Ndamukong Suh has seen it all.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive tackle has played in nearly 150 career NFL games.
He’s played in a Super Bowl. He’s endured a 4-12 season. He’s been a member of four NFL franchises.
So when the five-time Pro Bowl selection talks about what goes into a winning team culture, we should listen.
On a recent episode of Showtime’s Inside the NFL, Phil Simms asked Suh, “Do you see a difference when you go from (different) organizations around the league, why some teams win and some teams lose?”
Suh responded that there are absolutely differences between winning organizations and losing organizations in the NFL, and that one of the biggest influencers for a team is a person almost none of their fans can name—the strength coach:
“Oh yeah, without question. And I think it starts from the top down. I think a lot of people don’t understand—it’s from the ownership, and then the head coach, and then truthfully, probably one of the biggest secrets, is your strength coach. Your strength coach has a lot of impact on every single player that comes into that organization, because they spend the most time with them. From the offseason to in-season and everything through and through,” said Suh.
A major reason Suh signed with the Los Angeles Rams in 2018 was because Ted Rath was (and remains) their Director of Strength Training and Performance. Rath had been an assistant in both Detroit and Miami during Suh’s stints there, and the two had formed a close bond. Rath was named the 2017 Strength Coach of the Year by the Professional Football Strength and Conditioning Coaches Association.
“(Ted’s) an integral piece. A lot of people don’t know this, but your strength coach is one of the hearts of your team. In my opinion, after the head coach, that’s one of the most important positions,” Suh told The Undefeated shortly after signing with the Rams.
It’s not just true at the NFL level, either. College and high school football players will also often tell you that the coach they spend the most amount of time isn’t their head coach or position coach—it’s their strength coach.
The strength coach—who will ideally be certified by an organization like the National Strength and Conditioning Association or the Collegiate Strength & Conditioning Coaches Association—is not only tasked with enhancing performance, but also helping to define a team’s culture and character.
Their impact often goes unnoticed by outsiders, but as Suh can attest to, they have a massive impact on the program.