Childhood Workouts With His Father Keep Alex Amidon From Ever Slowing Down
Published: Wednesday, October 3, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 19:01
It started as an accident: father and son miscommunicating in the perfect way. The father never knowing when the son had run too much, and the son never knowing when he should say he’d had enough. It grew into one of the most intense training programs any 12-year-old could go through.
Alex Amidon’s father, Stephen, figured out that his son was a special athlete before he was even 7 years old. His father had no idea why, but his son was extraordinarily fast, faster than everybody else. One summer when Amidon was in middle school, his father, who had run track in high school, set up a training program—and neither one realized how difficult it was.
“I worked him very hard, in retrospect,” Stephen Amidon said. “It didn’t seem like it at the time, though. We would do monster workouts.”
While Amidon was training for the 800-meter, his father had him run 400-meter sprints 10 times in a row with only a two-minute break in between sets. The times that his father asked him to finish in would’ve shocked other runners, but neither of them knew any better.
“I didn’t know anything else at the time, so it just seemed normal,” Amidon said. “He wasn’t pushing me too hard or anything. He just made it seem like it was normal.”
During the first few workouts, his father would go out to the track with the idea that Amidon should run six 400s, but when Amidon had completed his circuit, he didn’t look tired yet.
“Why don’t you do another one,” his father would say.
“Okay,” Amidon would respond, as he took off for yet another 400.
As Amidon reflects nine years later, those workouts with his father, which eventually helped him earn fifth place at the U.S. National Junior Championships with a 2.02 finish in the 400, were the hardest things he ever did.
“Looking back on it, the stuff we did was ridiculously hard,” Amidon said. “I just didn’t know it at the time. I came out of it and that was the hardest thing I’ve ever done really, was training with him. But being able to do it at such an early age with him pushing me was so important.”
Amidon’s father always imagined his son would be a 400-meter runner, but when he was a freshman in high school, “the football gods came and got him.” Amidon now spends his Saturdays catching footballs as a wide receiver for Boston College, and he’s doing it better than almost anyone in the country. He ranks fourth nationally with 139.8 yards per game. He is also one of only two receivers averaging more than eight receptions per game and 16 yards per catch. The other receiver, Baylor senior Terrance Williams, is one of the best prospects at the position in the upcoming NFL Draft.
It wasn’t only the track workouts that strengthened Amidon’s conditioning at a young age. Long distance was always a problem for him, but not because he was lazy. The pace just wasn’t quick enough.
“He just didn’t like to go slow,” his father said. “I had to come up with workouts that were kind of anaerobic, because he just can’t run slowly, that’s his one fault. I could not get him to jog. I’ve never seen him jog in my life.”
They came up with the idea to have Amidon run up a half-mile hill leading to his middle school, which was on a 10-degree incline. Amidon was hesitant at first, but after his father told him Jerry Rice was doing the same thing, Amidon was convinced. Each time he sprinted up the hill, he’d have to beat his previous time. Now they had a way to get the long-distance work in without Amidon needing to slow down his pace.
“When you have a son, even a son like Alexander, you’ve got to use a little creative motivation every now and then,” Stephen Amidon said.
Teammates of Amidon are always in awe of his ability to give his all on every rep both in practices and in games. He never slows down.
“He was just being Alex, he never stops,” said quarterback Chase Rettig after Amidon hung 193 yards and two touchdowns on No. 17 Clemson last week.
He’s been so tough for defenses to contain this season because he runs deep routes at an obnoxiously quick pace during all four quarters, and no defensive back is prepared for that. Late in games when the defense and the other receivers are gassed, Amidon can still execute long routes at top speed. He also rarely, if ever, has to come out of the game.
“He’d definitely be able to play every snap if we let him,” Rettig said.
When Doug Martin was hired as the new offensive coordinator last spring, he met with the offense and told them that they were switching to an up-tempo system. Their goal would be to out-tempo the defense. Instead of reacting to what the defense is doing, BC was going to make the defense adjust to them.
Amidon and fellow wide receiver Johnathan Coleman were excited. During their time at BC, they’d never run anything like that. Trying to recreate the hill workouts with his father, Amidon recruited Coleman and linebacker Steele Divitto to search all over Boston for the perfect hill, but didn’t have any luck. Finally, they tracked down Blue Hills Reservation in Milton, about a 20-minute drive away from campus. Great Blue Hill reaches above the horizon and the mile-long stretch peaks at a height of 635 feet. The trio trained at the hill multiple times throughout the summer.
“Poor Johnathan Coleman,” Stephen Amidon said. “The next time I see Johnathan, I’m going to have to apologize to him for having my son drag his ass up a mountain because I did that with him when he was 13.”
All of his work has landed Amidon on the Biletnikoff Award watch list for the nation’s top wide receiver. He found out about the news from his father, who emailed him with a link to the news article. His father also attached a picture of Fred Biletnikoff, one of his favorite players.