Jeff Madden

Jeff Madden: Living Legend

What does it mean to be a legend?

When one ponders legends, they are likely to find themselves picturing King Arthur and his knights of the round table or Robin Hood and his band of merry men. The word invokes memories of stories like Tarzan, Hercules, or Zorro. But these are just that — stories. They aren’t real. They are fantasy. Fiction. Fairy tale.

Sometimes, legends do come to life. Sometimes, legends are as real as it gets. Such is the case with Jeff Lamar Madden, this year’s inductee as a CSCCa Legend in the Field of Strength and Conditioning.

“I’m excited beyond belief to be named a legend by the Collegiate Strength and Conditioning Coaches association, period,” Madden says. “You always want to leave the ground a little bit more fertile than it was when you got there. This is just a culmination of all the years in this profession. The hard work is paying off and being recognized, so it’s a tremendous honor for me. And for all those that have come from my coaching tree, or have learned from me, this is for them as well, and they’ve also become extremely successful.”

Madden’s resume more than checks all the boxes required to have achieved this lofty status. An All-City, All-State and All-Star athlete in his day, he went on to train over 15,000 athletes, hundreds of whom went on to become professional athletes and Olympians, in a coaching career that’s spanned nearly four decades. The football teams he was directly responsible for training had a combined record of 244-70 and won Two National Championships.

In 2001, he was part of the inaugural class of CSCCa Master Strength and Conditioning Coaches. In 2003, he was inducted into the USA Strength and Conditioning Hall of Fame, and the following year he was named the 2004 National Strength and Conditioning Coach of the Year by the Professional Football Strength and Conditioning Coaches Society. In 2005 he was named the College Strength and Conditioning Coach of the Year by long-time CSCCa sponsor, Samson Equipment.

Madden has been a certified expert for the National Association of Speed & Explosion since 1985, is master certified with the International Sports Sciences Association since 1991 and has been a member of the National Strength and Conditioning Association since 1984. Since 1989, Madden’s teams appeared in 24 consecutive bowl games, and he coached teams that played in four national title games at the NCAA Division I level, winning one at Colorado and another at Texas.

Recognition as a Legend in the Field speaks to more than career accolades and success in competition. It encompasses tremendous impact — not only on other coaches and the student-athletes, but on the profession as a whole. Legends like Madden devote their entire lives and careers to a higher calling, not only helping young athletes reach their athletic potential, but also helping them develop strong work ethic, discipline, teamwork and all the other qualities critical to building moral character and integrity.

With this honor, Madden, or “Maddog” to most everyone who has had the privilege of working with him, joins an incredible group of other Legends in the Field. It solidifies his place among the greats, joining the ranks of 2007 inductees Al Vermeil, Meg Stone, Al Miller and Boyd Epley, 2008 inductees Stan Jones, John Stucky and Bob Ward, 2009 inductees Alvin Roy, Dr. Terry Todd, Johnny Parker and Dr. Chuck Stiggins, 2011 inductees Clyde Emrich and Lou Riecke, 2012 inductees Pat O’Shea and Tom Cross, 2013 inductees Mike Brungardt and Gayle Hatch, 2015 inductee Brad Roll, and 2017 inductee E.J. “Doc” Kreis.

Legendary Foundation

Madden was born on June 12, 1961, in Cleveland, Ohio, to Wayne and Beverly Madden, the second of two children. It may be a bit of an exaggeration to say he was born to be
a legend, but there were numerous signs early on that this young man was destined for greatness.

His father was a Marine Corps Drill Instructor, a position steeped in mystique and commonly referred to as “Legendary” within Marine circles. His dad challenged him physically, with body-weight exercises and drills befitting the nation’s finest. He also ensured he learned discipline and the value of hard work, as young Jeff shoveled snow, cut grass, and made sure he was making his “rack,” the Marine term for bed, nice and tight each morning — with crisp 45-degree folds on the corners, of course.

His mother pushed Madden academically, and he excelled in school. He tested out of the local public elementary schools, and his parents sacrificed and paid the price for him to attend St. Joseph’s, a much more challenging private school.

“So, I went to St. Joseph’s and excelled there, but it was a different environment for me,” Madden recalls. “I remember the guys in the neighborhood teasing me because I was going from an all-black neighborhood to an all-white neighborhood, and it was not without consequences.”

Growing up during the peak of the Civil Rights Movement, it’s unsurprising Madden had to deal with the effects of racism from a young age. He laughs off the days of sprinting to his bus stop, covering the ground between the relative comfort of his school and his transportation home as quickly as possible. Experiences like that left an imprint on him, and he would later use these same experiences to champion the cause of equality at some of the most prominent athletic programs in the country.

During these early years, Madden also fell in love with athletics. He would follow along with The Jack LaLanne Show and perform bodyweight training. He loved martial arts, basketball, track and football. His was All-City, All-American and All-State at St. Joseph’s, while at the same time achieving All Scholastic Honors.

After high school, he was recruited by over 100 colleges and universities to play football, and ultimately accepted a scholarship from Vanderbilt University where he became an All-Star player, going both ways as both a defensive tackle and an offensive guard.

Legendary Influence

After finishing his degree in sociology at Vanderbilt in 1983, Madden was left asking himself the same question most college grads ask — what’s next? It wasn’t long before he found his answer.

In college, Madden was coached by another Legend in the Field, “Doc” Kreis. Doc opened the young athlete’s eyes to the potential in strength and conditioning as a profession, while at the same time convincing Madden — intentionally or not — that it was the coolest job in the world.

“Doc was my coach in college. He came from the Georgia State Prison System’s football program, where he had been teaching the prisoners how to lift and came in to teach us at Vanderbilt as well,” Madden says. “He just came in and created a totally different atmosphere. He was a big strong guy that could take your max and probably warm-up with it.

“He became my lifting partner. Soon, I got strong enough to hang with him. Then, I got stronger than him, but it took a long time, and he kept me setting and reaching new goals. Beyond that, I was learning and watching and seeing how he handled situations. When adversity came, how did he handle it? Some of the key points that you had to learn being a strength and conditioning coach I learned from Doc.

“And I also saw how happy he was. He wore shorts to work every day. They gave him a Jeep. They gave him an apartment right next to campus. And he had everybody from the mayor to the chief of police working out. He was known everywhere. So, I said, ‘Yeah, that’s a pretty good job. I might want to do this for a living.’”

Madden was influenced by a long list of professionals, including Martin Poe, John Storey, Dr. Fred “Squat” Hatfield, Dr. Bob Ward, Al Miller, Bruno Pauletto, Dana LeDuc, Boyd Epley, Ben Tabachnik, Angel Spassov, John Gamble, Pete Martinelli, Brad Rolle, Donald Chu, Victor Lopez, Curtis Frye, Bev Kearney — the list goes on and on. Doc, who passed away in February, remains the biggest coaching influence on him to this day. He remembers him fondly and still often finds himself asking, “What would Doc do?”

Legendary Career

During the summer of 1983, Madden became a graduate assistant at the University of Cincinnati for the Bearcats football team, coaching the offensive line, as well as serving as the team’s strength and conditioning coach under head coach Watson Brown. After a successful season and beating the previous year’s National Championship Team, Watson Brown took the Head Football job at Rice University while Jeff was drafted by the Birmingham Stallions, a pro team in the United States Football League (USFL).

After two years in the USFL, including a stop with the Memphis Showboats, Madden rejoined Watson Brown at Rice as associate head strength and conditioning coach, where he remained on staff until 1989. He coached the Olympic sports teams, teaching hard work, mental toughness, and the “will to win.”

“Watson called me almost every day and asked me to come join him at Rice,” Madden says with a chuckle. “He needed me. So, he put together a package that was comparable to my compensation with the Showboats, and I was on my way to Rice.

“Then, around 1984, that’s when I really started meeting people in the profession. I started networking. I went up to Dana LeDuc and Meg Ritchie, she started around the same time.
We spoke at several different clinics together. So, you form a bond and friendships along the way.

“And you know, every now and then a jewel of wisdom would pop out of their mouth, and they’ll tell you something that you need to know.”

Madden’s next stop was the University of Colorado in 1989 with hall-of-fame coach Bill McCartney. He spent four years with the Buffs, coordinating all 15 intercollegiate sports. Looking back on the Colorado job, it would be easy to assume it was a dream scenario for Madden as a young strength and conditioning coach. By today’s standards, the Colorado job is highly coveted. Unfortunately for Madden, he didn’t start coaching there in 2022. He walked into a much different Buffs program in 1989.

“My whole job at Colorado was to get those guys to come together,” Madden explains. “We had a split team. Coach McCartney was in a situation where he had around 20 players that had been to jail while they were on campus. They had fights among the student-athletes and locals, and it goes all the way back to the same Black and White stuff.

“I remember going to buy a house and the woman said, well, you must be with the university. I said, ‘Why do you say that?’ She said, ‘Because you’re Black and you’re in Boulder. There’s no reason for somebody Black to be in Boulder unless you’re with the university.”

Madden says he viewed this time as an opportunity to use the power of athletics to bring people together. And that’s exactly what he did. Bit by bit, lift by lift, practice by practice, the Buffs became a cohesive team.

Sometimes it was as simple — conceptually, at least — as mandating integration. The White team captains would work with their Black teammates. The Black team captains would work with their White teammates. Athletes had to step outside their comfort zone. They had to make an effort to walk a mile in their teammates’ shoes. A simple concept, but it proved much more difficult in practice.

“All of a sudden, we didn’t have a separated team,” Madden says. “We didn’t have White guys and Black guys. We had Buffaloes.”

Out in the local community, the same issues reared their head. Madden launched programs with the local police in which officers would work out with players in the players’ environment, thereby learning that these football players were still kids, even though they were in grown men’s bodies. It opened everyone’s eyes. The players and officers interacting built rapport and helped to minimize fear.

The athletes played sports with inner-city children. The community was given a much better chance to get to know them and by the time Madden left Colorado, he says, “It was a whole different world.”

His team also drew strength from quarterback Sal Aunese, who was diagnosed with inoperable stomach cancer and later died. Facing that level of adversity and the depths of that reality helped each player explore their humanity and forged even tighter bonds of brotherhood.

To achieve the best on-field results, Madden came up with clever solutions to properly utilize the individual Buff’s talents. Often the team would be deep at one position and thin at a position with a logical opportunity for a crossover. He worked with McCartney to put the best players in the best position to win. In the offseason, linebackers became fullbacks, defensive ends became tackles and tight ends became defensive ends.

The results were undeniable. In football, Madden- coached teams won three consecutive Big Eight Conference championships and the National Championship in 1990. Many of his players went on to be first round NFL draft picks, pro bowlers, and national award winners, including Butkus Award winners, Thorpe Award winners and Outland Trophy candidates, as well as Heisman Trophy winner Rashaan Salaam. His tremendous success led to several NFL, NBA and collegiate job offers.

In 1993, Madden was recruited to the University of North Carolina by hall-of-fame coach Mack Brown, and his responsibilities and influence increased significantly yet again. He was responsible for training 28 varsity and 750 student-athletes at UNC. During his tenure there, the teams he worked with won numerous championships, as well as the coveted Sears Cup for the Best Athletics Program with the most wins.

In the winter of 1998, Madden followed Mack Brown to the University of Texas where he coached over 16 seasons. Texas, unlike Colorado, was much more of a dream job from the start. From the outside looking in, Madden had removed all doubt about his place in athletics. He had arrived, but he was not satisfied.

“You have to turn it up,” Madden says. “I could do those other jobs I did on the weekend compared to what it takes to do the job at Texas.”

The dream job came with high expectations, both internally and externally. Madden recalls an occasion where he was accosted by an elderly Longhorn fan in Austin after a tough, unexpected loss to Arkansas earlier that day. The gentleman used his cane instead of his words. His family was amused by his outburst. Madden was not.

In the grand scheme, Madden says he appreciates having been at a program where there’s so much passion and pride that there’s a tiny chance you might get assaulted at the store if your team drops an important game. As he puts it, as has been the case throughout his life and career, “Sometimes all you can do is bridge a negative to a positive and find a way to win.”

When all was said and done from his time at UT, the positives had piled up. He helped guide the Longhorns football program to a 158-48 record, including 14 bowl games and the 2005 National Championship. Madden was not assaulted after this victory. The list of Texas athletes he coached who went on to the pros or the Olympics, win championships at the highest level, set records and make history — well, there simply isn’t enough space in this magazine to possibly give them their just due.

Legendary Legacy

It was during his time at Texas that Dr. Chuck Stiggins first approached Madden about helping to found the CSCCa. He was an original board of directors member and went on to serve seven years as president, from 2009 to 2016. Since that time, he has continued to serve the profession as a special advisor to the board.

“The change that’s taken place within this profession, it happened because we made an effort to make it happen,” Madden says of the founding of the CSCCa. The impact of his efforts to further the profession are felt all over the country, both through his commitment to the CSCCa, as well as his daily dedication to training his athletes. His impact is plainly seen in how well-respected, well-represented and well-paid the strength and conditioning coach is today.

“I’m up at 4 am and when I get back home, it’s around 8 pm, and then I turn around and do it again. I’ve done that for 39 years,” Madden says. “But I don’t consider any of that work. To me, it, it was a blessing. It was an opportunity. It was an opportunity to make young people better. It was an opportunity to heal race relations in the United States and in the area I was in. It was my platform. To preach love across the world.”

Madden makes history as the first Black Legend in the Field. He has always been a proponent of the critical importance of the CSCCa being an association where everyone feels welcome. Now, young Black coaches will be able to look at the pinnacle of the profession and know with concrete certainty they are welcome among their ranks — an achievement of incredible historical significance for the profession.

Strength and conditioning coaches today of all ethnicities, colors and creeds stand on the solid foundation he helped to build, brick-by-brick.

“I’m hoping the next generation of coaches will understand, yes, it takes a tremendous commitment. It takes a lot of hard work, and it does take sacrifice,” Madden says. “But there’s also a tremendous amount of joy when you watch athletes do what they couldn’t do a year before,
or you watch a team win that has never won before.”

Lastly, Madden’s family deserves the final word on this achievement. Without them, he would never have reached his potential.

“To my wife, Brenda, thank you for years and years of support and understanding,” Madden says. “There’s always sudden change all the time in this profession. And even though you had your own plans, you always made sure to take care of our kids first. And to my sons Brandon and Bryan, you know you guys are my world. I did it all for you.”

Jeff Madden’s Legends in the Field of Strength and Conditioning induction ceremony will take place at the MSCC Dinner & Ceremony at 7 pm on Tuesday, May 3, in the Omni Hotel Grand Ballroom.