Catching Up with Dominic Studzinski
USF Athletics caught up with Cougar football alum and former NAIA All-American linebacker Dominic Studzinski, who is currently a strength and conditioning graduate assistant coach at the University of Southern Mississippi. The Golden Eagles are ranked no. 22 in the most recent AP poll and will face Nevada in the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl on Christmas Eve.
1. Have you caught any deep balls from Brett Favre yet?
2. OK, on a more serious note. How did you wind up at Southern Miss?
DS: I completed two strength and conditioning internships in college, with Notre Dame and LSU, and was ready to take the next step with my career. I went back and forth until I finally decided that I was done with playing football. Paul Jackson, who was LSU's assistant strength and conditioning coach when I was an intern, took the head job at Southern Miss and he gave me a call. We reconnected and I had been in a great situation at LSU. So here I am. It's a fantastic opportunity and for me, in any job it's huge to like the people you work for. I love my job.
3. What's your official title and what degree are you pursuing?
DS: I am the Graduate Assistant Strength & Conditioning Coach and I cover volleyball, women's soccer and assist with baseball and football. I am studying for a master's of science degree in human performance.4. How did the first semester of graduate school treat you?
DS: It went very well. Being a football player at USF definitely taught me how to manage my time. We had to balance practice, lifting, film sessions, travel, etc., with classes and schoolwork so I'm good at getting stuff done and not procrastinating. I'm also able to take classes online, which lets me finish assignments late at night or early in the morning before 6 a.m. workouts with athletes. I'm on track to graduate in a year and a half.
5. What's your career goal?DS: You know, it depends on where the road goes. There are not always a lot of job openings for strength and conditioning coaches, so I just want to work hard and let the road take me wherever it goes. I really enjoy working with college student athletes, but if something came up with professional athletes or with a pro team in the future, I might test those waters. You never know.
6. Describe Hattiesburg, Mississippi in seven words or less.
DS: It's warm. Sunny. Very different from Wisconsin.
7. Do the guys on the Southern Miss football team know that you played a little bit of football yourself?
DS: They know. The guys asked a lot of questions when I first got here, and obviously had access to Google, so they read up on the record of my high school team, and about my USF career, the four national championship games and the conference and national titles and stuff. It's the offensive linemen that want to do the one-on-one drills with me after practice.
8. Speaking of, have you had any opportunities to put the pads back on, in practice or just playing around?
DS: Not at all. I'm a coach now. That being said, I would love to play on the scout team every day if there weren't rules against it.
9. Was it hard at first to be on the sidelines, as a coach and no longer a player?
DS: It was really hard at our first home game versus Louisiana Tech. I felt like a caged dog on the sidelines; I had all this energy and emotion that I wasn't able to release on the field. But I learned that running along the sidelines and screaming at the refs is a great way to unleash some of that energy.10. What was it like, as a member of the coaching staff, playing spoiler and knocking no. 6 Houston out of a BCS bowl on national television?
DS: All season long, we've had the saying: "They don't know." We knew that a lot of teams would view us as the underdog and we embraced that label; it proved to that "they didn't know" who we were and what the team was capable of doing on the field. The Conference USA championship game against Houston was amped up-expectations were high and we were focused on doing all the little things rights, like a national championship game at USF. We were excited after the win and everyone took a few moments to embrace the moment and the conference championship, but we were preparing for the bowl game later that night. A win against Nevada in the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl would give Southern Miss the first 12-win season in the history of the program, and that's what we're focused on now.
11. How did this season compare to your career at USF; compare, if you can, winning a D-I conference championship and going to a bowl game to winning one of your two national championships as a Cougar.
DS: It's different, but in a lot of ways it's also very similar. Obviously, D-I has bigger stadiums, bigger teams, bigger coaching staffs, more travel-it's just built on a larger scale than the NAIA football model. But, I think that in terms of passion, emotion and energy, it's exactly the same. You see the same level intensity on the sidelines in NAIA and D-I, the players at both levels are flying around and working just as hard to make plays A lot of the players have asked me the same question, if D-I and NAIA football is the same, if one is better, etc. I tell them that NAIA football is just different. There's a part in the movie that Jason Dannelly made about the 2010 NAIA championship game, where they talk about how USF was one of the eight teams in the country, across all levels of football, competing for a national championship. That's how I feel. I'm an NAIA linebacker who won four straight GPAC titles, played in four national championship games and won two titles; that's something I will always be very proud of.
12. I know you watched this season of Cougar football from a distance, what are your thoughts about how the transitional season went?
DS: I wasn't able to watch the games, since I was working at our football games or covering my other sports, but I still talk to Eric Anderson and some of the other guys. The losses were tough, especially the loss up at UND, but I think they proved that we will be able to compete at the NCAA D-II level. It will be interesting to see what happens in the Northern Sun Conference next season. I wish the guys all the best and hope that they keep the COO football traditions that still mean a lot to the older guys.