If Buzz Schoff has one small complaint about South Central's new weight sleds, it's that they just might be too pretty.
"In my mind, I think of steel, I think of it being gray in color," the Satellites football coach said. "These are red and blue. They've got 'Satellites' carved into it. It makes me not want to put slides on them. They're too nice."
Not to worry, said Brian Mulligan, who made four sleds for the school's athletic program. A little sand blast and re-coat can keep the equipment looking like new if they ever get a scratch or two on them.
"One of the issues since taking over the business is it's been more of a job shop," said Mulligan, who purchased Jet Fabricators in Michigan City in 2016. "We work for companies, so they send us prints and we make them to specifications. There's no production manufacturing where we come up with the ideas. As somebody who's interested in fabrication, owning a company, it's kind of cool to be able to create things I've always wanted to create."
Mulligan's son Matt, an S.C. junior football player, is one of the stronger players in the football program, helped by an extensive workout set-up his dad put together in their basement, including 10-pound weights that he made himself. Mulligan was approached last year by the owner of a local fitness training company about making a sled and he thought it would add a nice personalized touch to laser print the company's initials into the side of the equipment. He used the same premise in making the sleds for the school, powder coating them -- a process that is more durable than paint -- in South Central colors, and carving 'Satellites' on the sides.
Player parent Brian Mulligan, third from left, custom made weight sleds for the South Central football program. Also pictured, from left, are Athletic Director John Haggard, football coach Buzz Schoff and Principal Ben Anderson. (Photo courtesy of South Central Athletics)
"They're awesome," Schoff said. "Brian's the kind of guy who's like, what do you need? oh, I can make that. When he shows up, you know he's going to do it right. We bought one in January that we've been using in the weight room, but we didn't have any outside-type stuff, so he was like, let's see what we can do. He asked me, how many do you need? I didn't give him a number, but I said, when we use them, we'd have one guy go one way, then one guy return, and we'd have to wipe it down; so you're saying you'll probably need more than one then? I told him we were willing to take whatever he was willing to make and give us."
The smaller sleds are used for pulling, with harnesses tied to the handles and put over the athlete's shoulders, while the larger sleds are used for pushing. Purchased by retail, they would cost an estimated $150 and $300-350, respectively.
"I never really thought a lot about the money," said Mulligan, a 1989 South Central grad whose playing career was cut short by multiple knee injuries. "It's just special to create something that can be used at my alma mater, to help the guys out, to punish the kids by making them work their butts off."
A closer look at the customized weight sleds Brian Mulligan made for the South Central football team. Mulligan, who owns Jet Fabricators in Michigan City, hopes the equipment can become a lucrative business endeavor. (Photo provided)
All the sleds, which feature removable handles, are fitted with plastic runners over the steel bottoms so they can be used on any surface.
"They can slide on a gym floor. We've got a big parking lot, the track, long hallways," Schoff said. "We've got a lot of places we can use them if we take them off the grass."
While Mulligan made the sleds with the football team in mind, they're useful for pretty much any sport in building lower body explosiveness.
"As a former offensive lineman, it's not hard to be creative with them," South Central Athletic Director John Haggard said. "I'm all about our kids getting stronger and these give us a ton of options."
Mulligan was a primary owner of B&B Manufacturing in La Porte years back before leaving the company to go into real estate. That didn't scratch his itch, so he went back into fabricating at Jet, where he currently has 20 employees. Now Mulligan hopes the concept of the customized sleds takes off commercially.
"It's something I'd love to be able to market, " he said. "It would be pretty cool to do something like that and make money off it. (S.C. Principal) Ben Anderson posted it on Facebook and I'm going to post it on Facebook Marketplace. Maybe coaches from other schools will be looking at the posts. It would be awesome to get a call from a college one day and have them say they'd like us to do one of these in their school colors."