Never mind muscle milk or protein shakes, when it comes to adding speed, strength and stamina, many area athletes swear by Fudge.
Former East Tennessee State All-Southern Conference linebacker Derek Fudge became a personal trainer shortly after his Arena League football career ended in Roanoke in 2003. He was inspired by strength coach Tom Shaw while with the New Orleans Saints briefly in 2000.
Numerous athletes who’ve trained under Fudge have gone on to get college scholarships, including many who have worked at the Fudge Fitness center he opened in the fall of 2010. Moe Sells, who landed an NFL and CFL workout according to Fudge, is one of a handful of pro or semi-pro players Fudge has trained.
East Tennessee State softball player Jennine Duncan began working with Fudge when she was getting started at Daniel Boone. So did her brothers, Matt and Trevor, who’ll be a senior and freshman, respectively, this coming year on the University of Charleston football team.
Jennine said she shaved .05 seconds from her 40-yard dash in 21?2 years with Fudge. She, like many others, sounds like an infomercial testimonial while describing results with Fudge’s unconventional training, which includes resistance bands, tractor-trailor tires and medicine balls.
“It’s basically resistance training and form running,” Duncan said. “I had no idea there was form running. When I came here, I started seeing results.”
Fudge has students who have gone on to play seemingly every sport in college. He’s worked with cheerleaders. Others have gone on to military careers. He’s trained basketball players who come in from Mouth of Wilson, Va., Abingdon, Va., and Banner Elk, N.C.
Frank Green was a receiver on ETSU’s final football team before it discontinued the program in 2003. He transferred to Grambling to play for Doug Williams and played Arena football in Lexington, Ky., after college. The 29-year-old Green, still hopeful of getting a tryout with ETSU alum Mike Smith’s Atlanta Falcons, is working out with Fudge.
“I’ve been around a lot of different trainers and workout facilities, and this training right here is definitely for the muscles and muscle memory,” Green said. “You’re actually working muscles you’ve never worked before. It’s more geared toward the sport that you’re playing.
“I come from programs where a lot of guys were focused on free weights, but honestly it’s hard to really transfer that. You can be a guy bench-pressing 300-400 pounds or squatting 500-600 pounds, but it’s hard to transfer that to the football field. A lot of times it slows the muscle down; it makes you bigger and stiffer. I mean, you go in here and take 25-pound weights and add a little resistance with it, and you get broken down in less than two minutes.”
The 6-foot-11?2, 216-pound Green said he hadn’t run a 40-yard dash on the clock since 2009 until late May.
“I hadn’t timed a 40 since I worked out for an Arena team in Kentucky,” Green said. “I timed a 4.52 right out of the gate (here) at 216 pounds. In 2009, I was right at 4.56 to 4.59 … and maybe weighed 205. But you think about that time gap and I really hadn’t been doing any formal training for a 40-yard dash, and at 29 to come in and run that right out of the gate — I mean, that’s still moving.”
Former Science Hill starting running back Armando Canepa was wary of Fudge’s methodology when he was in high school. Canepa started his college career at Carson-Newman and has since transferred to ETSU, where he is considering playing for the Bucs during their exhibition-like season in 2014. Canepa also would like to catch on at a professional or semi-pro level, and has been going to Fudge since November.
“I’ve heard people say — you hear it all the time — they say, ‘All Fudge does is stretch,’” Canepa said. “I mean, he stretches you, but he breaks you down and then builds you back up. It’s a completely different workout. … We did a little bit of resistance bands at Carson-Newman, but it was more with the heavier weights.”
Canepa said he met Fudge at a tryout for the semi-pro Tennessee Crusaders.
“I ran a 40 and he said everything was good and he liked the way I ran, but said there were places I could improve,” Canepa said. “Just being a starting running back at Science Hill and going to Carson-Newman, I’m like, ‘Man, what’s this guy talking about? He doesn’t know what he’s talking about.’ But I came here and he showed me a lot of different things that could shorten the time.”
Tom Conrad came to Johnson City as an assistant basketball coach under Ed DeChellis at ETSU. He’s remained in the area for a decade since, most of which was spent as an Orlando Magic scout. Conrad has known Fudge since the ETSU days, and is so impressed with his workouts that he’d like to get a facility with a basketball goal and perhaps even go into business together.
“I just love Fudge’s intensity,” Conrad said. “And everybody I know that’s gone over there has been very happy with their results. He just has that ability, I think, to reach kids at all ages, and get them to want to get stronger. It’s not a weightlifting program; it’s more of a fitness type program. And I think, especially me as a basketball guy, getting guys stronger in basketball positions is so much better than just pure weights.
“I mean, I think we need pure weights, but also getting guys being able to handle getting knocked down, pushed, being off balance and teaching athletic positions. And I don’t think that gets taught enough at the lower levels.”
Fudge says a lot of area coaches are apparently skeptical of his regimen, which oddly enough, emphasizes the importance of being flexible.
“Some people just don’t like change,” Fudge said. “But resistance (training) helps quick-twitch explosion. … You get more flexibility and less injuries. You’re training like you play on the field.”
Josh Robertson, a former strength coach at Wofford, Appalachian State and Science Hill, describes resistance bands as “snake oil.” Robertson cites numerous sources while questioning the productivity of such training and touting the irreplaceable value of Olympic lifts such as the snatch, squat and clean and jerk.
“There is a coaches’ mentality out there about a lot of that stuff (bands),” Conrad said. “All I know about resistance bands is I saw Dwight Howard doing them in Orlando. So they must be alright. Some of the stuff Fudge does is stuff I saw our strength guy do down in Orlando.”
Fudge said his workout is intended to complement — not replace — free-weight workouts.
Lee Morrow has been a strength coach at ETSU for some 30 years.
“Most of these kids are already getting dead weight,” Morrow said. “What Derek’s doing fills a niche. It’s a smart thing popping up all over the country, and nobody in Johnson City had done that.
“You’ve got D1 in Knoxville. Johnny Long, the former strength coach at Tennessee, is doing that (resistance bands, etc.) now. It’s a way to make good money and you’re helping out the kids.”
Fudge evidently isn’t making athletes physically comfortable, relatively speaking, with an eye on growing clientele.
“We have light days and heavy days,” Canepa said. “Light days, he says, are our days. Heavy days are his days. If you don’t come in with the right mindset on heavy days, then you’ll be done. He’ll push you to your limits.”
Fudge apparently helps athletes psychologically and physically.
“I mean, he’s never been the type to yell and get in your face,” Duncan said. “He’s always just been that encouraging, like, uplifting spirit that everyone wants. It’s not that he’s mean, but he’s hard on us and expects a lot from us. It just makes us better at what we do, and I thank him every day for what he’s done, because if it wasn’t for him I wouldn’t be playing at ETSU.”
Morrow suggests that area coaches skeptical of Fudge could be missing the boat.
“I don’t want to down high school coaches and all of that,” Morrow said, “but some of them who do Xs and Os are not good at training. This is specific training … stuff kids can get, like, on a college level. And at that young age it will really help them.”
Canepa smiles wistfully when thinking about how he initially avoided a steady diet of Fudge.
“When I was at Carson-Newman I was running about a 4.8 and I weighed 225, and I was having knee problems down there,” Canepa said. “When I came here I was probably at 230, and since I’ve been working out with him I’ve dropped down to 190 (in seven months). That’s how much I weighed my senior year in high school. It just feels better to move. I don’t feel bulky and big like I used to. It’s just a whole different kind of workout from lifting weights, and that’s all I used to be into — lifting weights and doing the football sprints.
“With the resistance bands and medicine balls and everything he has, it’s a completely different change — working all kinds of different muscles. It’s not easier at all, but with free weights you’re moving at your own pace. You really can’t move that much when you’ve got 250 pounds and you’re benching it. You’re moving slow, so it’s teaching your muscles to move slow. But in here, regardless of what we’re doing, we’re doing it fast. It’s teaching those muscles to move fast. If I would’ve came here starting when I was 15, I can only imagine man, I can only imagine. If you did this for that long, you’d be a monster.”