Strength Coach Aaron Wellman Happy to Come Back Home to Indiana

Tom Brew

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Aaron Wellman had a great job in the NFL as the strength and conditioning coach with the New York Giants. But once a Hoosier, always a Hoosier. 

So when the same job opened up back at Indiana — a place where he and his wife Shellie both graduated from —  the urge to come home was too great. When Wellman's friend and former player David Ballou left Indiana for Alabama last month, Wellman was thrilled to slide right back into that lead chair at Indiana.

"No. 1, I'm a Hoosier, and you don't often get a chance to come back home,'' Wellman said during a conference call on Tuesday. "I'm thrilled to be back at Indiana for a few reasons. One, this is a university and a football program that's always been special to us, and when I say us, my wife and I and our family. Earlier in my career I spent almost five years here as an assistant, and I've received a couple of degrees from IU, so it's a special place.

"I'm also excited to work for Coach (Tom) Allen, who's a tremendous coach and leader. I'm also looking forward to locking arms with our staff, an outstanding staff of assistant coaches that we truly believe in. And then lastly, we've got a group of talented players who have committed to the process of building a championship program and a group that my staff and I are anxious to begin developing as soon as we can.''

The timing of Wellman's hiring couldn't have been any worse with the COVID-19 pandemic basically sending all of his players back home just as he arrived. He's been doing all he can to speak with players individually and has set up workouts for them all based on the type of equipment — if any — that they have around the house. 

"I was fortunate enough to get in front of the team prior to them leaving for spring break, and I've had individual communication with all of our players, and I think that's important going forward,'' Wellman said. "We're just trying to get to know them. I've had several conversations, either via text, or via messaging over apps. Unfortunately that's kind of the situation we're in right now, so I'm trying to get to know our players as much as I can through this situation.''

Allen has talked often this offseason when filling out his coaching staff that continuity was important. Good things are happening in the Indiana program — the Hoosiers won eight games last year for the first time in 26 years — and maintaining that same success in the weight room was important, too.

Allen knew Wellman a little bit. He was on campus last year visiting with Ballou, and he spent some time talking to the team while he was here. So when Ballou left, there was an obvious attraction on both sides.

"I wanted to make sure that we had somebody who, first of all, fit with us,'' Allen said. "When I talked to our team the very night that we had the meeting letting them know that there would be a change there, I told them that these are the things I'm looking for, and we talked about it just kind of open and honestly.

"They wanted a guy that fits us, a guy that fits our program. A cultural fit. A philosophy fit. They said they wanted somebody that cares about us as young men, as a person, and that's going to help us become a better man, and that's kind of the cornerstone to what we do here in all of our hiring.''

Not missing a beat is important too, especially if this virus condenses the offseason quite a bit.  That's why it helps that Wellman is a big believer in what Ballou and Dr. Matt Rhea were doing here. He's very familiar with what they were doing, and he's been collecting and implementing data the same way himself for years.

"I've kept track of Dave because he played for me here, and so I've known Dave for 20 years,'' Wellman said "He and Dr. Rhea did a great job here. I think the whole field, the people that are forward-thinking in this field, have used data moreso in the last five, ten years than we ever did before, and I think it's a mistake not to. 

"I think it's a mistake not to use data in decision-making. Will that drive every decision? Not necessarily, but it certainly plays a part in the decision-making process.

Wellman graduated from IU in 1996 and he's spent the past 15 years leading strength programs, most recently for four years with the Giants. Prior to that, he was at Michigan (2011-14), San Diego State (2009-10) and Ball State (2004-08). He's very impressed with all the new facilities at Indiana, and knows there's a big commitment behind that now.

"I think you're speaking from experience like I am that the commitment to football at Indiana is at an all-time high,'' Wellman said. "I think with this university and this athletic program, and I know with Coach Allen, that the commitment level here is as great or greater than any school in the country, and our facilities are second to none from a football standpoint, and really from an athletic department standpoint.

"The technology we have in the room is great. We've been using this technology for seven to eight years ourselves, so we're familiar with the technology. We can hit the ground running with it, and like I mentioned before, the facilities are second to none.''

Related Indiana football stories

  • BALLOU, RHEA HIRED BY ALABAMA: Nick Saban swooped in and hired away Indiana's talented performance guys David Ballou and Dr. Matt Rhea. CLICK HERE 
  • TOM BREW COLUMN: Promoting from within the right thing to do with hiring Scott Dolson as Indiana's new athletic director. CLICK HERE
  • JORDAN HOWARD TO MIAMI: Former Indiana running back Jordan Howard signs a new deal with the Dolphins. CLICK HERE
  • SUDFELD STAYS WITH EAGLES: Former Indiana quarterback Nate Sudfeld signs a one-year deal to stay with the Philadelphia Eagles. CLICK HERE
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IU 4 Life
IU 4 Life

I was very worried when Strength and Conditioning Coach Ballou left. The S&C program was such a fundamental portion of IUs plan for success. Those concerns are much more relieved now after this part of the article.

" That's why it helps that Wellman is a big believer in what Ballou and Dr. Matt Rhea were doing here. He's very familiar with what they were doing, and he's been collecting and implementing data the same way himself for years."

We seem to have a lot of elements coming together for a good IU football future.