ONU’s exercise physiology program is preparing students for opportunities at the highest level in NCAA athletics.
From Polar Bears to Gators, Johnny Rupp is learning how to bring out the best in college football players. This summer, the exercise physiology major will help train elite college athletes at one of the country’s top football programs. Elated to land such a coveted internship, he can’t wait to dive in.
“Coming from a small town like Ada going to D1 Florida Gators is beyond incredible,” said Rupp. “The opportunity will allow me to progress and gain knowledge in my field, and also to establish connections with D1 coaches, which will hopefully benefit me later down the line when looking for a job.”
Rupp transferred to ONU his junior year from another Northwest Ohio private college. He loved Northern’s strong sense of community and knew he’d receive personal attention from his professors. “The sense of family here has created a home away from home,” he said. “Being in this environment has given me the opportunity to become the best version of myself and set clear future goals.”
As someone who loves athletics, Rupp is fascinated by the human body and how it responds to exercise. He views physical training as a powerful tool. “You can make a huge difference in someone’s life through a barbell,” he explains. “You can push them physically as well as mentally.”
At ONU, Rupp has gained knowledge and skills inside and outside the classroom. He’s designed individualized fitness plans for faculty and staff and overseen their training as part of the Next Step-You program. He has also interned with Coach Aaron Collazo, doing strength and conditioning for the Polar Bear football team. Collazo, notably, interned with the Florida Gators before coming to ONU.
Kurt Wilson, assistant professor of exercise physiology & athletic training, has built an extensive network of contacts throughout the country for Northern’s new strength and conditioning undergraduate major. He, along with Coach Collazo, paved the way for Johnny’s internship at the University of Florida.
Florida’s Zach Akenberger, assistant director of strength and conditioning, says he was impressed by Johnny’s attitude and preparation. “We look for individuals who are hungry to learn, have a great work ethic, and who want to be part of something bigger than themselves.”
Akenberger added that ONU’s strength and conditioning education program appears to close the gap between academics and practical application. “What stood out to me was when Kurt Wilson reached out to a multitude of strength and conditioning professionals while designing ONU’s strength and conditioning curriculum,” he said. “His determination to design an academic curriculum that would better prepare students for after they graduate was second to none and is why I believe ONU’s strength and conditioning education program is going to set a new standard.”
The Florida Gators offer an impressive internship program with proven results. “We have a full 16-week curriculum that each full-time coach has a major part in,” said Akenberger. “The curriculum ranges from programming, leadership and professional development, and application.”
Rupp is confident that the skills and preparation he has received at ONU will allow him to take his learning to the next level in Gainesville. “I hope to develop great relationships with the strength staff and build on my knowledge of program design, proper lifting techniques, managing a room, and the art of being a coach,” he said. “This internship will significantly prepare me for this profession.”