VIDEO: Full Media Zoom Conference With Illini Strength & Conditioning Coach Lou Hernandez

Matthew Stevens

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- Illinois football strength and conditioning coach Lou Hernandez spoke for 45 minutes with local media about the current voluntary summer workouts and how his staff are adapting to the new school-mandated regulations created due to the coronavirus epidemic.

Hernandez returned to Illinois as the strength and conditioning coach in 2019 after spending the last seven seasons in the same position at North Carolina. Hernandez led the Fighting Illini football strength and conditioning program from 2005-11 under former then-head coach Ron Zook before moving to UNC from 2012-18. At Illinois, Hernandez coordinated the entire strength program for the football team as well as assisting with nutritional aspects of the players' diets, helping the Illini win back-to-back bowl games in 2010 and 2011.

During his seven seasons with the Tar Heels football program, an average of 45 student-athletes per season power cleaned 308 pounds or more, one of the many quantitative measurements used in Hernandez's program. His strength program played a key role in Carolina's success, including an ACC Coastal Division crown in 2015.

When he began at Illinois in 2005, there was just one player with a 300-pound or better power clean. Five years later, the team averaged close to 35 a year. Only one player in 2005 could bench over 405 and by 2010 that number was in double figures. Hernandez helped train five first-round NFL Draft picks during their time with the Illini program, including Rashard Mendenhall (Pittsburgh) in 2008, Vontae Davis (Miami) in 2009, Corey Liuget (San Diego) in 2011 and Whitney Mercilus (Houston) and A.J. Jenkins (San Francisco) in 2012. That marked the first time in school history that Illinois had produced five first-round draft picks in a five-year span.

Hernandez worked for three seasons at Florida as the assistant director of strength and conditioning from 2002-04. He moved to Florida after serving on the New York Jets staff. Prior to his one-year stint with the Jets, Hernandez spent 10 years at the University of Houston, including five years as the director of the program.

A native of Alice, Texas, Hernandez earned his bachelor's degree in exercise science from the University of Houston in 1992 and his master's degree in exercise and health-related fitness from Houston in 1994. Hernandez is a member of the National Strength and Conditioning Association.

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