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You think you know· but you really have No Idea

By Jason Johnson
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Wednesday February 26, 2002

The Real Life Training Diary of An NFL Prospect

"Good morning, Mr. Johnson, this is your 6:45 wake-up call."

Every morning in Harahan, La., begins in this way, as if somehow I have been zapped inside the movie "Groundhog Day" and must yet again tackle a day full of workouts in an attempt to get things perfectly right.

After taking a quick shower and mixing together a protein shake, I am off to the Elmwood Fitness Center, where I will spend the next nine hours of the day getting bigger, stronger and faster so that I will impress NFL scouts at my personal workout March 13 back in Tucson.

The last two months have been a blur to me, living a life that is probably more typical to a rock star than an average University of Arizona student. After a Christmas vacation that included trips to New York City, Buffalo, Seattle, the Rose Bowl (Pasadena, Calif.) and the Fiesta Bowl (Phoenix), I have spent the last month crisscrossing the nation in order to improve my draft status.

A week in San Francisco (East-West Shrine Game), a two-week stint of training here in New Orleans, a week in Hawaii (Hula Bowl), a four-day trip to Ohio (Woody Hayes Scholar-Athlete Award), a week of quarterback training in Phoenix and finally back down here to "The Big Easy" to finish my speed training.
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Every day, I feel energized because I know these are opportunities that only come around once in a lifetime.
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Yet every day, I feel energized because I know these are opportunities that only come around once in a lifetime, and you really do have to make the most of it when you finally get your shot (not to directly quote Eminem).

As I walk into the gym, I am greeted both by my personal trainer, Nate Singleton, and the booming chorus of 50 Cent's "Up in the Club," which is played once every 15 minutes in New Orleans and has in essence become the soundtrack for my training.

Nate, who played wide receiver in the NFL for eight years and won a Super Bowl in 1994 with the 49ers, can best be described as a cross between Jerry Rice and Billy Blanks the Tae-Bo guy. He runs the football workouts here at Elmwood for fitness guru Mackie Shilstone, who is currently training Heavy Weight Contender Roy Jones Jr. for his March 1 fight in Las Vegas.

Our morning workout begins shortly after 8 a.m. with a half hour of intense stretching, followed by an hour-and-a-half upper-body workout that completely burns out every major muscle group: chest, back, biceps, triceps and abs. As I bend over to catch my breath, Nate (who does everything we do and more) grins at me, "Now are you ready to go to work?" (Translation: time to hop into a van and drive 15 minutes to Tulane University to do our two-hour running workout.)

At 10:30 a.m., we begin our running workout with a 30-minute warm-up of agility and stretching, followed by a hard hour of sprint technique, "change of direction" running drills and conditioning. The atmosphere is competitive, as there are six other players training with me, coming from schools such as Tennessee, Alabama and Stanford.

After completing the running workout, I conclude the morning with 45 minutes of quarterback drills and throwing to receivers with my "quarterback coach," Zeke Bratkowski, who has spent more than 40 years in the NFL as a player and coach.

It is Zeke who is turning me into an NFL-style passer, giving me tips on both the physical and mental sides of the game.

Arriving back at the club around

1 p.m., I can't believe I have already been working out for five hours. A "nutritious lunch" is then served with the exact amounts of protein, carbohydrates and fat I need, as determined by the club's nutritionist (all my meals are done this way so that I can bring my body fat under 10 percent).

This usually means some type of fish that I am not usually accustomed to eating (cod, trout and salmon have given way to talapia, grouper and catfish).

We resume our training at 2 p.m. with an intense leg-strength lifting program, another half hour of abs (throwing medicine balls) and then, finally, a shoulder-strengthening program for my throwing arm.

Add 45 more minutes of cardio on the elliptical trainer, and my workout finally concludes as the clock strikes 5 p.m., walking out of the weight room and into the cafˇ.

"You remember that touchdown pass down the seam that Jerry Rice scored on the third play of the Super Bowl?" Nate asks me. "I was WIDE OPEN too, running down the other sidelines. Why did Steve Young have to do me like that?"

It seems that once this game gets in your blood, it just never leaves.

The evening is filled with "anothers." Another protein shake, another nutritious dinner, another hour of film study with Zeke, and my night is completed. My head hits the pillow at 10 p.m., my body completely exhausted. "Isn't this NFL life glamorous?" I ask myself. Maybe I'll get it right tomorrow ·

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