Training Joe Burrow: OHIO alumnus Dak Notestine aids Bengals’ star QB
When Dak Notestine was considering where to attend college and play football, he didn’t know his choice to attend Ohio University would impact his life beyond his playing years.
The steps he’s taken has led him to becoming a well-respected strength and performance coach, including for OHIO and now with Black Sheep Performance. In fact, one of his most well-known clients is The Plains native Joe Burrow, who has trusted Notestine throughout his football career.
From Burrow’s Athens High School playoff run, to his Heisman-winning and national champion collegiate career with Louisiana State University, and now his professional career where he is leading the Cincinnati Bengals to the Super Bowl, Notestine has been there for the quarterback.
“He’s diligent, he’s dedicated, and he truly is passionate about his profession,” Notestine said. “Even if he was an accountant or lawyer, he would set out to be the best one he could possibly be. That’s just his makeup and his mindset, how Joe goes about everything.”
When Notestine, BSPEX ’10, MSRSS ’12, was debating where to attend, Ohio University and the city of Athens were already on his mind. His dad, Timothy, BSCE ’80, played a year of football at OHIO. Growing up, they would often travel to Athens to visit family, including an uncle who worked on campus.
With the beautiful landscape, magnificent trees, and brick streets, Notestine thought of Athens as a “fairy-tale place” as a child.
However, what sealed the deal for Notestine to commit to OHIO was a coach by the name of Jimmy Burrow, who had multiple phone conversations with the Bellefontaine native and even visited him at school.
“He was exactly who I thought he was during the recruiting process,” Notestine said of Jimmy Burrow as a coach. “He always asked about how I was doing. He really did care about us as players, and you felt it.”
From a young age, Notestine’s parents taught him to provide value for others and be a hard worker, and that is exactly what he did at OHIO. While he started as a walk-on, he worked his way to a starting position at defensive end and was voted team captain his senior season.
While a graduate student, Notestine began to help train some of the coaches’ kids that would hang around the facilities. One of those connections, Jimmy’s son Joe Burrow, began to lean on Notestine for advice.
“It just naturally grew to where anytime Joe had a question, concern, or needed insight, that I was kind of somebody in that chain that would be willing to help,” Notestine said. “He’s had help all around, and I’m not saying that I am the one voice in his life, I’m definitely not. But I have always tried to be a mentor, as well as someone for him to soundboard off. Joe has a phenomenal family and if you ever go to a game, you see that he's got a caravan of people that are all in support of him.”
Notestine transitioned from a player to a strength and conditioning coach for OHIO in 2011 after graduating with his bachelors in exercise physiology. He also completed his master’s in recreation and sports sciences in 2012. He became director of strength and conditioning in 2014, a position he held until his departure in January 2021.
During his almost decade at OHIO, he trained and worked with a variety of teams, including men’s and women’s basketball, football, soccer, baseball, softball, and more.
Now, Notestine is the director of performance for Black Sheep Performance, a personal training facility in Blue Ash, a suburb of Cincinnati. He connected with the owner of the facility through Joe Burrow, as the owner trained his former Ohio State and current Cincinnati Bengals teammate, Sam Hubbard.
Notestine worked with Joe Burrow to get him back to playing after his knee surgery in late 2020, training four or five days a week. His success is not a surprise to Notestine, including when Joe was recently named Comeback Player of the Year by the Pro Football Writers of America.
“I think for him to win Comeback Player of the Year now, I would say a lot of the things we did clearly worked for him and helped to build his confidence,” Notestine said. “But, I know that this is just another step that he’s taken and there’s several more ahead for him.”
Throughout the years, Notestine says that Joe Burrow’s resilience has grown stronger.
“He’s just ready for whatever is thrown his way. It doesn’t seem like he’s ever affected and that’s something that I don’t know that you really can teach to the level of which he has it. He’s so dialed in and able to stay in the moment,” he said.
Notestine also met his now wife, Alex Stec, BSJ ’14, who works as a brand journalist for the Major League Soccer club FC Cincinnati, during his time at OHIO.
“I have many things I look back at my time with OHIO with nothing but fondness and a smile on my face,” Notestine said. “Little did I know I would be where I am now.”