By Joe Mcadory
He was the smallest player on his fourth-grade team, and he said he “hated football.”
Two years off the field and in the weight room changed Will Herring’s physique and mind about the game the former Opelika High School star now calls his career.
Herring, a fifth-year linebacker with the Seattle Seahawks, discovered a love for physical fitness, and with the NFL lockout looming over the upcoming season, the four-year letterman at Auburn University is becoming an entrepreneur – opening his own fitness center.
“Those two years working out (in the fifth and sixth grades) was the start of me getting fired up and enjoying a new passion for weightlifting,” said Herring, who returned to the gridiron in seventh grade and hasn’t stopped playing since. “Everyone sees games on Saturday and Sunday, but a lot goes on behind the scenes.”
Herring said he drew personal inspiration for weight training from Bill Curry, an Opelika resident who is also the father of former University of Alabama and University of Kentucky head coach Bill Curry.
“His dad was one of the pioneers of the weightlifting industry,” Herring said. “Weight training laid a foundation for me that let me get involved in the athletic world.”
Herring said he had already acquired fitness equipment, but with players locked out of respective teams’ facilities, he wanted to open one of his own.
“During the season, the schedule is hectic and you don’t have time,” he said. “But with the lockout, I have a lot more time on my hands. People talk about finding something you truly enjoy, well this is right up my alley.”
Herring said his 2,200-square-foot facility at the plaza at Airport Road and Glenn Avenue in Auburn will feature “15 to 20” machines and “seven or eight” cardiovascular stations. It will also have a free weight area.
“You won’t deal with lines waiting for a machine or the intimidation factor of 50 people watching you work out,” he said.
Herring said he doesn’t think the current lockout will cancel the upcoming NFL season.
“Personally, I don’t see that happening,” he said. “I feel like there’s way too much at stake. The game has come so far, even in the past five years. I can’t see the owners letting it go that far. I’m optimistic that both sides will get something worked out, but it’s kinda scary, especially when both sides are $300 million apart. Then you start creeping up on a season without mini-camp.”
Herring, who is in the fifth year of a five-year contract that pays the league minimum of $550,000 annually, said he was happy in Seattle, but is weary of serving as a backup and is entertaining the idea of exploring his options.
“I love Seattle,” he said. “The fans are incredible. But my ultimate goal is to compete for a starting job. I just want to play. Sometimes guys get injured and I step in and start. I’ve been the passing situation (third-down and long) guy. I’m thankful for that. I’d love to play on first and second downs.”
Herring is listed as second string on the Seahawks’ linebacking depth chart, with Lofa Tatupu, Aaron Curry, and David Hawthorne as the starters. Herring finished with 36 tackles and an interception last season as the Seahawks captured the NFC West title and reached the second round of the NFL Playoffs. He had a career-high 46 tackles in 2009.
He believes he’s got several more years of football ahead of him.
“I feel really good,” Herring said. “I don’t see why I can’t play another four or five years.”
Herring Fitness, which will be open 24 hours a day to guests, is holding a ceremonial grand opening Saturday, April 2, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Former AU stars Ben Obomanu, also of the Seahawks, Zach Clayton of Opelika, and Zac Etheridge will be available for autographs and photos. Herring said refreshments will be served.