Today, aspiring NFLPA agent and writer for Sports Agent Blog Evan Thammahong takes a look at the NFL Draft process from the agent's point of view, and the strength and conditioning coach's view to look at the different factors that go into getting an NFL prospect ready for the combine.
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The Agent's Take with Chris Martin
One word that describes an agent's relationship with a sports performance center: Trust.
Agents focus on building relationships with sports performance centers before investing money to send a client to train at a facility. When an NFL prospect signs to be represented by an agent, the agent will typically pay for the prospect's training leading up to the draft.
An agent's number one expense in this process is training. The costs associated with the housing, transportation, and nutrition of a high-caliber athlete add up quick. And these costs don’t even include the coaching and training of the athlete. These factors, as they are typically expensive and quite front-loaded, justify an agent's focus on building a strong relationship with a chosen training facility.
An agent has a lot of skin in the game; it is understandable that he or she would demand results from a training facility. Time sensitivity provides an additional challenge, as prospects have fewer than eight weeks to prepare for the NFL combine.
Chris Martin, President and CEO of OTG Sports Management, has been a certified NFL agent since 2006 and understands the importance of trust with a training facility.
Martin offers a different perspective of the training process, having played for the Chicago Bears from 1996-97.
"There are multiple factors considered when choosing which training facility, I send my clients to, including the relationship I have with the facility, program design, and most importantly, results," Martin said. "All of these factors are crucial to the process because there is a limited window of time to prepare."
When asked what he finds most valuable in the pre-NFL draft process, Martin said "it is important to actually go and see your clients train. I want to see how my client responds to the coach, but also to see how the coach is communicating, how their workouts are structured, and to see the results with my own eyes. I am the microphone for this player and I want to be prepared so that I can advocate for my client to scouts and general management of NFL teams."
Other factors Martin considers: geographical locations, player position, supplemental services such as massage therapy, physical therapy, and acupuncture.
The Strength and Conditioning Coach's Take with Brad Arnett
Chris Martin offers great agent-perspective on the training process of an athlete leading up to the NFL draft. But how do things look from the other side of the aisle?
It is true that an agent spends significant energy pursuing and choosing the right training facility for a prospect. However, the prospect will spend most of his time and energy actually training (and training for the biggest interview of his life). The carefully selected trainer and training facility are an essential component to a prospect’s success at the combine.
J.J. Watt's long-time trainer, Brad Arnett, is the founder and head strength and conditioning coach at NX Level Sports Performance. Having trained some of the league's best athletes, it's fair to trust that he has a firm grasp of what is important when preparing a prospect for the NFL combine.
When asked to comment on what is most important when training, Arnett stressed the "importance of properly assessing a player's physical risk factors."
He explained further:
"This includes physical deficiencies that may put the player at risk of injury," Arnett said. "This process is extremely vital to training because a prospect is not only working to be able to perform their best at the combine, but also preparing to take the physical volume of being a professional athlete, which includes training camp and 16-plus NFL games."
Arnett also said, "the process of building volume includes doing drills that put different amounts of stress on the player; this type of training correlates with how a player will move and react during an actual game."
Arnett continued to discuss the importance of preparing an athlete for long-term success in the league. However, he stressed the need for balance with combine-specific training.
"Everyone is fascinated with the 40-yard dash, and a strong performance can elevate a player’s draft stock," Arnett said. "In addition to volume-building drills, a combine-specific drill that catches the eye of scouts, GMs, and the public is important to work on."
Although it is just one part of the evaluation process, Arnett said it's important to establish track speed and football speed as well as "building all-out effort with complete recovery, which is opposite of consistent fatigue, while playing college football."
Arnett has worked with professional athletes from many professional organizations. With athletes in every organization, he stresses the importance of a whole food nutrition profile.
"There is a small window of time to prepare, all of these factors do not outweigh each other but form the process."
He also said that many people don't see the behind-the-scenes of this industry, but "it’s a process that has few variables that you can control."
"[Their] prep for a workout is 100 percent in [their] control, attitude, disciple, and consistency," Arnett said. "Learning the process of being a professional not once in a while, but all the time."
His biggest advice to NFL prospects is to "Never live it before you EARN IT."
So why does this matter?
This is a business. Agents and sports performance centers are working to build a player's career. Both sides need to ensure that they are putting a prospect in the best position possible to display their abilities because it can either boost or drop their draft stock.