Gaines' combine charges ace tests
When we last left Los Angeles-based athletic trainer Travelle Gaines, he was preparing 24 of his charges for their performances at the NFL scouting combine in late February. One of the big stories at this year's combine was the high number of quarterbacks who, for whatever reason, decided not to throw during the drills at Indianapolis' Lucas Oil Stadium, preferring to wait until their various pro days. I asked Travelle about how this affected the training of the quarterbacks on his list, and was surprised to discover that Performance Gaines is close to adopting a "hands off" policy when it comes to the position. It seems that quarterbacks are sometimes more trouble than they're worth.
"Last year, we had a couple quarterbacks who were drafted late, and (quarterbacks in general are) so difficult to deal with, because you're dealing with the training that we wanted to do, and the training that they wanted to do," Gaines told me. "Then, there's the training their quarterback coaches wanted to do. They all have quarterback coaches, and it's rough. We tried to shy away from quarterbacks (this year). The agents are already paying $20,000 for these kids to come out and train with me, and on top of that, you bring a quarterback coach (from outside), and that's another $20,000. (The quarterback coaches) have very big egos, and they want to do their own thing. So, to me, it wasn't worth it. We told the agents; 'Look -- if you have a quarterback who has to come out here and work with us, let's work something out,' and they all agreed with me. Nobody wants to throw anymore, everyone wants to change their throwing motion -- there's so much stuff that goes into dealing with quarterbacks that I just wanted to stay away from it. We have one quarterback this year -- Chris Turner, a kid from Maryland. He had a bunch of injuries, and he just wanted to work out and get in shape. That's about it."
That said, Gaines has been working with Nick Montana, son of all-time great Joe, who will head to Washington this year to begin his time as a college quarterback. And according to Travelle, it would not be uncommon to find the elder Montana at the facility, throwing balls and giving tips like a staff member. So, maybe it's about the attitude one brings to the program.
UCLA defensive tackle Brian Price caused no such trouble under Travelle's watch. A singularly focused young man from the mean streets of South Central L.A., Price sees the NFL as the ticket to a better life, and Gaines' work as an important step on the path. When I spoke to Price at the combine, he was effusive in his praise of Gaines' methods and results. Now back at Performance Gaines in preparation for his pro day on March 30, Price talked to me about what the program has meant to him.
"I spoke to a couple other trainers, and they seemed to be pretty stuck on themselves," Price said. "Travelle was a cool, down-to-earth guy, and I knew he was all about business. He's a hard worker, and just walking around the facility, which is a great place, I felt at home."
Price had to train through a groin injury, but Gaines had answers for that from the first physical evaluation.
"It was different -- very interesting," he said. "We worked on stability -- the first thing we did when I got there was a (full-body) core evaluation, where you're using all your muscles, instead of just focusing on one muscle, which is how you can get hurt. It's for injury prevention, and you get stronger like that. We focused on the (combine) numbers I wanted; I just wanted to get 'leaned up'. Not losing weight, but getting leaner. I had a special diet; that was pretty much it. Everybody did the same kinds of workouts. I was a little banged up, so my workouts were hampered a little bit. But the workouts were great."
Always a "strong kid", Price wasn't particularly impressed by the 34 bench press reps at 225 pounds he put up at the combine. What he liked more was the training with position coach Keith Millard at Gaines' facility. A nine-year NFL veteran, Millard still holds the single-season record for sacks by a defensive tackle in a single season with 18 in 1989. Millard taught Price certain techniques, allowing him to get around offensive linemen in different ways, and adding specific football acumen to the athletic focus.
Price's combine performance kept him in the first round, according to most mock drafts, and he wasn't the only one from Gaines' facility to impress. This year, the overall combine results put up by Gaines' athletes exceeded his own expectations. Among wide receivers, Southern Methodist University's Emmanuel Sanders finished first in the broad jump, second in the 40-yard dash, second in the 3-cone drill, third in the 20-yard shuttle and fifth in the vertical jump.
Fresno State running back Ryan Mathews, who has been climbing up most draft boards of late, placed fourth in the 40-yard dash, third in the broad jump, eighth in the bench press, and tenth in the vertical jump and 20-yard shuttle. At 6-feet-0 and 220 pounds, Mathews bested backs 20-40 pounds lighter in speed drills.
Texas Christian guard Marshall Newhouse was the fastest guard at the combine and third-fastest overall lineman in the 40-yd dash. Newhouse ran the fastest 3-cone drill for an offensive lineman and the third-fastest 20-yard shuttle for an offensive lineman. Athletes trained by Gaines produced 53 top-10 positional finishers with at least one in every testing category, and seven of the top 20 pro day 40-times have come from Gaines' facility.
Gaines has a dual focus going forward -- not only is he continuing to help the combine prep players he worked with before, but he's also working with current NFL stars like Matt Leinart, Bob Sanders, and Michael Turner. As the draft-eligible players he helped go to the next step, they'll likely come back in off-season programs to work with Gaines. And Gaines will start working with the 2011 draft class sooner than later. Like the workouts he prepares, the pace never lets up.
In the conclusion of this series, you'll meet USC running back Stafon Johnson, whose miraculous comeback from a horrific injury might be Gaines' most impressive story of all.
March 12, 2010; 9:46 AM ET
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