August 16, 2020

Penn State Director of Performance Enhancement Dwight Galt. Photo courtesy Penn State Daily Collegian/David Reiling.

The Nittany Lions football program was rife with scandal and mediocrity beginning in 2010. The team finished 7-6 that year, culminating with a 37-24 loss to Florida in the Outback Bowl. The team rebounded in 2011 and got off to an 8-1 start. But on November 5, 2011, former Penn State defense coordinator Jerry Sandusky was charged with 52 counts of child sexual abuse. Long-time head coach Joe Paterno was fired three days later due to his alleged failure to report Sandusky’s crimes. Tom Bradley took over as interim head coach. The damaged was too great for Bradley to overcome. The team finish the season 1-3, including a 30-14 loss to Houston in the Ticket City Bowl.

Bill O’Brien to James Franklin

The university and football program were initially given near-death penalty sanctions, including loss of scholarships and postseason bans. Penn State hired former New England Patriots offensive assistant Bill O’Brien to take over the program. O’Brien performed well despite the sanctions, finishing 9-4 and 8-4 in 2011 and 2012, respectively. But he abruptly left the program for the Houston Texans head coaching job. The Nittany Lions were once again without a coach and still facing sanctions.

Penn State needed to make a splash hire for head coach to inject life back into the program. They plucked James Franklin from Vanderbilt despite his own controversial issues. Franklin had just led the Commodores on an unprecedented run for the program. Vanderbilt won three straight bowl games after previously never going to a bowl game in consecutive seasons. He also led the Commodores to two straight nine-win seasons for the first time in school history. Vanderbilt also won five conference games in a season for the first time since 1935. Penn State finished 7-6 in Franklin’s first two seasons. But the team has a 42-11 record in the last four seasons and continue getting stronger.

Franklin deserves credit. But the other common factor in Franklin’s incredible run as a top-notch NCAA football coach is his strength and conditioning coach at both Vanderbilt and Penn State. Many feel he deserves equal or more credit for the success of these two programs since 2011.

Who is Dwight Galt III?

Galt has been a strength and conditioning coach for more than 34 years. He and Franklin have a history spanning 16 years, working together at Maryland, Vanderbilt and now Penn State. Galt’s official title at Penn State is assistant athletic director and director of performance enhancement. He oversees all strength and conditioning regimens for all varsity sports programs at the university. Football, of course, is his primary focus.

Iowa’s Chris Doyle (fired in June) and Ohio State’s Mickey Mariotti were the top-paid NCAA strength and conditioning coaches in 2019, according to data compiled by USA Today. Galt, however, has the resume to argue that he is the best in the business. It starts with his 2018 class. Running back Saquon Barkley finished in the 98th percentile for running backs at the NFL Combine that year. Tight end Mike Gesicki and safety Troy Apke both finished in the 99th percentile for their positions. Barkley added five inches to his vertical jump and cut his 40 time by .25 seconds in four years under Galt, according to

Galt trained 33 total NFL draft picks who finished in the 50th percentile or higher at the combine since 2012, the most of all strength and conditioning coaches in the country. His success stretches back to Maryland as well. Galt was the strength coach for elite combine standouts like Shawne Merriman, Torrey Smith, Vernon Davis, D’Qwell Jackson and Darrius Heyward Bey.

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