MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Every school has "max-out day," when guys try to better their best in a bunch of weight-lifting exercises — bench press, squat, hang clean. It's no different at Kansas State.
But when linebacker Jonathan Truman wraps his fingers around the bar, and there is so much iron on the ends that it almost seems to bend, everybody else in the room stops what they're doing.
They all want to see him post some unconscionable number.
"The dude is a machine. He really is," said B.J. Finney, the Wildcats' starting center. "It doesn't matter what lift, he does the technique perfectly. Bar goes up, bar goes down. He hits those numbers. He's a freak, and it shows up on the football field."
In fact, his brute strength is one of the biggest reasons why Truman has gone from a walk-on safety known more for his wrestling prowess to a two-year starter at linebacker for No. 20 Kansas State, which opens its season a week from Saturday against Stephen F. Austin.
Truman redshirted before spending his first two seasons mainly on special teams, but he kept toiling away in that weight room, through the parched summer months that turn the Flint Hills brown and right through the football season, when players are always crunched for time.
The bar went up. The bar went down.
Perfect form every time.
When his junior season rolled around, Truman had muscled his way into the starting lineup. He had 10 tackles in his first game and never slowed down, finishing second on the team and ninth in the Big 12 with 89 tackles. He also forced a pair of fumbles and helped out in pass coverage.
It was hardly a surprise when he was voted a team captain as a senior.
"Mentally and physically, there's no doubt. He's a freak," defensive end Ryan Mueller said. "And that's a good thing, to be known as a freak in football. And in the weight room, yeah, he's pretty crazy. I have a tremendous amount of respect for him."
Just how strong is the 5-foot-11, 215-pound Truman?
— In the bench press, the classical move that works the chest and shoulders, Truman has been known to put up 430 pounds. That's about the weight of an upright piano.
— In the hang clean, in which a standing lifter jerks the barbell to the chest, Truman has put more than 400 pounds. That's about the weight of an adult male gorilla.
— In the squat, which works the glutes and muscles in the upper legs, Truman has easily put up more than 540 pounds. That's about the weight of an empty vending machine.
Maybe one that's been cleaned out by Truman while he's trying to fuel his workouts.
"I've always enjoyed working out when I was younger," he said. "I always admired strong people, and how it helps them develop in other ways. And with working out in the offseason, it helps us perform better on the field. It's something I take very seriously."
The strength pays off in other areas, too. Truman was helping some buddies move to another apartment this past summer and, not surprisingly, they made him carry all the heavy stuff.
"Coming in as an undersized linebacker, I've had to use my strength instead of my body size to fend off the 300-pound o-linemen coming after me," Truman said. "To use my body in a way that's an advantage for me is something I've had to learn to do."
The Wildcats under Bill Snyder have always taken strength training seriously. Several pages in the media guide are dedicated to the program, and the program's records for some of the most common lifts are posted prominently around the football facility.
Truman may never eclipse any of them — such as the 666 pounds that defensive tackle Andrew Bulman bench pressed in 2004 — because of his relatively small stature. But that certainly doesn't mean his work has gone unnoticed.
"He's a great lifter. He works at it, and you've got to admire him about that," defensive coordinator Tom Hayes said, "because you're not going to get that unless you're strong in the mind and want to work. He's an example that we can put in front of all our other players."