difference between winning and losing.

"In the fourth quarter, we want to be able to maintain the highest level that we can," said Kenn, the Panthers' first-year strength and conditioning coach. "We want to make sure we do a lot of power and endurance stuff toward the end of workouts to create a sense of fatigue.

"The violence, the physicality of what happens on the football field cannot be mimicked in the weight room, but we can at least build confidence. Players thrive on confidence."

As a former player, Kenn is confident that his approach to strength and conditioning will serve the Panthers well. Rather than taking an old-school, by-the-book approach where athletes are sized up merely by how much they can bench-press, Kenn has rewritten the book. Actually, he wrote a book, "The Coach's Strength Training Playbook," in 2003.

"My approach is holistic and athletic-based. We're trying to do things that are relative to what I experienced as a former player," Kenn said. "You'll see a little bit more emphasis on whole-body workouts. You don't see a football player going lower body in football practice one day and upper body on another, so we want to make sure that what we do sets a standard and builds a work capacity head-to-toe and toe-to-heel.

"They're football players first, and this is just one way to enhance their overall athleticism and take it to the field."

Kenn was a football player first, playing on the offensive line at Wake Forest in the late 1980s on teams that also included Panthers linebackers coach Warren Belin and offensive consultant Ricky Proehl. That's where Kenn acquired his nickname, "Big House," which since has been shortened to "House."

Kenn began his coaching career soon after college as assistant varsity fitness director at his alma mater, and his career soon took off. He spent 15 seasons as head of strength and conditioning at four college programs, working with Panthers Pro Bowlers Ryan Kalil and Cam Newton at Utah and more recently practice squad wide receiver Trent Guy at Louisville along the way.

In February, after Kenn spent a year at Proehl's sports training facility in Greensboro, N.C., the Panthers offered him his first NFL job.

"Ricky afforded me the opportunity to do some things outside of coaching, and I really believe that afforded me the opportunity to be at the right place at the right time when this job opened up," Kenn said.

In addition to a new strength and conditioning staff, the Panthers are in the process of building a new weight room at Bank of America Stadium that should be completed within the next couple of months. Kenn and his assistant, Adam Feit, can't wait to begin constructing a level of conditioning but also a level of trust that should benefit the Panthers come game day.

"Just because somebody puts 'Coach' in front of my name doesn't mean I automatically get respect. It has to be earned," Kenn said. "One way to earn it is through teaching. Sometimes guys tell you to do something but can't tell you why, or you hear, 'You shouldn't do that,' but then they don't explain how you do it. A coach is a teacher, and it's not just about barking out orders; it's about barking out orders they understand. How do you do that? You take the time to tell them, teach them and show them how certain things should be done.

"I care. I'm excited to be here. It's a dream come true. But talk is cheap."

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