Solomon Kindley received a per diem before basketball games at Raines High School. McDonald’s, Taco Bell and Krystal sat within a mile’s reach and with $10 in his pocket, Kindley had no second thoughts on the meal’s potential destruction on his body.
He ate “anything” as a high schooler, and weight consciousness didn’t exist. Now, those memories are distant and make him chuckle — almost in a sense of disbelief as a third-year offensive guard at Georgia.
“I probably wouldn’t be able to get through the first quarter,” Kindley said. “My stomach would be hurting and I’d be very fatigued.”
Up the coast, practices were similar for Isaiah Wilson in Brooklyn. He ate plenty of the famed New York-style pizza, and Wilson became known for his massive frame at 370 pounds. Most people saw size as an asset for Georgia. But while recruiting these highly-regarded talents, Georgia offensive line coach Sam Pittman prioritized weight loss and implored a change in eating habits.
“(Pittman would) joke and say we were two of the biggest people he ever recruited,” Kindley said.
Three years into their Georgia careers, Kindley and Wilson have a vastly different appearance when speaking to reporters in a collared shirt and shorts. They’ll still have a large-and-mighty presence on the field and maintain the “physicality” that Georgia desires. But two of the Bulldogs’ biggest presences on the offensive line are slimmer, fine-tuned and expectant of more success as a result.
Kindley stands between 330-to-335 pounds, while Wilson continues to shave weight around the 340s.
“My arms are bigger. My legs are bigger. My stomach is smaller,” Wilson said. “That’s how we did that one.”
Georgia grants credit to director of performance nutrition Collier Perno, who came over from Florida in the offseason — which took some lobbying from the coaching staff on Twitter with a #CollierComeHome tag.
Perno has ties to Athens with her father, Lou Perno, being the team’s head athletic trainer for the 1980 title team. Her cousin, David Perno, was the Bulldogs’ head baseball coach and remains in town as a football coach at Clarke Central High School.
Perno worked with Georgia head coach Kirby Smart at Alabama, and comes to the program with innovation and structure. Each player has a plan — either to lose or gain weight — and Perno sets it into action with intricate detail.
“It’s not about what you eat, but how much you eat,” defensive tackle Michael Barnett said. “You can’t eat too much fast food. If you want fried chicken, you can get it but just don’t eat as much. Then, we add fruits and vegetables into that.”
Georgia’s menu design changes each day, and each meal is monitored by the nutrition staff. Not only are the options healthy, but the Bulldog players frequently come away impressed with the quality.
Wilson’s go-to is a chicken caesar salad, which he never thought could be enjoyable, with pecans and fruit. Kindley laid out his usual routine for breakfast and lunch:
Breakfast: Oatmeal, cheese and bacon omelet (half yolk, half egg whites), fruit and a granola bar
Lunch, although can vary: A trip to the pasta bar. Kindley dresses it with broccoli and chicken or shrimp. It’s his favorite of Perno’s specialties.
Georgia’s linemen are grateful for Perno’s attitude, because she’s persistently pushing players to follow the process along with strength coach Scott Sinclair. It’s all part of a buy-in within the program, which leads to the offensive line having confidence to regard itself as one of the nation’s best.
For Wilson, an anchor opposite All-American left tackle Andrew Thomas, his biggest growth has been with leadership. He thrives on studying opposing defenses, and says he can now read their tendencies prior to the snap. But Wilson’s nutrition played hand-in-hand with that in order to progress toward his ambitions.
“If he wants to be a great player, he’s got to eat, he’s got to sleep, he’s got to get off his phone at night,” Smart said. “We are trying to get the aggregate of marginal gains, which is a little bit better at everything. He’s always physically looked impressive to me, but he’s playing better.”
Georgia will run out a similar offensive line as it did a season ago. But two familiar faces, Kindley and Wilson, will look vastly different than ever. They’re more slender, but still fit in with a big-bodied offensive line with hopes to be the centerpiece of production.
For some, it’s simply venturing away from the convenient Big Mac and giving salads a chance.
“(Wilson) looks great now,” sophomore right guard Cade Mays said. “He’s a freak of nature out there. He’s a wall that has transformed.”