Man behind muscle finds fitting career

Terps' strength coach excels at conditioning

February 06, 2002|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

At 6 feet 5, 295 pounds, with the chiseled physique of a body builder, size 19 shoes and shoulders that fill a doorway, Kurtis Shultz hardly can be viewed as a man behind the scenes.

But the next time you see Maryland center Lonny Baxter running the floor tirelessly and wearing another player down, think of Shultz.

The next time you notice 170-pound guard Juan Dixon holding his own while driving the lane and slamming into much bigger opponents, or forward Tahj Holden knocking someone out of the paint and maintaining his position, think of Shultz.

Shultz is no secret in College Park, where the No. 3 Terps are working toward a return trip to the Final Four with the combination of quickness, muscle and toughness that can be traced to the work of their strength and conditioning coach.

He also is no stranger in the fitness-minded community at large, where his clients include such Ravens players as All-Pro linebacker Ray Lewis, several teams at Johns Hopkins and scores of people he trains each week in some 20 classes, ranging from kick boxing to martial arts.

On game day, Shultz is impossible to miss. He's the massive, bald guy who resembles a bouncer in a suit as he stretches the Terps before tip-off, then takes a seat on the bench and waits to deal with the next cramp or pain that might affect a player.

The bulk of his work is done out of the public eye, during the off-season, although Shultz supervises periodic weightlifting sessions and will make sure a player like Baxter gets in his extra running on a treadmill after a given practice.

"Kurtis gets us ready. There's never a light day with him. He stays on us. He's what we need," Baxter said.

"Kurtis has definitely been good for this team," added Dixon. "I'm a lot stronger. I'm taking a lot more bumps. I think I'm finishing well and I'm able to go off the dribble more because of my strength. Kurtis does his job."

Shultz, 29, a Baltimore native, has fueled a growing business by coming full circle. From 1992 to 1995, he played for coach Gary Williams at Maryland as a backup guard/forward who performed sparingly and battled injuries constantly.

Reconstructive ankle surgery limited him to four games as a senior. He's had back problems, shoulder surgery and four ankle operations. He said his knees have been drained a combined seven times.

Shultz graduated with a degree in kinesiology and originally envisioned a career in physical therapy. But after trying his hand at training a few clients privately about six years ago, he sensed a pull in a different direction.

"I love the human body, I love lifting, and I decided to try to keep people out of physical therapy," said Shultz, who was hired at Maryland three years ago and knows all about pain. "The first thing I ever say when I give a speech [to a prospective client] is I'm messed up. I explain everything that's wrong with me. I have scars all over."

Shultz rejoined Maryland shortly after the Terps were blown out by St. John's in the Sweet 16 round of the 1999 NCAA tournament. Williams did not like the way his team had been shoved around late that season, and he had heard how Shultz had established himself in other circles, beginning with the Loyola College men's lacrosse program under then-coach Dave Cottle.

Now, one reason you never see Baxter or Holden or Chris Wilcox or Ryan Randle get manhandled is Shultz. He devised a drill in which a group of four players takes turns individually trying to push him out of the paint.

"It's like a football drill," said Baxter, who at 260 pounds has never been trimmer. "I don't think you see too many basketball players doing that."

"I'm dying after that [drill], but we are not going to get pushed around," said Shultz, who stresses endurance and flexibility with things like boxing and doesn't overemphasize muscular development.

On a tip from a Shultz client, Ravens assistant strength coach Chip Morton introduced a handful of Ravens to Shultz and his boxing class two years ago. Not only has Shultz developed steady off-season work with the team in that area, he also has become a part-time, personal trainer to a number of players, including Shannon Sharpe and Ray Lewis.

Last July, Lewis needed to shed about 10 pounds quickly before doing a calendar photo shoot. On short notice, he called Shultz, who suddenly changed his plans. For the next week, he accompanied Lewis to Cancun and Los Angeles.

"Kurtis doesn't just train you. He trains with you. He brings out your competitive spirit," said Lewis.

Shultz, who earns $20,000 a year at Maryland, has a packed schedule, which he arranges around the Terps during the season. He has always taken his work seriously, and he had two pretty good role models.

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