Beyond The NFL Combine: A Focus On Player Preparation And Training
Over the past 10 years a premium has been placed on prospective NFL players’ combine performance. The NFL invited 334 players this year to workout at the 2014 NFL Combine, while only 224 players will actually be drafted. Players and the media place a strong emphasis on a player’s draft position, although many undrafted players will have long and successful professional football careers. Furthermore, a lot of highly coveted top NFL Draft picks will be out of league shortly after their rookie contracts expire.
Before a player runs the NFL Combine’s most illustrious 40-yard dash, an NFL prospect goes through a grueling training process. The process begins immediately after a player makes his decision to declare for the NFL Draft. After a player’s football season is finished, he may compete in an all-star game or forego similar opportunities to commence training at a combine facility. Training facilities can be extremely beneficial for NFL prospects to bolster their draft stock and to increase the number of private workout opportunities.
Training facilities are located in a majority of states and vary among strength and conditioning concentrations, price, and size. Sports agents play a vital role in providing their clients with information about the different training programs’ available and their pros and cons. Ultimately, the decision comes down to whether a player feels comfortable with a given facility’s trainers and location, and whether a player prefers to train with a small or large group of prospective NFL players.
NFL agent Tommy Kellis explained a smaller facility affords players a “hands on approach,” unlike many larger facilities. One of Kellis’ clients, Terry Shankle (formerly a CB at UNC Chapel Hill) is training at one of those facilities, Lamour Training Systems (LTS) in Greensboro, North Carolina. For Shankle, his journey is just beginning at LTS, but he said that he “expects to have the best combine numbers” after he completes the program. In his first two weeks at LTS Shankle has already seen improvements in his vertical leap and 10-yard start.
Jimmy Lamour, the Owner of LTS, has worked hard to become a specialist in speed development. As an arena football player Lamour ran a 4.30 forty on two occasions. Lamour has continued to demonstrate that he has the knowledge and skill to prepare players for their respective professional workouts. Lamour’s training proficiencies are best represented by the success of the players he has previously trained, which includes Keenan Allen (Chargers), Corvey Irvin (Cowboys), and David Amerson (Redskins). Lamour continues to make strides as a trainer in a competitive training industry because he has a track record of “proven results,” says Clayton Banner, the CEO of Canada US Free Agents. Banner also added that Lamour’s combination of football intelligence and personable demeanor helps him quickly earn respect from his clients. Banner has first hand knowledge of Lamour’s abilities because he coached him during his football playing days.
Banner also believes a small training facility can benefit both a player and an agent. He explained that a small facility like LTS ensures that players do not get lost in the shuffle during one the most important points of their athletic careers. Further, a small facility with a low number of players training (and thus less agents around the facility) benefits agents because they do not have to worry about other agents trying to lure their clients during the training process. This allows an agent to give his client autonomy throughout the entire training process, and therefore a player is able to focus solely on perfecting his skill set. Banner added it doesn’t hurt a training facility when its head trainer (alluding to Lamour) can still run faster than the average collegiate athlete. That fact alone helps players quickly buy into Lamour’s system, and consequently increases the likelihood that a player will make substantial improvements during the training process.
Lamour prefers to highlight his clients’ achievements, but his story is worth telling. Lamour worked his way into the sports industry after a decorative career as a 3-time All Conference football player at Guilford College and a stint in the Arena Football League. He has been training athletes since 2005 and is a certified strength and condition specialist with the International Youth Fitness Association. Lamour started his training career providing his services to young athletes and has now transformed his craft to training prospective NFL players. Lamour’s main facility is small compared to his competitors, but he differentiates it through his comprehensive training plan he creates for each player. This plan is established from day one after Lamour has a one-on-one interview to get to know each player and to understand the player’s goals. Next, Lamour implements a tailored training and nutrition plan for each player. Lamour believes “[t]he process is much more than training. It is renewing your mind and making a change in mind, body, and soul.” He further explained that many players have misconceptions about the process of becoming a professional NFL player. Lamour explained, “[m]any players think the process is over once they have a great combine performance.” However, Lamour believes that a good statistical performance is only the beginning because combine workouts are usually supplemented with interviews and private workouts. With that in mind, LTS has established relationships with Orefici Watches and GTM Sportswear for image consulting, Under Armour® apparel for superior workout performance, and advisors for financial consulting.
The LTS training program provides players like Terry Shankle a better chance to achieve their goals. Shankle currently faces adversity because of major injuries he suffered during his collegiate football career that impacted his on field performance. Kellis describes Shankle as the “real deal” and hopes that Lamour and the LTS staff can reestablish Shankle’s explosiveness through its individualized training program. In the end, no training program can guarantee a player a position on an NFL team’s roster. Nonetheless, Lamour and the LTS staff will do everything in their power to put prospective NFL players in the best position to achieve their dream of playing in the NFL.