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‘Using adversity as a fuel’: How local athletes are following Taysom Hill’s lead — and the local trainer who is keeping them on task

There’s a lesson to be learned in tough times, and the Pleasant Grove training facility that helped Taysom Hill heal for the NFL is now keeping similar dreams alive for other hopefuls during the coronavirus outbreak

BYU running back Ty’Son Williams (5) runs with the ball as linebacker Max Tooley (31) defends during the Cougars’ scrimmage at LaVell Edwards Stadium on Saturday, Aug. 10, 2019.
BYU running back Ty’Son Williams (5) runs with the ball as linebacker Max Tooley (31) defends during the Cougars’ scrimmage at LaVell Edwards Stadium on Saturday, Aug. 10, 2019.
Tyler Richardson

PLEASANT GROVE — It’s the science of hope, knitted with a thread of faith, and driven by the pistons of desire to prove self value.

What do former Cougars Taysom Hill, Ty’Son Williams and Moroni Laulu-Pututau have in common with ex-Utes Leki Fotu, Francis Bernard, Chase Hansen and John Penisini?

They’ve found a workout haven to rehab, train and maintain strength and speed as an uncertain NFL season looms and their roles in that league are yet to be decided.

They aren’t giving up. They’re fighting on despite shutdowns and quarantines, of course acting within acceptable guidelines.

The place is Stroformance, where founder and director Dave Stroshine makes everyone wash their hands before entering the facility, he’s using industrial strength cleaners,and allowing only a state-mandated 10 athletes and trainers to enter at one time. He’s also holding pro days on Sundays at Lehi High, where athletes can post data for scouts who are banned from attending such events as schools have canceled their respective pro days.

Both Pututau and Williams, recovering from ACL surgeries, have made remarkable progress since they were funneled to Stroformance to prepare for the NFL, as has former Aggie Kyler Fackrell.

Two of the more remarkable transformations in the past few months are those of Williams, injured in BYU’s game against Washington last September, and Pututau, who was injured the previous season at Washington.

Utah Utes linebacker Chase Hansen (22) brings down Brigham Young Cougars wide receiver Micah Simon (13) BYU and Utah play at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Nov. 24, 2018.
Utah linebacker Chase Hansen tackles BYU wide receiver Micah Simon Saturday, Nov. 24, 2018. Hansen is among a number of former college players staying sharp and in shape.
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

“Moroni did fantastic,” said Stroshine. “He jumped 35 1/2 inches and ran a 4.6 40 and benched well. Here’s an athlete who came in January and couldn’t do anything because he had knee issues. In that short amount of time his progress has been unbelievable. He’s up 17 total reps of 225-pound bench.”

Stroshine was hoping to get Zach Wilson to throw to Pututau at Lehi High on Sunday, but if he can’t, he’s working on getting current Washington State and former Lehi QB Cammon Cooper.

Utah State’s 300-pound lineman Devon Anderson ran a 4.9 40; Weber State’s 240-pound defensive end/linebacker Adam Rodriguez ran a 4.68 time in the 40 and had a 36-inch vertical. BYU’s D-lineman JJ Nwigwe ran a 4.78 and benched the 225 weight 32 times.

Utah’s players are expected to do a pro day with Stroshine on Sunday or a future date.

Because Hill (elbow) had so much success with Stroshine, Pututau and Williams followed after their BYU eligibility ended. “With Williams, there were a lot of limitations when he first came here due to his surgery. But in the last five or six weeks we’ve been able to significantly improve his movement and his strength to the point where on Sunday he ran a 4.48. He put up 27 reps of 225.”

That 27 reps was posted on a group text. Stroshine jokingly told Williams he might have to redo it when he was putting together all the numbers with the highlights. Stroshine prepares reports for the NFL from his pro days.

“Hey, I don’t get my 27?” Williams protested.

“Well, if you really feel you earned the 27, I’ll put it out there with some sprinkles on your ice-cream cone and whatever else you want. Right, like we could have it your way and we could do anything you want,” laughed Stroshine.

On a more serious note, Stroshine said one thing he’s noticed in athletes like Hill and Williams, and can be seen in so many others during this time of the COVID-19 fight, is that they use negative situations as motivation.

“There’s a lot of anxiety out there right now. People are worried about what will happen and what the future holds,” he said. “Williams’ work ethic and his attitude are phenomenal. He and Hill have a similar mentality when it comes to the idea of work, using adversity as a fuel and controlling what you can control.”

Both have had to overcome major injuries and doubters. “They come with an attitude that they will challenge themselves and they will control the things they can do something about and not worry about what they cannot control. They come daily and believe they can get better on a daily basis, that they can control their attitude and they come with a great mindset of positive energy.

“It’s kind of funny, kind of inspirational. Ty’Son comes in and says, ‘What injury can control me? What can stop me?’ He did cut, he did his three-cone and his shuttle. His pro day was supposed to be around the 25th, or this week, when originally set up,” he continued. “And going into this thing, we were asking what do you think you can be ready for? Yeah, we can get your bench. Can you jump? There was a lot of uncertainty of his timetable. His agent Mark Flores was looking at a later pro day just to do more things right.

“But his progress has been amazing. It’s kind of the psychology of some of these athletes and their approach to training, that they’ve overcome injuries or the naysayers. It’s just motivation to them and another thing to overcome. They take all these benchmarks and protocols that trainers and doctors set for them, the time for an elbow to heal (Taysom Hill) or an an ACL to heal (Williams and Pututau) and they just blow past them.

“I’m really a believer that psychology trumps physiology and the human mind can believe itself into doing amazing things.”

Stroshine has not personally seen Hill for months, but his current status as a tendered first-round free agent with the Saints shows just how motivated Hill was when he came to Stroshine with an elbow that needed serious rehabilitation.

Driven to prove himself, like he has over and over again during his career, Hill overcame that injury, found himself at Green Bay, then became the talk of the NFL at New Orleans where he became the league’s ultimate utility athlete.

Now comes a big payday for Hill.

Brigham Young Cougars quarterback Taysom Hill (7) fights to get away from West Virginia Mountaineers defensive lineman Adam Shuler (88) at FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland, on Saturday, Sept. 24, 2016.
Brigham Young Cougars quarterback Taysom Hill (7) fights to get away from West Virginia Mountaineers defensive lineman Adam Shuler (88) at FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland, on Saturday, Sept. 24, 2016.
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

“It goes to show just how important his attitude has been,” Stroshine said. “He’s been saying all along, all he wanted to do was play and compete at the quarterback position and he was willing to do anything he could to stay on a team and do that: block, play defense, special teams, tight end, running back, receiver, whatever.

“He has always believed that when you are willing to do whatever is needed and take advantage of every opportunity, good things can happen.

“I tell all of these guys right now that Danny Sorensen (Kansas City Chiefs) was in the same position. He was willing to do anything, play on special teams, just to have the chance to prove he could do it better than anybody else,” he continued. “He made himself valuable. And look how that turned out. He’s made big money and he has a Super Bowl ring.

“Danny was a guy whose name they circled, because he worked so hard and made himself visible in camp. His brother Brad (QB San Diego Chargers) played at the same time and said scouts were talking to him about his brother because he was simply so disruptive. Danny simply bought into the idea that whatever opportunity came, he would make the most of it.”

On the wall above his observer seating in the Stroformance facility hang the jerseys of NFL players he has worked with, guys like David Nixon, Vic So’oto, Trevor Reilly, Sione Havili and others.

“I could tell you a story of every one of them and how they put themselves in a position to excel by their attitude and work,” said Stroshine.

Dave Stroshine, founder and director of Stroformance, poses in front of jerseys of players that he has trained and worked with over the years.
Dick Harmon, Deseret News

“They’re saying, ‘Hey, I’m third string, but I’m first string kickoffs and I’m going to go out and cause havoc. Then they’re given more opportunities. It’s the same thing in life. It’s the same for me and I tell my boys and I believe it. Whatever circumstances are placed in front of you, you just do your very, very best. You take advantage and you put everything you’ve got into it and it will always open more doors.”

He also sees a lot of NFL players who have put all their eggs in one basket and when it doesn’t work out, they don’t have anything to fall back on to make a living. He’s seen smart players live their first years in the league as if they were still in college and invest in real estate or something and save. Then, when the time comes, they are prepared for what comes next.

spor

Weber State sophomore Jonah Williams takes his position on the defensive line. Williams is one of more than 100 returned Mormon missionaries playing college football at the FCS level, Division II or Division III.
Weber State sophomore Jonah Williams takes his position on the defensive line. Stroshine said Weber State defensive end Jonah Williams recently tested out with big numbers.
Robert Casey, Weber State

Stroshine said Weber State defensive end Jonah Williams just tested out with big numbers. Because of the lack of a pro day, he’s gone under the radar. He’s 6 foot 5 and 280 pounds with a six-pack (physique) and ran a 4.65 and 4.67 with a 35-inch vertical jump. He put up 30 reps on 225.

“He’s a guy that going in people were saying is a draftable guy but he had the lack of visibility in a pro day, so we’ve done a lot of video stuff to go with his game film and scouts can see a series of situations with his movement. His shuttle was in the 4.2s, three cones in the 6.8s, just phenomenal for a dude that big. It will be interesting to see what happens.”

So, in the mammoth enclave kind of hidden in the industrial park section of Pleasant Grove between the suburban sprawl west of Geneva Road and east of Interstate 15, Stroshine is seeing the microcosm of a formula of how to survive in today’s world of a pandemic.

The peek into this human lab shows a species of remarkably gifted humans never giving up hope, working to overcome and prove, and expressing a faith that tomorrow will be a very important day.

We can all learn from this, can’t we?