The most surprising thing about UL's imposing new strength and conditioning coach Russel Whitt-- once you get past his stone-chiseled, athletic, 6'3" frame, his intimidating burn-right-through-you stare, and the knowledge that he has the ability to off you James Bond style-- is that he's actually not that scary.

ultoday.com caught up with him to find out a bit more about the man behind the stare.

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Tell us about yourself.

Hmm, how far back should I go? I was a linebacker at Abilene Christian University in Texas. There I discovered the enormous impact that proper strength and conditioning can have on an athlete, both on the field and off. I developed a passion for it, and decided that I wanted to be a strength and conditioning coach. After college I got my first job as a graduate assistant at Midwestern State in Texas in 1995. From there I got a G.A. spot at the University of Texas. It was at Texas that I got my first experience with top-level athletes.

What athletes did you work with at Texas?

Ricky Williams was there. He was one of the most genetically gifted athletes I have ever seen. Priest Holmes, the long-time Kansas City Chiefs back was there as well. There were a few others.

After Texas I was lucky enough to receive a graduate internship with the Olympic Training Center. I helped train the greco-roman wrestling and men's volleyball teams. Those wrestlers were some of the most dedicated and hardest-working athletes I have ever encountered. They were machines that would not quit.

After that I took jobs at William & Mary, Louisville, and Sam Houston State. I left Sam Houston State to join the military in 2001.

What made you decide to join the military?

September 11, 2001.

At that time I was recovering from a torn ACL injury, and I was spending a lot of time on my couch watching TV. When 9/11 happened, the emotions from the injury mixed with the emotions from seeing all the helpless people on TV had a big impact on me. It was then that I knew I would join the military.

Is it true that members of your family have been involved in the military since the Civil War?

Well, we actually go back to the Revolutionary War. But yes, my family has a strong military background.

What branch of the military did you join?

I joined the Army and ended up staying for six years. My plan was always to get back into coaching. Serving in the military was just something I had to do. I was originally in the Army Rangers and then joined the Special Forces.

Do you have any interesting stories from that time?

Hmm, there are a lot of stories.  But not many I can tell you.

You might find this funny, there were many ways we would cope with the pressure of the Special Forces course to alleviate stress. One was this brewery in Fayetteville NC that had a Karaoke night every Friday. My army buddies and I, usually between 7 and 10 of us, would flood the place. We had a rule that you couldn't choose your own song, you had to perform any song that was written down for you. So I found myself up on stage a few times singing, "I Will Always Love You" by Dolly Parton in front of about 50 'adoring fans.'

One of my good friends, a stocky, muscle-bound former high school wrestler, had a favorite song, "Any Man of Mine" by Shania Twain, and he would always rock it out. So you had these Type A, macho guys up on stage singing women's songs... of course, nobody made fun of us. We would laugh hysterically all night.