WOODSTOCK – It’s 6:45 on a Monday morning and Chris Streveler is already quietly at work, stretching a resistance band to its limits, releasing it and repeating the exercise over and over before switching arms.
At this hour, there’s no pulsating music inside Marian Central’s weight room, which is mostly silent save for the sound of screeching shoes originating from the early-morning retirees’ pick-up game going on in the nearby gymnasium.
Twice a week this season, the solo work session has been part of Streveler’s new routine. It’s not that his old ways were necessarily bad – when he put his intensity out there for everyone to see, when he’d scream at the top of his lungs before games while Eminem and Lil’ Wayne pumped into his ears.
But that was before Hurricanes coach Ed Brucker challenged Streveler to consider a change. Although Brucker didn’t want to extinguish his quarterback’s competitive fire, he wondered if Streveler’s sometimes over-the-top intensity could be the roadblock standing between the dual threat quarterback and true effectiveness.
So right there, in front of all his teammates, Brucker asked Streveler to change.
“Have you ever seen Aaron Rodgers go up [to the line of scrimmage] and he smiles?” Brucker asked. “That’s because he knows what everyone is doing. I want you to be Aaron Rodgers. Just be calm.”
Streveler, whose unbridled pregame intensity had been a staple since his pee-wee football days, considered his coach’s plea, contemplating how making such a change would affect his on-field performance.
His teammates wondered the same thing.
“At first, I thought, he had a really good year last year,” offensive lineman Nick Bloom said. “And if it’s not broken, why fix it?”
Streveler feared making what seemed at the time to be such a huge adjustment could backfire. What if he wasn’t the same player? But after Brucker and a few of Streveler’s teammates had all asked the same thing – just to tone it down a bit – Streveler thought perhaps it all made sense.
“If I put myself in the mentality that I’m just going to go out and kill everybody, I’m going to just be in that intense mindset,” Streveler said. “But I have more of the mindset that it’s going to be more of a game of chess – it’s not just checkers where I can just go out there and not really think.”
Streveler eased into the transition, ditching his previous iPod play list for more mellow musical selections. He spent more time during the week watching film, mentally preparing himself for another challenge.
Streveler still is as competitive as they get. Consider last year when Marian’s girls volleyball team challenged Brucker’s players to an impromptu match just for fun. Brucker said it was OK for his players to participate – with one exception: Streveler.
“Chris would get way too hyped,” the coach said.
Streveler is among the first to admit as much. While working out with Bloom and defensive end Liam Kirwan, he’ll throw 500 pounds on the bar. If Kirwan squatted 500 pounds twice, Streveler would do his best to match it.
Kirwan quickly realized that if Streveler was that competitive off the field, it would carry over to the game. But the bond that Streveler built while lifting with his linemen helped beyond his strength.
“When you’re pushing each other like that,” Kirwan said, “you know he knows he’s going to have my back and I’m going to have his back.”
As much as Streveler’s teammates appreciated his competitive drive, they – like Brucker – wondered if Streveler could be even better as a calmer senior than he was as the amped-up junior. Turns out, he has been.
Heading into tonight’s showdown with No. 1-ranked Montini, Streveler has become more of an efficient performer, completing 62 percent of his passes (72 of 116) for 1,241 yards, 13 touchdowns and zero interceptions. Rather than unleashing his enthusiasm in the locker room before games, Streveler has saved it for the field with 515 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns on 75 carries.
His teammates were among the first to notice the immediate results.
“He’ll still get excited with us, but he just won’t get too crazy, he won’t get too amped up,” Bloom said. “He just tries to focus and get into that quarterback mindset instead of having to wait a few drives into the game to really settle down.”
Keeping his emotions in check requires constant work for Streveler, who will enroll at Minnesota early to ease into college life and to go through spring practice with the Gophers.
“It worked out well for me, and I figured, ‘Well, I might as well stick with it,’” Streveler said. “It’s worked, I’ve been more under control, I’ve kept my stamina up and so it’s been good.”
Calming down has benefited not just Streveler, but the Hurricanes as a whole, who continue to thrive behind their vocal leader, who has earned even more respect from his teammates because he was willing to change something that at first, seemed so small.
“It just shows his maturity for him to say, ‘This has been my thing, but I’ve got to change it for the betterment of the team,” Kirwan said. “That’s part of what makes Chris Streveler special.”