If you’re a concerned reader that has been wondering the reasons as to why I have not posted since my initial post two months ago, don’t worry, it’s all part of the plan. I’ve been assured that this is the natural development pattern of all great writers. I decided I wanted to write. I brainstormed and accumulated a bevy of interesting ideas. I hacked out my first piece with gusto. I immediately started research and writing on what was going to be my second piece (concussions). And then for the next two months, like any good author, I stalled, procrastinated, and then stalled some more, until I finally forced myself to write this piece. But now I take a short recess from my procrastination to share my thoughts about a recent occurrence in my life that I cannot allow to pass without critical reflection: Pro Day.
3 eggs scrambled, 2 packs of instant oatmeal, greek yogurt, whole milk
Lift…. Should I try to arch my back more on bench?
Run… I hope my hamstring holds up
Post-workout supplement…. Extra glutamine today for recovery
Ice and Stem
Lunch…. Real lean today… Grilled chicken, broccoli, and wheat pasta
Oh crap I have class
Dinner…. more of the same
Hot tub/cold tub
Sometimes I get so caught up in the routine, I forget that I’m on the verge of fulfilling a lifelong dream. And then comes a moment that brings everything home. That takes me back in time. That transports me from a multi-million dollar training facility, back to the worn stretch of Bermuda in my front yard where I used to practice the short shuttle and 3-cone as a middle-schooler. Such a moment took place for me the day before Pro Day. I was laying on my couch hooked up to a portable stem machine, watching the movie Creed while relaxing in preparation for the coming day. My phone rang, and the number on the screen was not one I recognized. I answered the call and immediately sat up straight. It was an NFL scout. We talked for about 10 minutes about Pro Day and my current health status. We conversed casually about OU’s offensive system and my responsibilities in it, which is information that just rolls off of my tongue at this point. There was nothing overly significant in the conversation. No absurd questions. There was no nervousness or hesitation in my responses. But when I hung up the phone, it hit me: this is real. For a second, all the experience, knowledge, accolades, and professionalism were all stripped away and I was a little kid again. I am a firm believer in taking the time to appreciate the little moments in life, and this was one of those moments.
From the time I returned to OU for the start of the semester, I was absolutely all in for Pro Day. Never before have I devoted so much effort into my own well-being. For those seven weeks, I put a hold on (almost) all of my extracurricular responsibilities. That was a difficult thing for me to do, because I do truly care about activities like FCA, SAAC, and getting the opportunity to speak to youth. But for this short time, I needed tunnel vision. So I threw everything I had into training with OU assistant strength coach Mahala Wiggins. He took training to a new level for me and the other guys (Durron Neal, Josiah St. John, Trey Millard, Dionte Savage, Tony Feo, Frank Shannon, and others). Not only were we working hard on the field and in the weight room, we were also fully devoted to our nutrition and supplementation, which was beyond my realm of expertise.
After meeting with Mahala and reviewing my nutrition plan, I quickly realized that I was in way over my head. So like any smart guy would do, I called a girl. Girl(s) actually. Volleyball players Christina Stuehm and Kimmy Gardiner escorted me through the grocery store like a hapless child, showing me where the butter was and what kind of beef to buy. They even gave me a crash course on cooking what would become the staples of my diet: beans, broccoli, rice, chicken, tilapia, eggs, wheat pasta, brown rice, etc (yes I now know that those things are incredibly easy to cook….. I was pathetic). Big time shoutout to them for helping me grow up. In the following weeks, aside from my weekly cheat meal and Fat Daddy Wedding Weekend, I ate the cleanest I had ever eaten in my life, and it paid off.
When I wasn’t training or eating, I was logging hours upon hours in the training room. After such a long season, I had naturally accumulated some bumps and bruises which needed to be tended to. OU physical therapist Jim Hillis thought he had finally gotten rid of me when the season ended, but he was gravely mistaken. He attempted to punish me for coming back by boring a hole to my soul with his iron fingers, but he came up just short. I have never cried at the hands of Jim, and I never will. Amongst my various accomplishments, I rank surviving his tortures alongside enduring Schmitty summer workouts and Bedenbaugh film sessions. Aside from Jim’s hands, I also put enormous amounts of time into rehab exercises, ice baths, foam rolling, and stem sessions. I say all this to open a window into the preparation process for such a day as Pro Day.
It’s a very strange feeling to wake up with the realization that this particular day is more important than all the others. To know that what you do on that day may very well determine the trajectory of your future. That is why I find solace in the knowledge that God holds my future, not any NFL scout, GM, or coach. Nevertheless, it is no easy task to cling to that knowledge in such a big moment. So yes, there was definitely some nervousness in the build-up before. But once we got started, I can honestly say that the day was rather unremarkable. Football players often say that, in a game, the jitters dissipate after the first collision. I found it to be very similar in this glorified workout. Once the sweat starts dripping and some friendly jawing gets going between teammates, all the fears, doubts, and nervousness are eradicated, consumed by the competitive instinct to win and to excel. The will to win is what separates good players from great ones. And even in such a venue as this, I could feel that will take over. That, combined with the sheer muscle memory of the exercises, made Pro Day a workout not much different than any other.
As for my performance, I am only partially satisfied with my results. I thought that I did well in the drills, though I was a bit surprised as to the drills that we were asked to do. Testing wise, I expected to hit 3-5 more reps on bench, but I underestimated just how tired I would feel after all the other events. My vertical was 28.5 inches (for some reason Sooner Sports had me 27.5), and I feel like I could’ve gotten to 30. My shuttles were not clean runs for me by any means, but I still ran decent times. I was centimeters away from a nine foot broad jump. No matter what the website says, I will maintain that I ran a 4.9 forty until the day I die. I knew when I ran it it was a 4.9, and I know I was in the 4.9s on several watches. After my second run, Coach Gundy told me they should’ve been giving me the ball, and he’s damn right they should’ve. The P-Rhino never would’ve seen the field.
An immense amount of training, preparation, and prayer went into Pro Day, and I am definitely very relieved it is over. I anticipate going back to training to play football. Hopefully, my Pro Day performance will translate into individual workouts and meetings with teams, but only time will tell. I trust God’s plan for my future, for He has been faithful to me over and over again. Whether I am on an NFL roster in September or not is up to His will. But I will continue to do my part by working as hard as I possibly can to maximize the physical and intellectual gifts He has given me. I embrace the challenge and am confident in the God I serve and in my God-given resolve.
I appreciate you taking the time to read this post, and I hope it provided perspective into the preparation process that so many aspiring NFL athletes undergo in an attempt to chase their dream. I plan on finishing what is becoming a pseudo-dissertation on concussions in the coming days. God bless, Hoka hey, and Boomer Sooner!
*Big time thank you to Mahala Wiggins for taking it upon himself to develop training, nutrition, and supplementation plans for all of us, and then guiding us every step of the way.*
*Texas still sucks*