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Huffines Institute Staff

Institute Director: Dr. J. Timothy Lightfoot


PhD FACSM RCEP CES, Omar Smith Endowed Chair in Kinesiology, Dept. of Health & Kinesiology, Texas A&M University.

Dr. Lightfoot received his Bachelors and Masters degrees from Northeast Louisiana University and his doctorate from the University of Tennessee. He then completed a research consultantship with NASA at Kennedy Space Center in the Biomedical Laboratory and then a three-year National Institute of Health postdoctoral research fellowship in the Division of Physiology at Johns Hopkins University. He was an Assistant and Associate Professor at Florida Atlantic University for 6 years, and a Professor at the University of North Carolina Charlotte for 14 years, 11 years of which he was Chair of the department. Dr. Lightfoot has published over 50 scientific, peer-reviewed articles on the genetics of daily physical activity and exercise endurance, as well as the physiological response to high-G exposure and hemorrhage and is currently funded by the National Institutes of Health to conduct research on the genetics of physical activity. His lab also has an unique interest in the physiological responses of motorsports athletes to the race environment. His research has been featured in numerous general media outlets including the Los Angeles Times,, National Public Radio, the Rush Limbaugh show, CNN, the NBC Today Show, MSNBC, Charlotte Talks radio show, Revista Epoca (a Brazilian weekly magazine), and on Australian National Radio. 

Director of the Texas A&M Coaching Academy: Dr. John Thornton


PhD, Executive Professor, Health and Kinesiology Department

As the inaugural Director of the Texas A&M Coaching Academy, Dr. Thornton brings a wealth of experience as an athlete, coach, and athletic administrator to the position.  After playing high school and junior college basketball in San Antonio, Thornton came to Aggieland to play for Coach Shelby Metcalf. Thornton was the 1973-1974 Southwest Conference Newcomer of the Year after being the second-leading scorer and rebounder on the Aggie squad. In 1974-75, Thornton was the team captain and helped lead the Aggies to the 1975 SWC Championship title.                        

Taking full advantage of the opportunities presented to him by Texas A&M, Thornton graduated cum laude from Texas A&M in 1975. Thornton was named the Department of Education's Distinguished Honor Award winner. Thornton spent two years as a graduate assistant basketball coach on Metcalf's staff and earned his master's degree in educational administration from Texas A&M. He would become the basketball head coach at Athens High School, spend a brief time at UT-San Antonio before taking the athletics director and head basketball coaching job at Hill Junior College in Hillsboro. In 1981, Metcalf would call and ask Thornton to serve as an assistant basketball coach. From 1981 until the 1990, Thornton would serve as Metcalf's assistant helping the Aggies to one NCAA appearance (1987) and four NIT appearances. During the middle of the 1990 season, Thornton was asked to serve as interim head basketball coach and finished with a 5-7 mark as the Aggies' head coach.

Lead Institute Administrative Assistant: Ms. Danielle Sanders

Ms. Sanders is a Junior Community Health and Nutritional Science double major. She started out by volunteering in the Institute helping with  podcasts, and now is the Lead Administrative Assistant. Danielle is interested in pursuing a career in the health field incorporating both of her degrees and the basics of exercise science as it relates to the body. 

Institute Administrative Assistant: Ms. Colleen McDaniel


Ms. McDaniel is a senior Kinesiology major with the goal of attending Medical School. She has recently joined the Huffines Institute due to her desire to grow her knowledge in the field Sports Medicine. She will be helping with the administrative duties of the Huffines Institute.

Communications Specialist: Mr. Dell Billings


Mr. Billings, '95 (Agricultural Journalism), is the Communication Specialist for the Dept. of Health and Kinesiology at Texas A&M, but his services are displayed throughout the Huffines Institute's website.  Mr. Billings has a long history in local media, having worked at KBTX for 10 years and KWTX for two years before joining Texas A&M's HLKN Department.

Ms. Emily Schmitt, MS


Emily is a fifth-year doctoral student studying Exercise Physiology at Texas A&M University and specializing in the genetic regulation of physical activity. Before coming to Texas, Emily worked as an exercise physiologist in the Strides to Strength Program at Presbyterian Hospital in Charlotte, NC. This program was designed to help cancer patients manage fatigue levels and overcome physical and emotional limitations following a cancer diagnosis. Emily has also spent a number of years working with older adults in the clinical setting to help them better manage chronic conditions through individualized exercise programs. Emily received her Bachelors degree in Exercise/Sport Science from Elon University and her Masters degree in Clinical Exercise Physiology from the University of North Carolina Charlotte.

Ms. Heather Vellers, MS RCEP

  Heather is currently a third-year doctoral student in Exercise Physiology at Texas A&M University.  She has a Bachelors degree in Exercise Science and a Masters degree in Clinical Exercise Physiology from the University of North Carolina Charlotte. Heather is also a Registered Clinical Exercise Physiologist.           

Mr. Blaise Collins, MS

             Blaise Collins is a third-year doctoral student from Odessa, Tx.  He received both his undergraduate and Master's education in Exercise Physiology from University of Texas of the Permian Basin and is certified through the American College of Sports Medicine as a Health and Fitness Specialist.  Prior to moving to College Station, he served as lead exercise physiologist for a Cardiac and Pulmonary Rehabilitation unit in Odessa.

 Mr. Clayton Cruthirds, BS


Clayton is a second-year Masters student in the Exercise Physiology program.  Clayton came to the Institute from The University of Missouri where he worked with Dr. Frank Booth.

Mr. Ayland Letsinger

  Ayland is a senior Kinesiology major with hope to become a Sports Physical Therapist. His enthusiasm to learn about the latest information about health and human development led him to work for the Huffines Institute as the Lead Podcast and Huffines Human Performance Minute Producer.          

 Mr. Kenneth McIntyre


Kenneth is a sophomore Industrial and Systems Engineering major from Fort Worth.  He volunteered his Freshman year to become involved with the Institute, and now works as an Administrative Assistant, working primarily with the Huffines Institute website.