More Than a Fast 40 – A Holistic Approach to Athlete Prep for the NFL Combine

Augustine “Augie” Agyei is currently the NFL and NFL Combine Prep Lead Performance Coach at Landow Performance Facility in Colorado. Having spent time playing in both the Arena Football League and Indoor Football League himself, Augie is well-versed in the strength, speed, and agility needed in these elite athletes. Last week we heard from the founder of Landow Performance (Loren Landow, who is now the Head Strength & Conditioning Coach at the Denver Broncos), and today we’re excited to hear from Augie about the detailed work required to prepare athletes to perform at the NFL Combine.

By Augustine Agyei

If you saw any news articles about the recent NFL Combine or even watched the whole thing live on ESPN, you were likely wowed by the displays of speed, strength, and power from the next class of NFL prospects. As someone who was there on the sidelines, I share your amazement and the joy of witnessing athletic perfection. But what you may not have thought about and certainly didn’t see are the days, weeks, and months of preparation that culminated in lightning-fast 40-yard dashes, nimble zig-zagging, and beastly output in the bench press. Here’s an insider’s look at what it takes to get a college football player ready for the pros and the lessons you can apply to your own training.

Movement is Everything

At Landow Performance, we have a movement quality-first philosophy. So when a player comes to us, we don’t just want to analyze the usual body metrics or only use GPS and Catapult technology to objectively measure physical qualities – though we do both. We also need to assess how well he moves. Before we even start looking at the tests the athlete will encounter on NFL Pro Day or at the Combine, we want to see what their capabilities are in fundamental movement patterns. This way, we can identify any deficiencies and/or inefficiencies and start putting together a recipe that remedies these. There’s no sense in layering power, strength, or speed on top of dysfunction – all that’s going to give you is reduced performance, compromised movement, and, eventually, injury.

Once we have a clear picture of how well an athlete moves (or, in some cases, doesn’t because of past or present injuries, range of motion restrictions, stability concerns, etc.), we collaborate with our in-house team of specialists. This includes physical therapists, chiropractors, massage therapists, strength and conditioning coaches, and more. Together with the athlete and his agent, we come up with a plan tailored to not only get them to their fastest possible 40 or the most reps they can bench at 225 pounds, but also provide them with a solid foundation for sustainable movement that will serve them well for the rest of their football career and beyond. The little things we do with them now will yield big dividends later.

Starting and Finishing Well

While the phrase “going back to basics” might sound like nothing more than a cliché, it’s actually an overlooked component of how we prepare players to transition from college to professional football. The best players can get by on talent alone for a long time and, in doing so, forget what good starting and finishing positions look like in both the weight room and on the field. And, going back to our movement assessment protocol, if a player has limited mobility in one ankle, it’s going to negatively impact his ability to get into a solid stance that will yield a quick sprint or a high vertical leap. So we can tell a lot from how a player begins and ends each exercise, and then reverse engineer the movement pattern when necessary to dial this in.

Then we start moving forward from there. Whether it’s drills on our turf, reps in the weight room, or anything else, every session has an exercise. We consider all the variables – from exercise selection and order to set and rep counts to tempo, and much more – through the lens of the big picture goal. We’re effectively starting at game day for the athlete, in this case the Combine or Pro Day – and working backward from there to create and execute a sequential plan. Your own game day might look very different, but whether it’s a 10K run, a 50-mile bike ride, or anything else, it will benefit you to set a big goal and then decide on the steps needed to reach it.

Rest, recovery, nutrition, and hydration are other critical pieces of the puzzle that must fit together if a player is to perform his best on Pro Day or at the Combine. As they’re training hard for up to two and a half hours a day, the players we work with are taking a lot out of themselves. To put it back, they need to rehydrate and consume more protein than normal to rebuild the muscle fibers that are subject to microtears during every session. We’re also working with a lot of guys who got hurt and beat up during their college season, so there’s even more damage to repair.

That’s a big reason why Landow Performance decided to partner with Momentous. We bring in a chef to take care of meal prep, which is individualized based on each athlete’s weight and body fat percentage goals, and sometimes by the position they play. Yet we also recognized that no matter how much salmon, beef, or chicken an athlete ate, he would also need supplemental protein.

For us, this has to be NSF Certified for Sport, as NFL prospects have to go through drug testing and cannot risk taking supplements tainted by banned substances or anything that’s going to harm them. Next, we wanted a protein supplement that’s elegant in its simplicity and doesn’t contain any unnecessary fillers. It also needed to taste good, as players aren’t going to drink a shake if they have to be forced to choke it down. Momentous ArcFire is the only protein option designed for power athletes that checked all these boxes, and that’s what our players used to refuel in the run-up to the 2020 NFL Combine and Pro Day.

Building the Pyramid from the Bottom Up

You can’t merely provide the best possible training, because it’s nutrition, sleep, and the other components of recovery that will ultimately determine how much you adapt and progress. A coach and mentor once told me that pyramids aren’t built from the top. What he meant was that no matter what you want to excel in, you need to start at the bottom with strong relationships, mental toughness, focus, good coaching, and so on. In a recent article, Coach Landow referred to this as “career hygiene.” In other words, a collection of practices and habits that is going to set players up well for a long, happy, and well-lived life, both on and off the field.

When a player comes to us, their initial goal might be for us to make them as strong, fast, and powerful as possible so they can show their stuff on Pro Day or at the Combine. We can certainly do that. But what I hope they also walk away with is attention to detail, commitment to excellence, and a skill set that will empower them to be their best as both an athlete and a human being for years to come.

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