In better shape, slimmer settle a handful in starting dt role for virginia tech football food for hormonal imbalance

Playing next to Ricky Walker, Settle’s been a handful this season, leading the team with 9½ tackles for a loss, including seven in the last four weeks, and ranking second on the Hokies’ defense with three sacks, a force in the middle who got there by making major strides in his conditioning.

“From where he is now to when he got here, it’s night and day. I mean, it’s a 180,” defensive line coach Charley Wiles said. “It’s like, ‘Tim, you can’t play and help us until you get that body weight under control,’ and he attacked it, he’s maintaining it and he’s really in great shape right now.”

Consider it just one more thing Settle’s achieved in the face of questions during his football career. The prized recruit made enormous academic strides to qualify coming out of Stonewall Jackson High in Manassas in 2015, proving the doubters wrong.

He faced another major hurdle once he got to college, however: playing at 360 pounds wasn’t going to happen.

He redshirted that first year while trying to shed some extra weight, making some progress but still not enough to be more than a part-time player behind the team’s veteran tackles. Settle finished 2016 with 17 tackles and seven tackles for a loss in reserve duty, coming on strong near the end of the season.

“First of all, Tim’s a big person,” head coach Justin Fuente said. “He’s never going to be 270 pounds and play football. He’s just a big kid, but when faced with some challenges in terms of his weight and his conditioning level, he accepts those challenges, whether it’s how he eats, or whether it’s continuing to learn to push himself.

“When we first got here, I felt like he was a big guy that was just trying to make it through the workout. That was just what he was looking for, and [we were] trying to get him to push himself through the workouts so he could improve. To Tim’s credit, he listened to those things.”

The Hokies set out a multi-faceted plan to get him there. The strength and conditioning staff, in conjunction with the athletic department nutritionists, set weekly goals for Settle, trying to trim a little bit of weight at a time. He’s had regular weigh-ins since and hasn’t yet missed a target.

“I think if we would have said, ‘Hey, Tim, you need to lose 30 pounds,’ that could be overwhelming,” strength and conditioning coach Ben Hilgart said. “So kind of what we did instead was we broke his weight loss into smaller weekly goals — a pound this week, a pound next week. And the next thing you know, you add up all these smaller weekly goals and you’re down 30 pounds.”

Settle also needed to improve his endurance, so Hilgart tailored workouts to the demands of the position. That includes sprints in 5- to 10-yard bursts, working on speed, acceleration and explosiveness, although there’ll be times when he’s asked to do the same kind of running program a receiver will.

“The key for Tim has been consistency,” Hilgart said. “Putting the plan together to lose the weight is the easy part. That’s not the complicated part. The hard part is to follow through on that plan every single day. And it takes commitment and it takes grit, and Tim deserves a lot of credit for that.”

Settle’s magnetic personality plays a big part in that. He’s as outgoing of a player as there is on the roster, an “energy giver,” Hilgart said, who motivates others to be better. After donning the Santa Claus outfit at the Hokies’ team Christmas Gathering at the Belk Bowl last December, Fuente remarked about how others on the team are drawn to him like he’s the “Pied Piper.”

“Sometimes there can be a negative connotation with watching how you eat and doing extra conditioning and those types of things, but like I said, Tim, he’s got such a great energy about him and he’s so positive and he’s so coachable and he’s bought in so much that he doesn’t view this as a burden. This is a challenge for him and a challenge that he’s faced head on from when we started, and I’m proud of him.”

“It’s crazy now that I look back, for someone to think that I couldn’t lose weight,” Settle said. “I was trying everything, you know, but I guess I wasn’t trying hard enough. The fact that I fully gave it my all and actually was committed to losing weight … I’m just proud of myself. It just motivates me to just keep going.”