When compiling the list of unsung heroes that contributed to the Green Bay Packers’ Super Bowl championship, don’t forget to include Dave Redding.
The Packers’ assistant strength and conditioning coach announced his retirement on Monday after helping to change the atmosphere and mindset in the weight room over the past two years.
“The strength and conditioning program that he put into place here played a big role in our team’s success the past two seasons, and his impact will continue to be felt in the coming years,” said Packers coach Mike McCarthy in a prepared statement.
One of the greatest compliments Redding said he ever received was when a player told him, “You don’t build muscle, you build men.”
Redding, 58, can recite in his sleep the benefits of free weights, position-specific conditioning and the importance of balance and coordinated movements rather than maximum lifting. But what makes him special is his ability to motivate players in the weight room, which led to greater on-field success.
“He always impressed me with his teaching skills and his ability to get the most out of all the players he worked with,” McCarthy said. “He built relationships in a way where he could push the players to get their best every day.”
Redding, who started as a college strength coach in the mid-1970s and spent 24 seasons in the NFL, was hired by McCarthy two years ago to head up the Packers’ weight program, even though both knew it would be a short-term arrangement. Redding and McCarthy worked together on the Kansas City Chiefs coaching staff in the 1990s.
Last year Redding willingly agreed to become the assistant strength coach to allow the Packers to promote Mark Lovat to the top job.
Every bone in Redding’s body is old school. He played for his father in high school, then earned a scholarship at Nebraska, where he played defensive end and was coached by legends Bob Devaney and Tom Osborne.
Redding has seemingly been living out a dream his entire football life, and earning a Super Bowl championship ring earlier this month was the perfect ending to his coaching career.
“When I was in fifth grade we had a class project to write our parents a letter with three goals in life,” recalled Redding on Tuesday. “Not long before my mother died she handed this letter back to me, she had kept it all these years.”
Redding’s three goals were to play for his father in high school, become a Nebraska Cornhusker and be a Green Bay Packer, his favorite NFL team as a youngster.
“That doesn’t happen very often in a man’s lifetime,” Redding said. “I’m a very fortunate person.”
Not everyone has felt as lucky dealing with Redding in the weight room.
“I’ve been chased and yelled at and screamed at and threatened and refused,” he said. “I’ve seen it all, heard it all. I’ve ducked a few left and right hooks over the years.”
Redding divides players into three groups. One-third of them are self-motivated and would show up in the weight room even if it wasn’t required. One-third of them need a little prodding.
“And then there’s a third of them that would just as soon not be in there at all,” Redding said. “That’s where you make your money.”
And that’s where Redding puts his people skills to good use.
“It’s kind of a gift, being able to read people and what they’re all about, what it takes to get them motivated and moving,” Redding said. “I think I learned that from my father.”
But his vision isn’t limited to players. Redding recalled hosting a party at his house in Kansas City when he and McCarthy were on the Chiefs’ staff and the two men having a conversation.
“We were sitting there chatting over a cocktail and I said, ‘Mike, someday you’re going to be a head coach in the NFL,’” Redding said. “I just thought he had the mojo.”
Redding plans to split time between Arizona and Nebraska and do some consulting work. He wouldn’t rule out working in the NFL again, but it would have to be in a different capacity.
“Thirty-five years of chasing guys in a weight room is long enough for this old guy,” he said.
Redding’s moving van departs Green Bay this morning, but he’ll be back. There’s the Super Bowl ring ceremony to attend. Plus, he owns two horses on an Amish farm near Bonduel and will return with his fiancé to drive them to Arizona.
Redding will never forget the two years he spent here.
“Everybody in football should have the opportunity to coach for the Green Bay Packers at least once to find out what football is really all about,” he said.
“This is real football here. This is the Green Bay Packers. It’s the only show in town. It’s fantastic to be part of something like that.”