IOWA CITY, Ia. — Akrum Wadley was a skinny freshman a couple years back when he stepped off the scale one Monday morning inside the Iowa football complex to face the fury of strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle.
He was 10 pounds under his recommended weight, a misdeed for a program that prides itself on attention to detail.
He knew he was bound for the Doyle doghouse.
“As soon as I stepped off the scale, I could see him with that look on his face,” Wadley said. “He looked so mad. I tried not to look at him.”
Wadley made a beeline for the far end of the Iowa weight room, hoping he’d find refuge near the hang clean rack.
“Soon as I grabbed the weight and put it on the bar, he was right there,” Wadley said. “That must’ve been the scariest thing of my life. He let me have it for about 15 minutes.”
The story resurfaced Saturday when Wadley’s weight again became a topic of conversation after Iowa’s spring game.
He’s no longer a frail freshman who tips the scales at 167 pounds and gets obliterated by blitzing linebackers. The beefed-up junior weighs in at 190 now, six pounds heavier than Wadley 2K15, who produced 496 rushing yards and eight touchdowns for the Hawkeyes.
Six pounds might not sound like much, and Wadley isn’t sure whether they’ve gone to his arms, legs, shoulders or all of the above.
“They’re showing up when I pick up a blitz or when I get hit,” said Wadley, who wants to add five more pounds before the season begins. “I don’t feel the way I used to feel. When I get tackled hard, it don’t hurt as much.”
Not for him, at least.
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Wadley carried nine times for 33 yards Saturday. He still has the open-field explosiveness that made him one of Iowa’s top big-play threats a year ago, but there’s more to his game now. He moved the pile and dished out punishment to tacklers on a couple collisions.
“He’s definitely packing more of a punch,” linebacker Aaron Mends said.
“He’s a little bit bigger,” safety Miles Taylor said. “It’s more of a challenge for defenders. He’s definitely got his weight up. Still the same quickness. Still the same speed. Even better player.”
Better cook, too.
Part of Wadley’s growth as a player stems from his progression in the kitchen.
He said he regularly wakes up two hours before a morning workout and makes his first breakfast of the day. He eats his second breakfast after his lift and downs two more meals later in the day.
“If you can get two breakfasts in you, then the rest of the day, you’ll be full of energy,” he said. “I try to wake up two hours before the lift. I can cook and then when I come in, there’s more food waiting for me.”
Omelets are Wadley’s specialty. His ingredients: four or five eggs, mushrooms, bacon, sausage, jalapenos, syrup and ketchup. They’re messy, he said, but what they lack in aesthetics, they make up for in calories.
“I’ll make you one,” he told a couple reporters. “You might want to come over.”
Pound by pound, Wadley’s role with the Hawkeyes has grown, too. It’s all about trust, he said.
He’s earned the trust of Iowa’s coaches by protecting the football after a fumble-plagued start to his career. He’s earned their trust by following Doyle’s weight-gaining blueprint.
“I feel like they didn’t trust me a lot, and it was a lot on me,” Wadley said of his younger years with the Hawkeyes. “I’ve got to take more responsibility. I’m much more mature than I was a year or two years ago. Now, I know what to do.
“I’ve just got to keep eating. Every time I step onto that scale and I make weight, that’s a positive thing and I feel more confident. But I’ve got to do the same thing next week. It’s all about consistency and trust, and if I can do that and show them that I can do that, then they’ll believe more in me.”