HABITS OF CHAMPS
More Broncos hire specialists
Von Miller spent most of his offseason in the Bay Area sprinting up hills and stairs, scaling monkey bars with weight vests draped over his shoulders, and tossing medicine balls against a wall until he could no longer do so. He heeded the calls of a large man in sunglasses, Frank Matrisciano, who is known to most as “Sir.”
Miller chose that life in the spring to gain a couple extra minutes on Sundays in the fall and winter. He pushed his mind and body to their limits so he could handle the discomfort late in the fourth quarter of a three-point game at Mile High.
“I get tired, but I can play tired longer,” Miller said. “It’s still uncomfortable. It’s not like I’m out there and I feel fresh. But I can deal with being uncomfortable now. All those months for just a few extra minutes on the field. For two more minutes, it’s worth it.”
In the NFL, the finest details matter and for a Broncos team that boasts a “lifestyle” of “championship habits,” every little one is significant. The technique, the speed, the footwork, the agility, the power, the diet, the sleep, the recovery. Every. Little. Detail.
And players’ attention to them and the rise of social media have given way to a new brand of specialist training, often sought out by Broncos players looking to hone specific aspects of their game.
“I think everyone has someone they work with, but I think it’s more common for skill positions, like wide receivers, quarterbacks,” said David Robinson, a trainer for receivers. “Really more skill guys, like defensive backs and wideouts, have guys that they see in the offseason to keep their skills sharp and on their game. But more so quarterbacks, of course. That’s always been around.”
Over the summer, receiver Emmanuel Sanders has turned to Robinson and Houstonbased Rischad Whitfield, a.k.a. “The Footwork King,” to help him hone his footwork and technique, much like basketball players have turned to shooting coaches, or baseball players have relied on hitting coaches.
“The position I play is very techniquesavvy,” Sanders said. “I always tell people, ‘You can play wide receiver and you don’t have to be the biggest, fastest, strongest guy. You just got to know how to get open and you got to be able to catch the ball. How you catch the football is technique. How you get open is technique. If you can perfect that craft and that technique, then you’ll be a good receiver. That’s why I go with specialists, because specialists are trying to perfect your craft instead of going with somebody else who is trying to make you more of a football player.”
So, for hours a day, Sanders could often be found on a high school field in Texas or Colorado working on jump-ball or pressrelease drills, or running specific routes against specific coverages.
Broncos receivers Demaryius Thomas and Bennie Fowler — as well as Miller — have often turned to Seth Minter, a former player at Bowie State now known to most as The Footdoctor, a movement expert. The Footdoctor likes toys — grids for foot speed, fitness balls for core work, rings
and cones for agility drills.
Throughout the offseason and regular season, Minter and Robinson fly from coast to coast at the expense of their clients.
Snippets of their workouts are often posted online, but the full sessions are purposely shielded from public viewing. Minter’s sessions, he said, are science experiments in movement, tailored to each player, their offense, their frames often their opponents too.
“People hit me up all the time saying, ‘I’ve been doing your drills.’ And I’m like, ‘For what?’ This is not a cookie-cutter system,” Minter said. “What works for you doesn’t work for everybody else. You have different body types, different gait, different approach. All my drills are athlete-driven and tailored to their deficiencies.”
Minter said his approach is not to change the game. But the details matter. Miller knows. Many of his teammates do, too.
“I’m not trying to redo sports performance. I’m just trying to add an aspect to it,” Minter said. “Guys are slimming down, the game is a lot faster, guys are not big bulky athletes anymore. Making a guy crazy strong isn’t going to make him a better athlete. Power and strength are two different things. Just because you’re strong doesn’t mean you’re powerful.”