LAWRENCE — The summer doldrums can be pretty brutal for the Kansas offensive line.
The days usually go something like this: Pack on the calories at the Burge Union, work off those calories by running and lifting weights at the Anderson Family Football Complex, pack on more calories at dinner and repeat the next day.
Only one man can save the Jayhawks' big uglies from getting into a June and July rut. Every Tuesday and Thursday, this mystery man will arrive at the facility and work with the group for a half hour on martial arts techniques. When asked to reveal the man's identity, KU staff members declined, hoping to keep him anonymous. The players who work with the man know him by one name.
"Karate Bob," KU offensive guard Brad Thorson said.
Karate Bob, huh? Surely he can't be too hard to find. But Google searches pairing "Karate Bob" and "Lawrence" are fruitless. Who knows if the man's name is even Bob?
"I hope so," Thorson said.
But he doesn't know for sure. All he knows is that Karate Bob has helped bring the Jayhawks' offensive line closer off the field, which is crucial to any grouping of five big dudes who have to move in unison with defensive linemen and linebackers shooting toward them.
"We always look forward to it," KU center Jeremiah Hatch said. "It's the best part of the offseason."
Karate Bob has helped KU the last two offseasons. Certainly, it is not revolutionary for offensive linemen to practice martial arts. Karate can help them with their balance and flexibility as well as with hand movements that keep attacking defenders at bay.
The Jayhawks will often spar with each other, and there's only one rule: No hitting the face.
"We get to go out there and work on hand combat," Thorson said. "There's a lot of similarities when in a fist fight to working in the trenches. I think it paid off pretty well."
Karate Bob is a diehard KU fan. During the Jayhawks' first three games, he had to be plenty proud; KU allowed just one sack and ran the ball with great effectiveness. But against Southern Mississippi, the Jayhawks allowed five sacks.
"Certainly, it was alarming," KU offensive line coach John Reagan said. "I think it's motivation for our guys. Our guys take pride in Todd (Reesing) not getting hit."
KU's line is a work in progress with no seniors in the group. Often, when the Jayhawks watch film of their performances, they'll see some familiar moves.
"When we are watching film, I'll say, 'Hey, I learned that from Karate Bob,' " Hatch said.
Just because the season is in full swing doesn't mean the Jayhawks don't see Karate Bob anymore.
"He's a supporter," Hatch said. "Not only does he come out and teach us karate, he sits out there while we're working out and watches us, and I see him (at games). He's out there watching us and making sure that we're using (his techniques)."