The Journal Gazette
Thursday, March 26, 2020 1:00 am

IU has faith in native of Ligonier

Strength coach looks to help take next step

CAMERON DRUMMOND | For The Journal Gazette

BLOOMINGTON – When Aaron Wellman thinks about the factors that have brought him success as a football strength and conditioning coach, he points to his upbringing.

The West Noble graduate speaks about the qualities instilled in him by his parents, Jerry and Ann, who taught him the value of being a high character individual with a strong work ethic.

Those qualities were apparent to Indiana coach Tom Allen, who formally introduced Wellman to the media Tuesday as Indiana's senior assistant athletic director for football performance, essentially the team's strength and conditioning coach.

Wellman replaces David Ballou and Matt Rhea, strength and speed gurus who helped revolutionize Indiana's workout regime before departing this offseason for Alabama.

In Wellman, Indiana adds another native Hoosier to its coaching staff, one Allen believes is a philosophical fit for his future plans.

“He's a 'find-a-way' kind of guy,” Allen said. “That's what I want on our staff. I want guys that don't tell me what we can't do. I want guys that help us find a way to do what we want to do and I believe we can do here in this program.”

Wellman's career path has come full circle.

After playing four years of football at Manchester University, Wellman began his coaching career in Bloomington. He spent time as a graduate assistant and an assistant strength and conditioning coach with the Hoosiers from 1997 to 2001, before leaving to work in different capacities in the strength and conditioning at Michigan State, Ball State, San Diego State and Michigan.

It was his most recent stop with the NFL's New York Giants that brought him onto Allen's radar.

Ballou played at Indiana while Wellman had his first coaching stint at the school. That relationship allowed Wellman to make a visit to IU last year, where he spent time with the strength staff and spoke to the team.

Down the road, it meant Allen had enough interest in Wellman to inquire about him with the Giants, and Allen heard rave reviews.

“(Wellman) will spend until 3, 4 in the morning if he has to,” he said. “It's a 'whatever-it-takes' mindset, and to me that's how we're going to be successful here.”

The compensation for Wellman, $700,000 a year, ranks him as the third-highest paid strength coach in the country, behind only Chris Doyle of Iowa ($800,000) and Mickey Marotti of Ohio State ($735,000).

Allen described that kind of administrative investment in the program as “unprecedented” and a “huge statement toward our commitment to helping this program continue to grow.”

“The head strength coach is the guy that spends the most time with your players of anybody else on our staff,” Allen said. “I just really think it sends a strong message about how important football is becoming here at Indiana.”

Of course, tangible changes have recently occurred, from the completion of Memorial Stadium's renovations to the football-only facilities and a locker room that now line the underbelly of the stadium.

Even technological changes to the weight room represent a stark contrast to what Wellman worked with at the turn of the century.

“The commitment to football at Indiana is at an all-time high,” he said. “The commitment level here is as great, or greater, than any school in the country.”

The short-term challenges facing Wellman, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, are much different than the distant ones. For now, Wellman is helping coordinate specific workouts for each player based on the equipment they have available to them.

In the long term, Wellman wants to champion “movement efficiency” among players and plans to build power, speed and strength for each player on that foundation.

All these plans can now be set in motion because Wellman is back home. He said he followed his gut and the feeling in his heart to return to where he began.

Allen believes that's a natural incentive toward creating future success.

“When you get a guy that is from here, his wife's family is from here, that creates a tie, it creates a passion,” Allen said.

“It creates a personal connection that you can't fabricate any other way. Home is home ... when you have a chance to be able to come home ... it just means something different to you.”

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