Todd Graham preaching toughness for Sun Devils in 2017

Aug 3, 2017, 7:30 AM | Updated: 3:50 pm
Wide receiver Curtis Hodges does some pushups during Arizona State football practice at Camp Tontoz...
Wide receiver Curtis Hodges does some pushups during Arizona State football practice at Camp Tontozona. (Photo: Eve Craig/Sun Devil Source)
(Photo: Eve Craig/Sun Devil Source)

PAYSON, Ariz. — Around the program, Arizona State’s season mantra is ubiquitous. It looms in declarative fashion on signage at the Kajikawa Practice Facility and adorns the backs of players’ workout T-shirts.

Tougher than hell.

The phrase is conveyed as an acronym, T.T.H., but everyone knows exactly what it means.

“What T.T.H. stands for is hard core discipline, hard core toughness,” ASU head coach Todd Graham said. “I’m not interested in you being tough. That’s not good enough. I’m not interested in you doing your job. I need you to do your best. Hard core toughness. That’s the number one factor we have to do to get back to where we need to be.”

To that end, ASU players said they spent more time during the summer working outside, and less time in the air conditioned comfort of the Dickey Dome. Much like Colorado evolved last season to take advantage of its altitude by becoming a no-huddle, up-tempo offense, ASU wants to leverage a conditioning edge that can be gained by embracing the heat.

“See, we got to get used to that because people come here from Cali or up north and they’re not used to it and we’re already used to it,” ASU senior Koron Crump said. “So they’ve got to come play in our conditions.

“These workouts have been tougher than hell, and we’ve been living through hell. That’s why I believe this whole season is going to go great. We expect more, we did more this offseason. We practiced on our own, you hear me? We took that more personal. We made sure we practiced on our own. We held each other accountable on that.”

In every season since Graham arrived at ASU in 2012, a slogan has been put forth to rally around as a team motto. In 2012, it was All In; in 2013, it was Any Challenge. In 2014, it was Leave No Doubt. In 2015, it was Embrace the Grind. And 2016? Well, everyone would rather just forget about that.

“What was last year?” Graham asked. “I don’t know, it wasn’t any good. Whatever it was it didn’t work.

“Obviously if there’s a heat warning, we’re not going to be foolish. But other than that we’re going to get used to it, get tough.”

Players appear to have fully bought into it. Before junior left guard Sam Jones — widely considered to be as much of a leader as the team has — took a sledgehammer to the rock signifying an end to ASU’s summer workout program, he addressed the team with reference to their slogan.

“What’d we say at the beginning of the summer?” Jones said. “We were going to have the best summer ever, right? Tougher than Hell every day, right? It’s not just a saying, man. We did it every day of the summer. You can look at everyone’s eyes and know you put 100 percent in the bank every day. Check the box, baby. Summer’s behind us, the best one we’ve ever had.”

From a mental and physical preparation standpoint, the team is where Graham wants it to be right now as it enters August.

“I’ll tell you this now, we’ve had one hell of a summer,” Graham said. “This group, not any group we’ve had has invested more every day. A lot of these practices they don’t have to go to. Over half of the summer deals have been voluntary. These guys have been 100 percent. That usually brings good results.

This story appears on courtesy of a partnership with, part of the Scout Network and home for the most detailed information on Arizona State football.

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