Notes from the All-Star Trail — Jan. 2018

January is always a crazy time for me. On one hand, it’s the best time of the year because I get to get out and see all the people I text and email the other 11 months of the year. On the other, it’s incredibly busy, with so much information to gather and publish. And it’s tough being away from the family for almost the whole month.

Today, though, let’s focus on the positives. Here are a few thoughts gathered from conversations I’ve had through Week 1 of my annual Amuck in America tour.

  • On Tuesday, a couple of agents asked me if scouts would be sticking around until Wednesday, the third day of workouts at the College Gridiron Showcase in Addison, Texas. I knew why they were asking — their clients were looking to skip Wednesday’s workout, with the excuse that no NFL teams would be there. What’s frustrating is that though I’m super-proud of our game, we (the organizers of the game) are not at a point where we have a roster full of first-rounders. These kids need to play every chance they get, even if it impresses only a handful of people. When players immediately start asking if they can skip workouts, it makes me wonder if they love football. And if you’re not a Top 100 prospect, you really need to exude a love of football.
  • Today I had a long conversation with a financial advisor who, after years of pursuing NFL clients, gave it up this year. I called him to pick his brain about what makes it so hard to succeed in the game, and along the way, he shared something with me that I hadn’t thought of. There was a time, he said, when he’d discuss his NFLPA certification openly with his clients, but no more. Now he has to pick his spots because the cache is gone, and it’s all because of — you guessed it — the decision by so many players to kneel during the anthem. He works with plenty of retired and pre-retired professionals from an older generation, and while they accept the players’ actions intellectually, it’s difficult to stomach on an emotional level. That’s something I hadn’t thought of: that, to some degree, the NFL has become so toxic that it’s splashing on the non-football business of some people in the game. That’s not good.
  • Lately I’ve been mulling joining the Pro Football Writers of America. It doesn’t really benefit me, per se, and I don’t really think of myself as ‘media’ in the traditional sense, but I’ve been kicking it around. At any rate, it got me thinking — why isn’t there a professional organization for current, former and aspiring NFL scouts? Why isn’t there a body that rewards and honors scouts that excel, or helps gather information on the profession, or even helps show the ropes to those who want to work for NFL teams some day? It’s something I’ve been mulling for a while now. Think it’s a good idea? A dumb one? Would you be interested if I started such a society? Hit me up on Twitter (@InsideTheLeague) with your ideas.
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Training Day: Joseph Potts of Top Speed Strength and Conditioning

Today, we continue our Training Day series with Joseph Potts, founder of Top Speed Strength and Conditioning just outside Kansas City. Joe brings a rich history of speed training on the professional sports level, including time with the hometown Royals as well as time spent training NFL athletes. His work bringing down 40 times by avoiding fads and relying on proven methodology is one reason we invited him to be part of the ITL family.

Read on for Joe’s insights on training and the combine prep space.

Top Speed Strength and Conditioning is based just outside of Kansas City, which is well outside the Sun Belt where most top combine prep facilities operate. How is this a challenge for you? Are there any benefits?

“Obviously, the winter weather can be a challenge, but outside of that, there’s not much difference. We’ve got a good hill for uphill sprint work as well as access to local football fields and track facilities. With agents sending a high majority of prospects to train in warmer states, one benefit is that guys who train here get more one-on-one interaction.”

Your resume includes extensive work with the Royals, where your speed techniques led to incredible success stealing bases in the team’s farm system. What are the parallels between teaching speed in baseball vs. football? Are there differences?

“In baseball, a majority of our start work was from the “base-stealing stance,” which is similar to the setup for the 5-10-5 shuttle. Outside of that, there isn’t much of a difference. It’s all about coaching for maximal movement efficiency and increasing force output into the ground. That’s pretty applicable across the spectrum of all sports when it comes to speed development.”

What’s the greatest challenge facing the modern speed trainer? Is it gaining a player’s trust? Is it getting his attention? Is it educating him on what it takes to really polish his skill-set? Something else?

“The biggest modern-day challenge is probably educating prospects on what to avoid. Social media has made it easy for trainers, ‘footwork’ gurus, and apparel companies to put together hype videos and shove a load of (crap) down a prospect’s throat. A few years ago, it was altitude training masks, which have since been debunked, and nowadays it seems to be ‘speed ladder gurus’ working as modern-day snake oil salesmen. What many young prospects don’t realize is that time is a precious commodity, and time spent practicing inefficient or ineffective training methods can impact the returns from the overall training. That’s why we try to stress smart training practices to our guys. It certainly paid off this year as guys like (Top Speed clients) Albert Wilson (Chiefs), Terrance Mitchell (Chiefs) and Dexter McDonald (Raiders) all had career years.”

Having trained dozens of NFL players as well as MLB players, what do they have in common besides outstanding physical traits?

“The ones I’ve worked with who were highly successful seemed to carry a chip on their shoulder. My theory is that this helped them avoid complacency. Many of them are also hyper-competitive, which, again, helps to avoid becoming complacent. One of the worst things an athlete can do is feel like they’ve ‘made it’ and relax, because in sports, there’s always someone out their gunning for your spot.”

 

Training Day: Corey Taylor of CTSP Sports Performance

Today, with most bowl games over and combine training under way across the country, we continue our Training Day series with Corey Taylor CTSP Sports Performance in Louisville. Corey is no joke as a trainer and has carved out a successful niche in the business despite being based far away from Miami, Los Angeles and other popular places for combine prep.

You make it clear during training that you have a regimen, it works, and you don’t deviate from it, no matter the player. How does that affect your relationship with players, positively and negatively? 

“It has a positive effect as we develop a close relationship due to the mutual respect we have as well as respect and trust in the training process. I let my players see my true passion for coaching and they know I give them everything I have in every session. Training at my place is not for everyone. We have a culture and a process that has been very successful, so if it’s not a good fit and they are not willing to commit and trust the process, then I’ll send the player home. I can’t afford to allow one player to ruin the process for my other guys. Too much on the line to be lost!”

When a player has to depart for all-star play, is that a positive or negative for a player’s ability to improve his body and skills? 

“I think it affects the combine invitees more than pro day guys. If a player goes to a late bowl game and has an all-star invitation, there is very little room for error in their training process. Most of the time it only leaves combine guys 4-6 weeks to get dialed in and make improvements. That’s why you see a lot of players improve their numbers at their pro day because of the additional preparation time.”

Players often build a stronger bond with their trainers during combine prep than their agents, financial planners, or other key advisors. What do you attribute that to? 

“Trust! These guys are spending 8-10 weeks with us and are essentially putting their careers in our hands. There must be a strong bond and trust so they are not only physically but mentally prepared.”

What’s different, good or bad, about training in Louisville? Are there pluses? Minuses? 

“A good thing about training in Louisville is there are less distractions and I am able to create an environment for laser-like focus to get players prepared for the biggest interview of their lives. There are no minuses. Louisville is not a sexy place to train but it’s a time for the players to focus on their one opportunity to make it to the league. Their job is to prepare both physically and mentally for the combine/pro day. There is a lot of investment in these kids so there is no time for vacation. It’s money time!”

In the last five years, would you say the combine prep business has changed for the better or worse? 

“I believe it has gotten worse.. I don’t see how you can give players the quality of training they need to dominate their combine/pro day when you have 30-50 guys in a training facility. Players also get so much bad information on training. Negative things get said about training at my facility because I only take 6-8 guys each year and not 30-50. However, every player that trains with me makes notable improvements on their 40 and other tests.”

Training Day: Geoff Pastrick of Prime Athlete Development

Today, we continue our series on some of our combine prep partners, and our focus turns to Geoff Pastrick of Prime Athlete Development in Kennesaw, Ga. Geoff’s service is interesting because it represents the next logical step in training for NFL athletes in that it’s position-specific. Geoff’s passion is training offensive linemen, and he’s put his years of experience to work doing just that for players hoping to block for NFL running backs and passers some day.

Here are some questions and Geoff’s answers on his service.

You’ve chosen to specialize in offensive line. Why offensive line? 

“The position of offensive line is the greatest position in all of sports. I’ve spent numerous hours game-planning and practicing schemes and never had the same level of excitement about that aspect of coaching as I did about teaching the fundamentals and techniques of offensive line play. The game of football, and the athletes that play it, have evolved. Unfortunately, the position of offensive line, for the most part, is still being taught the same way it was decades ago. In order to play at a high level, one must be trained as such. Prime is a place where offensive line athletes are given the respect, the undivided attention, and the dedication to their specific skillset that they deserve.”

You’ve chosen to specialize. Do you see this as becoming more common?

“When you decide to specialize, your target market greatly decreases. However, that is what makes it that much more special for those athletes. When an offensive line athlete comes to Prime, they know that . . . not only are they getting position-specific skill work, but they are also getting position-specific strength and agility training.  They know that each lift or movement that they are performing is directly related to improving their on-the-field skills as well as improving their on-the-field performance.”

How do you impress on young players that they can trust you, and that you can help them?

“Part of building trust is proving to the athlete that you know their weaknesses, have a plan in place to help them improve those areas, and have their best interest in mind.  The first thing we do is speak to the athlete to gauge their interest in our program and to find out what, specifically, they are looking for in a training facility. If we feel like the athlete will be a good fit, we then start an evaluation process of the athlete as an offensive lineman. There are certain criteria that we evaluate and certain characteristics that we look for. Once we have all the necessary information we generate a report and then go over that report with the athlete. We discuss what improvements need to be made and the plan we will put in place to address those areas.”

You’ve chosen to go to a longer training cycle (12 weeks v. 8 weeks). How does that benefit your clients?

“To have success as an offensive line athlete you must continually work on your craft.  We believe in a 12-week program to get as much work on their specific craft as possible, which includes strength training and movement patterns, to give the athlete the best chance to make an impression during rookie mini-camp. Our goal is that the athlete is a better offensive lineman on the first day of rookie mini-camp than he was the last time scouts saw him play. Furthermore, our plan is to train through March and then break for the month of April when the athletes will be visiting with teams before the draft. If an athlete wants to continue to train at Prime they are more than welcome. We also stress to the athlete to come back in as much as they can before training camp starts to continue to build on what they have learned.”

Obviously, most of the bigger combine prep facilities are based in the Sun Belt, especially Florida and California. What went into your decision to launch your service in Atlanta?

“We have good weather as well, but if an athlete is more interested in sitting under an umbrella on the beach sipping on iced-tea than he is interested in improving his performance then Prime is not the place for him! The truth is that I have lived in this area for over 12 years. Prime is in the football-crazed Southeastern US, right in the middle of SEC country. We are located in Kennesaw, GA, which is a great area just 25 miles northwest of downtown Atlanta.  There are numerous things athletes can enjoy on their downtime just a short drive from the facility.”

 

The Rising Cost of Representing Players

Sticker shock is probably the biggest issue facing the modern NFL agent, and that’s especially true of new contract advisors sorting out the financial expectations of their recruiting quarry. Even players barely on the draft radar have come to see training as an expectation, and the entitlement doesn’t end there.

We’ve done plenty of writing about the costs of the business in the past. About three years ago (January 2015), the number we came up with was $10,000 to represent a player who could be drafted in the seventh round, but who would likely wind up as a priority free agent. Of course, that’s three years ago in a business where the dollars spend quickly and desperate knows no bounds. On the other hand, if you’re in the market for a top-100 pick, the number is 3-4 times that, according to our conversation with a top player rep in November 2014.

Both costs have risen. This week, the answer we got back on the first question was that it’s closer to $30,000 for a player slated to be drafted in the latter rounds (“we set aside 20k for training, 1500 a month in per diem, then another 2k in random expenses,” said one agent who typically signs late-rounders and undrafted free agents but always eschews top-50 prospects). As for those in the Top 100, by the time signing bonus, per diem, training (including lodging and food), marketing guarantee and/or other costs, we can only guess.

Still, it’s not the upfront costs but the back-end costs we’ll be focusing on later today in our Friday Wrap. We asked 13 contract advisors this question: How much does your monetary investment in a player grow over the draft cycle? In other words, once training costs and other considerations are set upon signing, what percentage (if any) does that total grow with unplanned, ‘out of pocket’ costs?

Based on spending about $30,000 on a typical prospect, here were some of the responses.

  • “Depending on the level of player i plan on spending around 5 to 15k. It usually ends up around 10 to 20k at least.”
  • “I mean, it always happens. It can be as little as a $200 flight, or it can be thousands of dollars. When i budget for each guy i usually add at least $7,500 in “misc. costs.”  If i stay under, great…but it usually tips the other way.”
  • “Maybe 2-3k.”
  • We’re pretty strict so maybe 5%.”
  • “Overall, we know that the promised expenses are probably about 90% of the expenses. Sometimes we need a few extra flights, rental car, or an additional loan, but the main expenses are known upon signing. And of course, we know our own expenses like all-star games, visiting client while training, etc. Very true. Plan is to keep things as clear as possible when they sign in order to avoid the issue later. Usually works but not always!”

For more responses, and a more rigorous look at the ‘out of pocket’ expenses associated with signing and representing budding NFL players, make sure to register for our Friday Wrap. It’s free, and chock-full of notes on the business of pro and college football. Register here.

Merry Christmas!

Training Day: Allen Langford of Athletic Body Mechanics

At Inside the League, we’ve been fortunate to work with several outstanding combine prep professionals in our hometown. One of our longest-standing partners has been Athletic Body Mechanics, led by its owner, Allen Langford. I’ve watched Allen go from training athletes at a high school in a cold drizzle to leading workouts at the gleaming, 6,500-square foot space ABM now occupies.

Today we present Allen’s thoughts on combine prep and what it takes to make January and February count.

There are dozens of gyms in the Greater Houston area, but you’ve had success attracting several Texans and other NFL veterans to your gym. What makes your facility a different? 

“I feel our attention to detail is what really separates us. We take each individual athlete and we give them everything they need to be successful. None of our athletes get lost in the group. Being able to properly assess what’s best for the athlete has really been what sets us apart. And a lot of our vets are super comfortable with that fact that I’ve been through it before and I totally understand their lifestyle.”

It wasn’t long ago you were operating out of a small space in a business park. This year, you moved into a much larger, much better-appointed facility just down the road from where you started. What do you attribute your growth to?

“We have been able to grow and attract new business through results. Our athletes don’t get hurt. We believe in order to be your best we have to minimize your risk of injury, and our injury prevention program, along with our distinct training, has helped our athletes excel. Results is always key in this business.”

You were a member of the 2009 draft class, so it wasn’t long ago you were training for the NFL yourself. How does that recent experience shape your work with NFL prospects?

“Having gone through the process myself, that definitely gives us an edge. I know the effort and time that goes into this process, and how every decision you make affects your progress. I think understanding what teams are looking for from a workout definitely helps us with our training program.”

What’s the one thing that an NFL prospect has to accept – about his training, about his mindset, about his body, his attitude, or whatever — before he can truly unlock his potential?

“Any athlete preparing for a pro day or combine has to understand it takes total focus. This time is not meant to be a time to have a great time hanging out or doing anything. This time is meant for you to prepare mentally and physically for the biggest interview of your life. Only having a short amount of time to prepare means there will be a lot of sacrifice throughout this preparation. Your film means so much, and at the end of the day, you have to be a ballplayer, but your workout can change a lot of things, so it’s important to give 110% to this moment.”

There’s almost an unlimited number of talented athletes in Houston, and that’s especially true during combine prep. How do you build competition in the gym to help all athletes reach their potential?

“Motivation is self-driven. I believe the opportunity that’s in front of these young men is motivation enough. We try to help our athletes see what’s really at stake. Competition pushes us all to be great. We like to create an atmosphere that is similar to being out there on the field.”

Gridiron Tech with Rick Serritella: Dec. 11-15

Welcome back to Gridiron Tech. This week highlights how the increased use of analytics is impacting the NFL, a new league that would like to overtake the NFL as the biggest ‘sports league’ in the world, and a look at how one former ESPN employee is making a career change.

More analytics ahead?: When the NFL began its ‘Next Gen Stats’ initiative four years ago through its partnership with Zebra, initially it was to help provide fans at home and in the stands the next generation of football stats. However, sensor technology has trickled into the offices of coaches and executives around the league, and today, nearly one-third of NFL teams are now utilizing Zebra technology. By tagging player jerseys, teams are able to chart things such as ball velocity for quarterbacks, acceleration speed for wide receivers and even an athlete’s strength and conditioning. Some of the beliefs being adopted in NFL front offices could have a major impact in years to come, such as ‘pitch counts’ for quarterbacks. The next step for the company is to install RIFD tags on NFL footballs. “We use the Zebra Sports practice system to track our players and monitor their participation and performance throughout the season,” explained Saints Head Coach Sean Payton. “The information provided by Zebra has proven to be a vital asset.”

Next best thing to Madden?: While ESPN recently announced another round of layoffs, one former employee has resurfaced as a head coach but with one catch: he’ll be stripped of his authority to call the shots on game day. Former NFL running back Merril Hoge has signed on with Your Call Football (YCF), a real-life Madden-like game which allows fans to dictate everything that happens on the field in each situation. Using the Your Call Football app, users will be able to vote on which plays to call, earn points and win cash prizes. “YCF truly represents the future of the fan experience, and I’m thrilled to be involved,” Hoge said. Former Green Bay Packers head coach Mike Sherman has also signed on to be a head coach for YCL.
Overwatch takes aim at NFL: The new eSports Overwatch League is aiming to become larger than the NFL. In order to help its efforts, the company has hired Steve Bornstein, who left his job as CEO of the NFL Network, to serve on the league’s executive committee. “When I left the NFL, the only thing I saw that had the potential to be as big was the eSports space,” he says. “What fascinated me was just the level of engagement, the fact that we measure consumption in billions of minutes consumed.” With a league minimum salary of $50,000, to go along with 401k plans, benefits and free housing, the league is attracting teenage video game players from all over the world.
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Training Day: Alex Brink of E-Force Football

In our last two editions of Succeed in Football, we’ve spoken to two of the trainers we work with at Inside the League, Dave Spitz of California Strength and Darryl Wong of Sparta Science. They are two of the 30-plus combine prep specialists we work with every day at Inside the League.

Today, we talk to former NFL and CFL quarterback Alex Brink of E-Force Football in Lake Oswego, Ore. Not only is he a former NFL draftee (7/223, 2008, Texans), but he was one of the quarterbacks on the 2008 Hula Bowl roster assembled by ITL’s Neil Stratton.

Tell me about your career, who you learned the most from along the way, and how you’ve incorporated that learning into what you do now.

“I was fortunate to play for a number of great coordinators and QB coaches during my career. My college OC (at Washington State), Timm Rosenbach, is one of the best QB mentors I have been around. His experience playing at a high level at Washington State as well as being a first-round pick in the 1989 supplemental draft gave him a depth of knowledge that few coaches I know can match. I was also fortunate to spend time with (49ers head coach) Kyle Shanahan during my time with the Houston Texans. Kyle is by far one of the smartest offensive minds I have been around and I have drawn on his coaching throughout my career and in my coaching of quarterbacks.”

What are some classic mistakes that quarterbacks make during the pre-combine process that negatively affect them?

“Too often quarterbacks focus only on the physical aspects of preparing for the NFL. They put too much emphasis on combine drills and fundamental work, but when they end up getting picked up by a team do not know how to handle the mental rigors of being an NFL QB. Although fundamentals are important, the most important work a QB can do pre-draft is learning how to process an NFL playbook and how to handle the mental stress of playing the position.”

What percentage of a QB’s success is dependent on work off the field (film, board, character, leadership)? How do you relate/explain that to QB prospects?

“Obviously physical tools are important — you have to be above a base threshold of talent to make it in the NFL — but more important are the mental and psycho-social elements of playing QB. This is 90% of where a quarterback’s success comes from. I was below-average physically as a player, but was able to extend an eight-year professional career because of my commitment to studying film, understanding playbooks and being a great leader. I am able to relate to prospects because I have been in every possible position you can be in as a pro: making a team as a rookie, battling for a roster spot as a vet, being a starter, being a backup, going to a new team, etc. During our preparation, we constantly focus on how to digest a playbook, break down film and develop all necessary tools to be an NFL quarterback.”

What percentage of a QB’s potential is purely dependent on raw arm strength? Is it the most important characteristic? If not, what is?

“Arm strength plays a role, but it is a very low percentage of a QB’s potential for success. As long as a QB has the base level of arm strength they can make it at the next level as long as they process information well; that is the most important characteristic a QB can have. Do they process all of the information pre- and post-snap in the most efficient and accurate way possible?”

 

 

 

Training Day: Darryl Wong of Sparta Science

This week, with players and agents making decisions on where to train for the NFL Combine and pro days in March, we’re talking to our combine prep partners about their methods, clients, and success stories. There’s more than one way to maximize a player’s explosiveness and unlock his potential, and we’re out to learn how the best trainers across the country hone each player’s athleticism.

Today, we talk to Darryl Wong of Sparta Science, an innovative training destination near San Francisco.

Sparta Science has involvement with National Football Scouting. What is your role with them?

“We were at the NFL Combine last year and here is a short article on what we do and how Jeff Foster, Director of National Football Scouting, integrates our technology in the combine. We will be there again this year and it is part of the medical/physical evaluations that every player will have to go through. That way teams will be able to gather deeper evidence/facts objectively in order to compare and contrast players.”

How much can you tell about an athlete’s future based on your testing?

“The scan cannot predict the future. Each individual athlete’s choices, day in and day out, have the biggest impact on their future.  The scan provides powerful statistical information regarding where an athlete compares to his counterparts, where his/her deficiencies lie, and if the athlete is at a statistical risk of injury. The most important part of this data is not the collection but the action based on the information. The interplay between the data, the coach and the athlete plays the biggest role in improving performance capacities (speed, strength, flexibility, endurance) and reducing injury risk in a statistically significant way.”

How much can injuries be reduced simply by knowing how a player moves and is built, as well as his prior injury history?

“We cannot provide a percentage. No one can. The biggest predictor of injury is prior injury, so any coach helping athletes must consider this. The Sparta Scan is so advantageous from an injury perspective because it looks at the root cause of injuries rather than the end result. Athletes tear their ACL — the real question is why? More importantly, (it’s better to understand) that one athlete tore his ACL because of reason X and the other tore it for reason Y. When we understand the components that underpin the injury from an individual perspective, we can address things more appropriately.”

How long has Sparta been gathering data? How has Sparta been able to head off injuries so far?

“Sparta has been gathering this information for a decade. More importantly our system is set up like a hospital. All of our domestic and international partners (NFL, NBA, MLB, English Premier League, International Rugby, U.S. Special Forces, universities) data feeds into one centralized database which allows unprecedented amounts of medical-grade data to be analyzed regarding athletic movement and injury potential. This depth of data is the key component regarding the statistical power of the Sparta Scan. Sparta’s partners have seen a savings up to $900k in one year of use with the system.

“The biggest obstacle to overcome regarding pro days and combine preparation is time. Since the dawn of time, coaches and facilities use strong educated guesses to address an athlete’s needs. The technology we use identifies areas of weakness that will inhibit performance and put you at higher statistical risk of injury in under two minutes. By improving said weakness, we improve an athlete’s speed, change of direction, strength, and injury reduction more efficiently than any other program in the world.”

 

Training Day: Dave Spitz of California Strength

For the next three weeks, agents, draft prospects and trainers will be in a frenzy as agents sign players and they, in turn, decide where the top prospects will train. We thought we’d spend some time introducing the people running the facilities where they train, telling their stories and illuminating the experts who are so important in the lead-in to the combine and/or pro day.

Today, we’re talking to Dave Spitz of California Speed, which is based in San Ramon, Calif.

Most of the top combine prep facilities are located in the Sun Belt. Have you found it harder to establish your business given that you’re in the Bay Area?

“The only challenge with having a combine prep facility in the Bay Area is that the cost of living is high, so housing athletes presents an interesting challenge. That being said, the benefits of training in the Bay Area far exceed the potential initial downside. First, we have incredible access to industry leaders in orthopedics, physical therapy, massage, and the latest in technological advancements. Second, the available food and nutritional options are second to none.”

Are speed players made or refined, based on the explosiveness they already possess?

“In the 8-10 weeks of preparation for the NFL Combine, it’s not so much the speed that we are concerned with as it is running the 40-yard dash, running the L-drill and running the 5-10-5 (short shuttle); these events are tests that we prepare our athletes for in a specific and methodical way. We have an overriding approach to block periodization that drives our NFL Combine and pro day results, but within the context of that model, we have a lot of room for customization based on the type of athlete that we receive in any given season.  Every athlete has a specific set of strengths, weaknesses and opportunities that we need to hone in and capitalize on in order to bring out their best performance when it counts.”

What role does pure speed, in your opinion, play in the evaluation process? Can a player ‘run’ himself into a camp invite or late selection?

“The quantitative data that we collect as a result of the NFL Combine or pro day performance is valuable because it essentially confirms what NFL personnel see on game film, or, those performances can force teams to re-evaluate a player and spend time looking at additional game film. We liken the quantitative data of the 40-yard dash, L-drill, and 5-10-5 (short shuttle run) to an SAT or ACT test score when applying to a college or university. Essentially, if the athlete’s game film is their GPA, the NFL Combine or pro day scores are a metric that we can use to determine whether an athlete has, A, the requisite athleticism to play in the NFL, or B, has upside that an NFL team can potentially use. For example, one player we trained last spring, Khalfani Muhammad, ran a 4.34-second 40-yard dash in what was a torrential downpour in 50-degree weather at the Cal-Berkeley pro day.  This performance gave the Titans a critical data point to utilize when considering Khalfani as a potential punt returner and deep threat (editor’s note: the Titans took Muhammad 7/241 last April).”

What’s the most common mistake speed trainers make in the combine prep process?

“The most common mistake is not having a consistent and cohesive strategy for success. The idea that a speed (only) specialist can (succeed) when talking about the 40-yard dash is a flawed concept. You need a closed system that accounts for the athlete’s treatment, nutrition, weightlifting, and linear and lateral speed training that are all married together in a comprehensive program designed to produce optimum results.  We have and always have been the ‘Apple’ of NFL Combine preparation, meaning that we control every aspect and component of the athlete’s training from start to finish.”

What’s the most common mistake draft prospects make in the process of selecting a trainer?

“Not getting on the phone and speaking with the trainer, but instead deciding to simply rely on what others say or decide on a facility based on marketing material alone. I would encourage anyone that wants to work with us to pick up the phone and speak with me personally, learn about our process and be prepared to commit to our training methods.”