NORMAN — As offensive tackle Daryl Williams jogged to the sideline in the third quarter of Oklahoma's 34-0, season-opening rout of Louisiana-Monroe, he felt a cramp forming in his leg.
“Coach Tiff! Coach Tiff!” Williams screamed to Tiffany Byrd, OU's first-year Director of Sports Nutrition, who rushed over with some salt packets and oranges.
“I was good to go,” Williams said. “No more cramps.”
Several Sooners described their amazement at their lack of cramping Saturday. Lots of factors are involved in that, but player nutrition is undoubtedly one of them. It's just one of the many benefits to having Byrd around.
Byrd estimates she's one of around 50 directors of sports nutrition around the country. OU added the position earlier this year, joining a growing trend in college athletics.
“It's about where strength and conditioning was about 30, 35 years ago,” Byrd said. “Our vision for our field is that every school be able to have a director of sports nutrition.”
Byrd, a former gymnast at Alabama and Nebraska, spent last year at Baylor. When she arrived in Norman, she jumped right in with the football team. That clear, immediate dedication made the players buy in quickly.
Byrd's top three priorities have been ensuring athletes eat a good breakfast every day, stay hydrated and are able to sufficiently recover from workouts.
“I noticed that recovery was not as present here,” Byrd said. “I focused on all three of those, but recovery was really the main thing that I tried to target.”
The first weight lifting group arrives at 5:45 a.m. each day. Byrd gets there an hour earlier than that.
“Coach Tiff's done a great job providing us with food, shakes, all kinds of supplements and snacks we haven't had here in the past,” said senior center Gabe Ikard. “I think it'll really help us as we get deeper in the season, being able to recover from long games, from long days of practice and from the lifting we still do during the season.”
Jerry Schmidt, OU's longtime strength and conditioning coach, said that before Byrd joined the team, players' post-workout nutrition was basically left up to them.