Traditions Part 6-The ET Mile

In many Football programs across the country, there is somewhat of an initiation for new players who come into the program. Usually it involves pain, a test of endurance, and an attempt to see who has what it takes to be in that respective program.

For over 60 years, there was a tradition that every Lion player had to go through, regardless of class, skill, position, or status. The ET Mile.

For those who do not know, the great Ernest Hawkins played his college football at Texas Tech from 1947-1949. The starting Quarterback and captain, he knew what it took to win as his teams won 3 Border conference titles in that time. The Tech coaches also introduced an idea for conditioning in which players would get in the West Texas heat and run multiple 440 yard dashes. After Hawkins came to Commerce, he introduced the idea to JV Sikes, who was all about making his players tougher and in better shape than others. However, when Hawkins took over as the head coach, he took it to another level. Hawkins believed that to win championships, you had to be mentally and physically tougher than the other guy lined up from you, and nothing tested a player’s mental and physical toughness than the ET Mile.The practice continued when Eddie Vowell became the head man in Commerce, America and added that to his “14 minutes of hell.” It was usually 4×400 meter dashes with an assigned times depending on position, and then under the Vowell era was changed at times to 16×110 yard dashes with minimal rest.

Tired yet? Sucking air? Now, I will let the players who did it take it from there.

“I remember the ET mile…lineman would run a lap (440 meters) for time & rest 70 seconds in between each lap for 4 total laps then what surprised me was how many would up-chuck during this gut-check.”-Bobby Wolfe, 1980-1982

“As a an athletic trainer, I used to tape 4 to 6 ammonia capsules to the chest of players, they would pop these on the last lap. This was in the early 70’s.”-Doug Kretzinger

“It was 16 100 meter sprints, with limited time between each one. Depending on your position, each 100 meters had to be completed under a specific time. This was done on the first day back for 2 a days. You had to complete it before you do football stuff. It was our conditioning test.”-Jared Harrison

“I remember showing up 3 days late and didn’t know anything about the ET mile. I was ready for football practice and coach Eddie Vowell and Mark Copeland said you had to 1st finish the ET mile I kicked my shoes off and ran it easy. I found out later that coach wasn’t going to let me play that 1st game because I showed late. But for some strange reason he let me play. I always wanted to ask coach Mark Copeland and coach Vowell if they treated all the new transfers the same way.”-Curtis Buckley

“When I played at ET under Coach Hawkins the ET Mile was 4×400 meters. QBs, RBs & WRs has to run each 400 in 80-85 seconds (I think) with 60 seconds of rest between laps. Other position groups had slightly different lap time requirements. The first two laps were usually a piece of cake. The third lap is when the monkey jumped on your back and your legs felt heavy. The fourth lap was simply a gut check. It was not uncommon to see finishers bent over and puking their guts up after that last lap.”-Van Hargis

“We had to run 1 lap 4 times with a minute rest in between. Each lap had to be completed in a certain time by position. If you didn’t complete each in time you had to do it over every day after practice till you did. I made sure every summer I was ready and successfully completed the ET mile 4 years in a row.”-Allen Roulette

“We ran four 400 meter sprints with two minutes rest between each. Time to complete varied by position: WR/DB – 60 seconds each, RB/LB 65 and linemen, 70 seconds. Last time we ran it this way was in 1988. Edit: My memory is probably faulty on the 400’s as far as time and rest time. I’ve tried to forget it…Ted Murrell pulled me through……In 1987, our Head Trainer, Ed Sunderland, achieved near-deity status by stopping it before it began. I believe the heat index was over 115 degrees, so we got a reprieve and started camp the next morning……The next year they had a student trainer with a hose stationed on the far turn to spray everyone down. The result for the next three laps was wet shoes and socks and lots of chafing.”- Don Madden
“I loved the ET mile. If you can to camp in shape it was easy. Oh how we all loved watching the freshman come in drop out. Welcome to ETSU rookies!”-Chris Kjar
“It was fun running on the black cinder track and it being 100 degrees. Especially during the heat wave of 1980.”-Blake Cooper
“The ET Mile….along with 14 minutes of hell under Eddie Vowell…it would be more like a 50 second run in track. It sucked while doing it but was way shorter than most any other conditioning. There were 7 different conditioning stations, 2 minutes each and your group went directly from one to the other without any rest between.”-Brett Bertrand
“In the late 70’s under Hawk, Boley and Fox it was 4 quarters with one minute rest between each lap. And, you did it under a certain time matched to your position… you did it every day until you made it… no football until then. It was a game changer in August and even though I hate running in general, the pain of it all and Boley’s mouth kept me showing up in shape! I loved it… ET was one of the best times of my life! Go Lions!”-Robert Hinkle
“My senior year we had signed a frosh LB named Rodney Rankin. He was a 400 meter guy in high school. Using my leadership skills, I told him to make sure that we came in exactly on our time. Well, we went out there and went WAY too fast on the first one!!!! Needless to say I had to put my arm around his neck (I might have had a few choice words) and encourage him to make sure that we came in exactly on our time! Amazingly after my positive reinforcement we came in right on our time on the next 3!”-Mark Copeland
“John Preston Carter, a former ET Strong Safety told me about the ET mile when i was in the 10th grade at Madison High in Dallas. The infamous ET mile.”-Marcus Gates
“I loved the ET mile!!! Kickers went with lineman! First year Don Madden yanked me down about halfway through. I had to move away from him!!! Scared me the first year, the other 3 I didn’t do near as much training for it!!!!”-Billy Watkins
“82 seconds per quarter. Hard on a fat man.”-Curtis Ray
“First year I ran with the QB’s. Wasn’t too bad. The next three I ran with the DB’s. Big difference! I remember trying to run with Doc and Rock Star my sophomore year. Big mistake! I believe I ran until the week we had our first game that year.”-Ben Boston
“My freshman year, I dogged it – thought I was in good enough shape to wing it. Bad mistake. Lauro was my timing partner. It was bad. Every year after that I ran quarters all summer and it was easy. 1980 was the worst, 105 degrees on cinder. Bobby Fox cut none of the Dbs any slack.”-Chris Flynn
“All I remember it was a 100゚ my New York a$$ was dying down there but I did the time with the defensive backs!”-Anthony Lauro
“In 1979, I thought I would try and outrun Steve Hodge on the last one. Did fine until about 200 yards out, and that gorilla jumped on my back. 1980, Hawkins didn’t make the kickers run it. We were none too popular.”-Russell McLean
“I am pretty confident in saying that I am the only Lion to successfully complete the ET Mile (16×110) in Six 6 straight years.”-Trent Dagen
“I think my senior year I made like 2 1/2 and died. I was a little heavy coming back from knee surgery.”-Kyle Mackey
“Coach Fox always told us the DBs had to be in better shape than anybody on the team. I remember he made us run almost an ET mile (3 laps) after a practice during the season I made the mistake on going all out on the first 2, he “surprised” us with one more. I almost died after that 3rd one.”-Brian Jackson
“I ran it 5 times, and everyone did it,  no exceptions. It was the first thing we did when we reported. It was pretty easy for me as it was a test of what you had done over the summer. First year I had no clue I had to run it. Got there in 88 and they said four 400 meter runs in less than 65 or 70 seconds……Eric Turner had ran on Dangerfield’s mile relay at state too so it was a easy pace for us. I was coming off running a 48 split on the 9th fastest 4×400 team in the nation……pretty sure the coaches had bets on who would and wouldn’t make it…and it was always fun to guess who would be the first to throw up. It was August you know and 100 temperature days……The 16 110 runs to me were tougher than the 4 400….Not hardly any rest and it was more sprints…we were whooped after 10 or so. A lot of guys didn’t place it and had nothing left…….I think they gave us like 18 seconds rest which is plenty until you ran 12 straight and still got the “4th” quarter to go.”-Billy Minor




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