COPPERAS COVE — “I am the master of my fate. I am the captain of my soul.”
That’s the quote written on the back wall of the gym at Beyond Limits Strength and Conditioning in Copperas Cove.
After spring football for the Bulldawgs was canceled following the surprise departure of longtime head coach Jack Welch, a few members of the team decided to take preparations for next season into their own hands.
“Anybody knows if they take a break over the summer and come back, they’re going to get beat,” trainer and Beyond Limits owner Benjamin Eseroma said.
Eseroma, or Coach Ben as he’s better known, has been working with various players individually over the years and is a fan of Cove football.
Welch’s departure left many uncertain of what was in store for the Bulldawgs.
In early May, the Copperas Cove Independent School District approved the hiring of Jack Alvarez as the new athletic director and head football coach for the high school.
“We don’t know what’s going on and we’re not going to teach these kids to get their heads into politics,” Eseroma said. “Let’s just get them in here, let’s get them training.
He told the players who have chosen to train with him, “Whatever you guys have from last year, let’s keep it going and try to bring a winning season.”
The program Eseroma has at Beyond Limits focuses on weightlifting, injury mitigation and polishing athletes’ mechanics.
“Our goal is to teach them to work out well,” he said, noting that if the players ever encounter an offseason similar to this one again, “they’ll know what to do, including staying on top of their cardiovascular conditioning.”
A firm believer in Eseroma’s program is Shane Connell, father of Floyd and Tommy Connell.
Both of his sons played on the varsity at Copperas Cove last season, Tommy will return for his senior year. Floyd graduates next week and has signed to play for Louisiana-Monroe on a full scholarship after earning District 8-6A Offensive MVP and all-state honors last season.
Shane has been bringing his boys to Beyond Limits to train with Eseroma for three years.
“Just their overall endurance,” Connell said of the biggest change he has seen, “being able to put out that extra in our times, our running, our 40s, and our verticals.”
One moment in particular stands out to Shane. Last season Floyd made a catch and was almost dragged down backward by his jersey as he tried to cross into the end zone.
“He was able to pull out of it and make the touchdown,” recalled Shane, who immediately called Eseroma after witnessing the play. “Anybody else would have been dragged down, but because of the stuff we do here with the coaches, it gives us that something extra.”
The training these athletes receive at Beyond Limits comes from trainers who have experience on the field. Eseroma is a former player, and his brother Matthew was a two-time NFL combine invitee.
Coach Tyrone Carrasquillo played at Wisconsin while obtaining his Bachelor of Science degree in kinesiology and went on to become the assistant strength coach at the University of Texas before Beyond Limits.
From their personal experiences, the trainers have been able to help the athletes from Copperas Cove while also encouraging them to be leaders off the field.
“At times in our careers it seemed like nobody was there,” Eseroma said, “and that’s when you need to step up as a captain and say, ‘let’s get the entire team to the gym.’
“I would dedicate time in my gym throughout the summer for Cove Bulldawgs, in any sport for that matter. Let’s bring them in here, let’s keep them engaged, keep them out of trouble and keep them working out to try and bring another winning season to Copperas Cove.”
While Eseroma is offering these athletes the place and opportunity, it’s the Cove players themselves that choose to spend their time in the gym.
“We’re trying to get to the state championship next year,” said Tommy Connell. “So we’re bringing some of the guys from our school to work hard and try to get that top trophy.
“We have about 14 of our guys, some of key players, coming day-in and day-out to work out with us.”
Despite the distractions off the field, Shane knows his son and the others on the team are going to do all they can in preparation for August.
“Regardless of what’s going on with the coaching staff, we’re still going to be here,” Connell said of Beyond Limits. “We’re still going to being doing whatever we need to get ahead.
“And when it’s time, we’ll be ready to go.”