JENNIFER FIERRO • PICAYUNE STAFF
MARBLE FALLS — Marble Falls High School junior quarterback Brennen Wooten doesn’t know the number of miles he and his family have traveled to attend various college camps since the beginning of June.
But he can say what has stood out for him as he visited most of the Big 12 members and Texas A&M University.
“Everybody is pretty similar for the most part,” said Wooten, who made the decision July 24 to attend Texas Christian University. “All the campuses for Division I football, they’re the top of the line. They’re all awesome.”
Most of those schools have indoor practice facilities, first-class weight rooms and underwater treadmills, which were considered cutting edge almost a decade ago.
For helping players relax, the campuses have lounges that include pool and ping-pong tables, arcade games and lounge chairs and couches.
“You could see the guys laying there sleeping throughout the day,” the quarterback said.
And yet each one has something unique, Wooten said.
At TCU, Wooten said he stepped into the nitrogen chamber. Only one other sports team has one: the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings.
“They put me in it for the fun of it,” he said. “It’s just from the neck down. If you have any sweat on you, it’s going to freeze.”
The chamber starts at minus-125 degrees and drops to minus-225. Wooten said two minutes in the chamber is the equivalent of a 30-minute ice bath.
At Texas A&M, the weight room has tablets at each station to tell athletes how much weight to lift and the number of repetitions. There are also cameras that record the sessions.
“After you lift, you and the strength coaches review that film,” Wooten said. “I think that’s very cool.”
Since A&M is still working on its facilities, players are going to a different part of the College Station campus to change, shower and clean up, he said.
Officials at the university also are helping athletes prepare for life beyond the sport by offering etiquette classes, measuring players for tailored suits and bringing in professionals to help them write résumès and coach them for job interviews.
“If (athletes are) going to move on to the next level, they need to prepare,” Wooten said. “I can tell A&M is preparing them for that for sure.”
At Arkansas, a state-of-the-art movie theater complete with lounge chairs makes breaking down film enjoyable, Wooten said. And the room is also used to watch movies, which help the players bond. In addition, to honor the Razorbacks who play in the NFL, officials are putting those teams’ gloves on walls instead of helmets.
At Baylor, athletes have a way of improving their eye-to-hand coordination. In a small room on a wall is a light board. Wooten said there are 30-40 lights spread over six rows. When a light turns on, an athlete has to punch it as quickly as possible to turn it off. Position coaches challenge their players to matches.
McLane Stadium, which is slated to open Aug. 30, is located near the Brazos River in Waco. So boat slips are being created to allow people to boat in for home games.
“I think that’s awesome,” Wooten said. “Baylor has a very cool atmosphere. I can see why people are starting to go there.”
Each program talked about how they’ll approach the unlimited meals, which is an NCAA rule change that goes into effect this school year.
“Players can eat whenever they want,” Wooten said. “I know a lot of kids are looking at that. You may not think that’s a big deal, but it is. They’re all starting to build shakes and smoothie bars in the locker rooms.”
At Texas Tech University, the Red Raiders have been taking notes on what each players’ favorite snacks are. Those snacks are put into bags in front of a name plate, so athletes can take the bag with them as they leave from a workout.
While each program offers something that makes it different, Wooten said what he was looking for went beyond facilities, something he found at TCU.
“I’m looking for the best coach to better myself, to hopefully move me on to the next level,” he said. “I’m glad to get out and see those places, but I’m glad to be back with my (teammates in Marble Falls).”