Special Report: Training for the NFL Combine - WBRC FOX6 News - Birmingham, AL

Special Report: Training for the NFL Combine

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) -

From February 20 to February 26, 300 collegiate athletes will showcase their skills at the NFL Scouting Combine.

Nestled atop a hill in Birmingham lies D1, a training facility that specializes in helping those NFL hopefuls prepare for the physical and mental tests at the Combine.

"When I got done playing college ball I didn't have a trainer or coach," D1 facility coordinator Stephen Madrid said.

"The first combine I went to, I didn't know anything about how to do the drills properly. There's technique to it. There's ways to get a better time. If you don't know how to do that, you're totally unprepared and you're blown away by the guys that are."

D1 works to teach athletes the proper form and guide them into the best ways to safely improve their performance. Some of the biggest names in football including Peyton Manning, Hershal Walker and Tim Tebow have all jumped on the D1 bandwagon.

"We take guys that are fringe guys that might not make the NFL," D1 founder Will Bartholomew said. "(We) get them into camp then perform well and make teams. Every year we put out the fastest times at Indianapolis."

D1 not only works with athletes to improve athletes performance at the NFL Combine through speed specific training, but also they work to keep the athletes healthy with in-house doctors, nutritionists, physiatrists and physical therapists.

"There's an intensity to combine preparation and with that intensity can occasionally come injuries," said D1 orthopedics surgeon Dr. Geoffrey Connor.

"Generally speaking, these guys have been football players for a long time. Being football players for a long time very often, for better or worse, involves having been injured before. We're making a baseline assessment of that injury and modifying the training program," Connor said.

The purpose of combine training is to increase an athlete's value, thus bettering his chance at being drafted sooner, which directly impacts his salary.

But the training comes at a price. The full combine training package ranges from $1,000 to $1,500 a week for eight to ten weeks. The majority of those athletes have their agents cover the steep training expenses. With that kind of financial investment comes a great deal of pressure to perform. And the difference between a 4.3 second 40-time and a 4.5 second 40-time can be hundreds of thousands of dollars.

"It's big money, so there should be some pressure," Bartholomew said. "That kind of brings the best out of people. We're just running a one-day track event. All we have to do is run one fast forty, the fastest forty ever."

And to prepare for the testing, many of the athletes that train at D1 work six to seven days a week for eight to twelve hours each day.

"I think the biggest misconception is that they just show up to collect a paycheck and that they're naturally gifted athletes," Madrid said. "I think a lot of people feel like they just show up and perform. (But) there's just so much more that goes into it. This is a full-time job for them."

But for many collegiate athletes it's worth it. Any they are willing to do whatever it takes to make their lifelong dream become a reality.

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