Photo Credit: Husker Radio Network

Nebraska Football Players Feel a Change Fueled by Nutritionist Kristin Coggin

April 10, 2023

Nebraska punter Brian Buschini is not only healthy, he said he’s in the best shape of his life. He told local media last week he lost 9 pounds of fat and gained 6 pounds of muscle, trimming himself to 4% body fat. He credited new Nebraska football nutritionist Kristin Coggin and his staff for that change.

Buschini explained he met with Coggin to discuss his diet plans and goals. He felt encouraged and accepted in those conversations. He wants to look similar to current NFL punters but his wider frame means his body holds weight differently. This allows Buschini to hold more weight than others, which requires a specialized diet plan. Each Husker gets their own plan and Buschini said the results of which are evident on the field.

“Yeah, she’s the best, we have the best nutrition staff,” Buschini said. “They’ve done a really good job personalizing and tailoring things and you’ll see that in the fall, there’s guys who have really bulked up well.”

Coggin comes from SEC country. She originally played soccer but felt burnt out by the sport by the time she looked at colleges. A teammate went to Tennessee and Coggin followed with the intentions of joining the Lady Vols’ rowing team as a walk-on. She did, although, coach Lisa Glenn put Coggin on scholarship almost immediately. Coggin graduated from Tennessee with a degree in psychology as a two-time conference champion rower. She appreciated rowing because of its team aspect, requiring each member of the boat to row in synchronicity.

Being raised the daughter of a dietitian meant she took for granted the nutritious meals she grew up on. While in college she was diagnosed with a food allergy and worked closely with Tennessee sports nutritionist Allison Maurer to build a comprehensive meal plan. The junior year of college became a turning point for Coggin. She was a psychology major on path to become an orthodontist. Then she saw how proper diet helped her stay competitive and closely followed her mother’s footsteps. And her mother’s emphasis on breakfast has followed her to Lincoln.

“I think so many kids don’t get breakfast,” she told Jessica Coody last week. “It’s something I work with the guys here on, you have to eat something in the morning even when you’re not used to it. That’s something that’s shown me how do I perform with the best, if I’m fueled correctly I’m able to perform at a higher level.”

Coggin worked two seasons as a registered dietitian and performance nutrition coordinator at Alabama, working closely with the Crimson Tide football team when they made the College Football Playoff Championship Game. She then spent six seasons at South Carolina. There she met offensive coordinator Marcus Satterfield. She knew of head coach Matt Rhule when he took over the program but hadn’t met him yet. He visited South Carolina when he coached the Panthers but the two paths didn’t cross. She knew Nebraska for its reputation of an elite nutrition program, the personnel and resources the university invests into the department.

Meeting Rhule and learning his intentions, the importance with which he views player nutrition excited Coggin. He surpassed expectations Satterfield shared. She walked away thinking “this is a guy I’d like to work for.” So the opportunity at Nebraska merged all she was looking for.

“The standards he has, meeting him and what he’s trying to build here,” Coggin said. “I love the fact that we make our players sit down and have meals here together and being able to build that connection.”

Coggin develops those individualized plans by getting to know each football player better. That’s so she can learn food allergies, preferences and restrictions. However, she likes to broaden their nutritional horizons so they’ll make food a picky eater may not otherwise eat. She loves working with the different personalities and accommodating the various “teams within the team.”

Linemen, linebackers, receivers, for example, have different dietary needs. Their nutrition needs are different in winter workouts than spring practice. Both are much different than what they’ll require during the season. She collaborates multiple times a day with strength and conditioning coach Corey Campbell and his staff to ensure they’re on the same page. Coggin isn’t just giving nutrition to players, she’s teaching it. Some will go onto the NFL where these resources are self-serve. Others will graduate and go professional in a different walk of life. Either way, they’ll learn how to cook various dishes with a focus on nutrition. Coggin plans to start cooking lessons with players before the season, something a few remind her about.

Coggin tells everyone she has 120 little brothers to feed every day. She’s brought in two chefs so far, with plans to hire another, to help feed them all and staff. In order to accommodate them before spring practices, Coggin wakes up around 3:45 a.m. and stays in the stadium until around 7:30. They make shakes specifically for each player and Julian Franklin, one of the chefs, became a player favorite with specially made pancakes for breakfast. Sarah Ptak, the other football performance nutrition coordinator, helps with pre-lifting snacks so players maintain necessary nutrition to stay attentive, active and powerful. Those specialized meals are also made with religious observations in mind like Lent and Ramadan.

All those meals change as necessary. Some may never have thought about nutrition in the same way Coggin does, she wants to teach it. She knows a good amount of players were raised by their mothers and wants to be another consistent, strong female presence in their lives. Plus, she’s just as competitive and a former NCAA Championship-participant rower. She understands the mentality of players and coaches alike. So she’s catering her lessons to them in order to teach another aspect of elite performance.

“It’s just like when you go to practice. You don’t go out there in a game and hope something happens, you practice,” Coggin explained. “It’s getting them to do the same thing over and over. Let’s make sure we do things. Show them what the process looks like and how that pays off. And then showing them their goals. Here’s what you have to do to make that happen.”

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