May 20, 2015 tomshaw_qqq7aq

Looking for an Edge

LAKE BUENA VISTA – On a breezy day more than a month ago at Walt Disney’s Wide World of Sports Complex, fleet-footed defensive back Devin Hester of the University of Miami was at one corner of the field doing agility drills. In another corner, 340-pound offensive guard Max Jean-Gilles of Georgia had a resistance band around his stomach, working on power coming off the line. ”I feel muscles I never knew I had,” said Jean-Gilles, a North Miami Beach graduate whose perspiration-soaked gray T-shirt read: “Finish the Drill.” Hester, who will forgo his senior season, and Jean-Gilles were among 30 college athletes at Disney working toward the same goal: to impress at this week’s NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis. CAMP COUNSELOR Although teams have hours of game tapes and scouting reports as thick as War and Peace on the prospects, the combine results also are key to the decision-making process for April’s NFL Draft. Running the private training program was 46-year-old Tom Shaw, who got the nickname the ”Speed Guru” during his days working with Florida State athletes, including Deion Sanders. Shaw first worked with Sanders while he was with the track team, but the program translated to his football skills, too. Word got around, and soon a couple of agents in 1994 wanted Shaw to help their clients prepare for the invitation-only combine, which is a whirlwind four-day program of athletic, medical and psychological tests conducted in front of every NFL team’s staff. ”Ten or 12 years ago, guys didn’t train to get ready for this type of event,” said agent Roosevelt Barnes of Indiana-based Maximum Sports. “What we found was our athletes had improvement in the shuttles [a sprinting drill], the 40-yard dash and other drills that enhanced their draft status. After we started sending guys to Tom, then others followed the trend.” Although Tom Shaw Performance Enhancement offered the first combine-specific training program, now there are many around the country. Of the 330 prospects at this year’s combine, most have gone through one of them. ”It’s like taking classes to get ready for the SATs or any college boards,” Barnes said. “It’s a critical part of their preparation to move to the next level.” Shaw’s facility was based in Kenner, La., near New Orleans. But Hurricane Katrina forced at least a temporary move to Disney. His camp includes past and present NFL players who prepare the players for every facet of the combine through teaching and repetition. READY TO GO ”It’s like Groundhog Day every day,” Shaw said. ‘So when they go to the combine, they know, `Oh, that’s what I’ve been doing the last 2 1⁄2 months.’ ” If Barnes didn’t believe there was major benefit, his agency wouldn’t be spending the thousands of dollars per client to foot the bill. Shaw, who has three Super Bowl rings from his days working with Tom Brady and the New England Patriots, said his intensive program is ”expensive.” It costs around $1,000 per week per player, plus room and board. The players stayed at nearby resort condos. But Barnes and the players know that even moving up just one spot in the draft can often mean thousands of dollars more in their first contract. ”I run a legit 4.3 [seconds] in the 40,” said Hester, who also was receiving treatment for an injured hamstring. “I’m now trying to get down to the 4.2 range. It’s a big difference.” Jean-Gilles is trying to shed some weight and get stronger, with Shaw providing a nutritionist. Shaw has a proven track record, with his client list looking like a ”Who’s Who” of the NFL. It includes Peyton Manning, Drew Bledsoe, Donovan McNabb, Derrick Brooks, Rod Woodson and even the Dolphins’ Ricky Williams. This year Shaw’s client list includes Vanderbilt quarterback Jay Cutler and Penn State defensive back Arwar Phillips. Even baseball stars Johnny Damon and A.J. Pierzynski showed up for a few workouts. But Shaw cares just as much about helping the projected third-round draft pick move up to the second round as he does about helping a sure first-rounder move up a position or two. Shaw also knows firsthand how the combine is run. For the past 12 years he has been doing the Cybex testing, which evaluates quadriceps and hamstring strength to “see how the knee fires.” Jean-Gilles said he was in the program: “To get the edge. I hope I move up. That’s why I’m here. But even though I know I’ll have butterflies in my stomach [at the combine], I also am confident because I will know what to expect.”

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