The Shaw thing: Eric Fisher is secret athlete factory's latest bright SPARQ
No 1 Draft pick owes a lot to the sandbox, the pole of pain and other innovations that have launched a fleet of NFL stars
Simon Veness in Orlando, Florida
theguardian.com, Wednesday 1 May 2013 04.00 EDT
Eric Fisher stands with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell after being selected by the Kansas City Chiefs as the first overall pick of the 2013 Draft. Photograph: Shannon Stapleton/Reuters
It's midday under a hot Florida sun, and the record-breaking Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson and the veteran Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor are dripping sweat in "the sandbox", in the slightly unlikely setting of the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex at Walt Disney World in Orlando.
The sandbox is a special workout, devised by the fitness coach Tom Shaw, which is set in a 50-yard by 10-yard area hacked out of the native scrubland and filled ankle-deep with thick, cloying sand. This is, in theory, the offseason for established NFL stars like Johnson and Taylor. They have no business being out in the full glare of a humid Floridian spring, the temperature pushing 90°F.
Their workout partners are an odd collection, including a local high-school hopeful; Kerry Joseph, a quarterback for the Canadian Football League's Edmonton Eskimos; the University of Florida's new quarterback project, Chris Wilkes (most recently of Major League Baseball's San Diego Padres); the Denver cornerback Tony Carter; and Houston's new back-up running back, Greg Jones. Oh, and three women from the indoor Legends Football League – formerly the Lingerie League.
The common denominator is their willingness to sweat it out under the watchful eye of Shaw and his man-mountain fitness and conditioning coach, Brian Stamper, trusting to the methods of someone who has quietly become one of the NFL's most revered – if still largely unknown – Draft-day kingmakers.
He was at it again last week, when four first-round picks owed at least some of their new-found high-profile status to Shaw's SPARQ programme – the letters stand for speed, power, agility, reaction and quickness. The quartet were led by the now Kansas City Chiefs offensive lineman Eric Fisher, Shaw's ninth No 1 pick, and the wide receiver Tavon Austin, who went eighth, to the St Louis Rams. Pittsburgh's new linebacker Jarvis Jones (No 17) and the cornerback Xavier Rhodes (Minnesota Vikings, No 25) had also been through the sandbox. Shaw is, of course, delighted for all of them.
"These weren't high-maintenance kids," he says. "They have worked for everything they have got and I couldn't be happier for them. We can set the benchmark for dedication and work ethic, but it is up to them to reach it. And all four of them did.
"Eric is a great kid. He was a tight end to start with but he worked and worked at it and built himself up into the best offensive tackle in college football, and to jump over Luke Joeckel for No 1 is a great achievement. Tavon might just be the nicest kid in the whole draft. He is truly a great team player and doesn't have to be in the spotlight, so he will be a great choice for St Louis."
As delighted as he was for the first-day names, Shaw was even more thrilled for Vince Williams, a Florida State linebacker who was eventually taken by the Steelers with the 206th pick. Shaw said: "That was a huge achievement for Vince because I know how hard he has worked. He has been with me since he was sophomore in high school but he blew up to 254lbs at FSU and he needed to get some of that off. So he worked with me every day and got down to 233lbs for his pro day and his reward is in being drafted."
Photograph: Frank Beyer
All five players – and almost a dozen more – have also worked out alongside Johnson and Taylor (pictured, in the sandbox), protégés of Shaw who are keen to help out by providing the kind of example they were set by the likes of Derrick Brooks, Aeneas Williams, Joe Andruzzi, Adam Vinatieri and Tom Brady. Yes, that Tom Brady. Shaw has been doing this for a while, initially in New Orleans and then, after Hurricane Katrina, in Orlando. The sandbox is a bare kick-off from the delights of the Magic Kingdom and yet it is as tough and real as the House of Mouse is light and artificial.
The new venue is no accident. "It's the nicest facility in the world," Shaw says. "We had a $6m facility in New Orleans. Disney has $6m in Toro lawnmowers."
It was Shaw who sharpened Johnson's speed and power to the extent that he became a first-round sensation in 2008, climbing from projected obscurity to the 24th pick with the Titans, after a scouting combine in which he clocked 4.24sec in the 40-yard dash and recorded a 35-inch vertical jump and a 10ft 10in broad jump – unheard-of numbers for a running back. Taylor – who is seen as one of the most consistent cornerbacks of the past 10 years – was a lightly-regarded prospect out of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. His Shaw-fuelled performance at the 2003 combine, in which he showed 4.18sec speed over 40 yards, persuaded the Steelers he was the fourth-round choice for them.
Now Taylor, who lives in Orlando, and Johnson, who grew up here, are happy to pay it forward, showing the daily dedication, determination and physical application it takes to be a pro, demonstrating workout routines and providing advice, support and even admonition.
"But I was leaning into it," complains one of the Legends League players at the end of a series of sandbox sprints. "No, you weren't," says Taylor. "It's like this – pop, pop, pop. You see?"
The Brady bunch
Photograph: Jessica Rinaldi/Reuters
Shaw maintains an intense scrutiny of all 16 athletes, both the rookies who are here for free and the pros, who pay their way. All must maintain the same commitment to their cause; there is no lolly-gagging on Shaw's watch.
A wide receiver and track star in his days at Central Michigan University, Shaw, who is now 53, was interested in sports science from an early age; he took his master's degree at CMU, in exercise science, before joining Florida State as a speed coach. Deion Sanders was among the players to benefit from his teaching. Spells as a strength and conditioning coach with New Orleans and New England followed, before he set up his own training academy in the Big Easy.
Along the way, he tutored a 16-year-old Peyton Manning, worked with Michael Vick and Donovan McNabb, helped Santonio Holmes and Calvin Johnson, and played a key role in the development of Brady, pictured, a University of Michigan sixth-round choice who has gone on to become a two-time Super Bowl MVP with the Patriots.
The Patriots and Steelers in particular trust Shaw with their players when it comes to offseason training, and Bill Belichick has been known to call in to discuss character attributes as well as 40-yard times. Shaw explains:
"Bill will say, 'Don't tell me anything about football, I want to hear about their mechanics. Is he a hard worker? Is he dedicated? Is he a good learner? Can he pick up new things right away?' Anyone can judge a player's straight-line speed, but you can't necessarily tell if that player has the dedication and focus necessary to be a long-time pro."
"Here, you can really see a kid that wants it more than others. There are so many misses, even in the first round, that teams are looking to make better judgments. I will tell a coach if I think a player has character issues, and they trust me to do it. I maintain an independent business, hence I have nothing to lose or gain by being honest."
Back in 2000, Brady was the classic example, a less-than-convincing prospect from the University of Michigan who had ideal size but had struggled to win the starting job from Drew Henson. Shaw recalls: "When Tom trained with us, he was always looking to do more. He would do his workout and then he would ask, 'Can we do this or that?' He always wanted to get better and was ready to do whatever it took.
"He sought out guys like Sanders, Williams and Terrell Buckley to learn what it was like to play on the defensive side of the ball, to learn coverages, preferences and their go-to moves. Tom was a total student of the game but he was not only intelligent, he was driven. There are plenty of intelligent kids who don't have that drive to succeed."
Photograph: Andy Lyons/Getty Images
Shaw is equally quick to pick up on the intangibles of the sport, the extra dimensions that make a player stand out. Of Manning, pictured, he observes: "Peyton had something special, beyond arm strength. You could tell he was going to be a great pro even without the physical gifts. He was a leader and he wasn't afraid."
When it comes to the draft, teams are increasingly anxious to find those special players, the ones who have that mix of mental and physical attributes that make them worth a multi-year contract. It also helps when they are built to avoid the kind of injuries that have dogged the careers of recent picks like Darren McFadden and Blaine Gabbert. That is where Shaw's meticulous programmes pay dividends, in helping players just to stay on the field and then in helping them to have more impact on it. Shaw says:
"The likes of Peyton, Eli Manning and Michael Vick were all going to be first-rounders whether I worked them out or not but I am really proud of people like Ike, who had played very little defensive back at college but who has been pretty successful over a long period. Then there was James Farrior, who had a solid 14-year NFL career. I get joy from seeing guys who are able to play without being injured."
"Chris Johnson was actually the 33rd-ranked running back in 2008 and he ended up being the fifth one taken, and in the first round. BenJarvus Green-Ellis went undrafted that year but he worked out with me and he ended up signing with the Patriots. Both he and Chris were very competitive with each other here but ended up pushing each other to new heights, and that's a huge benefit in terms of their durability and achievement."
The 'pole of pain'
Photograph: Frank Beyer
Durability and achievement do come the hard way, though – even "old-school," as Taylor calls it. Each day with Shaw starts with an hour's gym workout under the watchful eye of Stamper – there are no Bond villain jokes here – before all the training camp members, pros and amateurs alike, head out to the track, where Shaw has devised several unique fitness "extras" – like the eye-popping "pole of pain", a 12ft telegraph pole that is used by four or five at a time for sit-ups, lunges and straight lifts.
An hour here is followed by the beach-like rigour of the sandbox, which Shaw uses especially to sharpen the footwork of his quarterbacks, receivers and cornerbacks. Then it is seven-on-seven play, with the likes of the high school hopeful getting a chance to test his arm against Taylor and Carter.
Surprisingly, Shaw is the "bad cop" of the training pair, with Stamper more likely to offer a kind word and pat on the back – "He likes to give them a cuddle after I chew them out," the coach says – but it is clearly a one-two punch that gives the set-up extra vigour. Even Johnson, $53.5m contract and all, is fully invested in the kind of work-out regime that would be tough if it was compulsory. It is eye-wateringly impressive that he and the other pros don't ease off at any stage.
"No sweat," he laughs, as the perspiration flows off him in a small stream. "Gotta keep going for Coach Shaw. No easing up." And off he goes again, ripping through the sandbox with an intensity that should make defensive backs cringe.
Taylor has the final word. "I have been around coach Shaw for a long time and whenever he asks me to come down, I'm happy to help. I tell myself all the time, 'If it wasn't for him, I wouldn't have played in the league for 11 years.' Now, he doesn't need to ask me. And, from what I've seen this spring, this was one of his best-ever camps.
"You get to see the full transition, from players who start out just wanting to be good, then better, then great. Coach Shaw excels at great."
As first-rounders, the likes of Fisher, Jones, Austin and Rhodes should all be starting come September. The big test in terms of true Draft value will be whether they are still starting in five or 10 years' time. Shaw is pretty sure they will be.
Simon Veness and Tom Shaw look at new batch of NFL rookies
View from America Posted 2nd August 2013
Hank Williams Jr first belted out the inimitable song "Are you ready for some football?" in 1989 and it remains possibly the most eagerly-used phrase in sports at this time of year.
All the teams are back in pre-season practice mode, reporters are scouring training camps for every spit and cough, and the first warm-up outing - the annual Hall of Fame Game - is only a few days away.
Austin: the St Louis new boy could be a star, says Shaw
The NFL media are positively bursting at the seams trying to assess the initial impacts of free agent signings, draft picks and returning stars, and, while there isn't a lot to go on just yet, there are certainly some interesting signs (including an NFL insider branding New York Jets rookie quarterback Geno Smith "embarrassing" for his general conditioning. Could that team became the first four-ring circus in sporting history?).
"I believe this kid is going to be a phenomenal player. He will outrun the majority of the defence and can score at any point." -Tom Shaw on Tavon Austin, Quotes of the week
Yes, we are definitely ready for some football. And we are even keener for some genuine football insight, hence I took my notebook to the ESPN Wide World of Sports here in Orlando this week to consult my good friend and NFL guru Tom Shaw of the Coach Tom Shaw academy (who had four first-round picks in last April's draft for those who remember this column).
Tom has been keeping close tabs on things this summer, and is ideally suited to assessing the 'hits' and 'misses' of the draft, and which rookies are likely to have most impact once the action gets real in September.
For those who remember the big Day One Radio City Music Hall shindig three months ago, it was not spectacular in terms of the skill positions. There was only one quarterback taken - Buffalo's surprising reach for Florida State's EJ Manuel - and just three wideouts. Not ONE running back heard his name called in Round One for the first time since 1963, and the lone tight end was Notre Dame's Tyler Eifert.
Offensive linemen (nine of them, including three of the first four) led the way, along with the bulldozers who face off against them, the D-lineman (another nine). We had seven defensive backs and two linebackers, making for an exceedingly workmanlike look to the Draft's headline day.
Of course, there will be standout players from the lower rounds - and Coach Shaw has been looking at those, too - but it is the first-rounders who will be expected to make the biggest impression, and there is good news for St Louis, Kansas City, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Detroit, Seattle and, just possibly, the Jets.
Those in the 'Things to Worry About' department include the Bills (Tom is still shaking his head at the Manuel pick), Tennessee and, of course, the Jets.
First off, Shaw believes it is going to be hard for many of the first-round offensive linemen to make their mark because that is the toughest place to start. "A good veteran defensive lineman can suck you in and make you look silly. There's a lot to learn and not a lot of time in which to do it. But some of them look like they will be up to it.
"Eric Fisher at Kansas City is a player I know well. He has a chip on his shoulder, even though he was the first pick. He is big, strong, explosive, powerful, no body fat; he has the work ethic and dedication of a skill player because he grew up as a wide receiver, who turned into a tight end and then a lineman as he grew. He has that 'I don't want to be last' mentality, which is not usually that of an offensive lineman. He is very intelligent, too."
So, advantage Chiefs on that score. Equally, the Eagles look like they have hit the jackpot with Lane Johnson. "Lane is like Eric," says Shaw. "He was also a tight end and has that work ethic. He is a super-freak and he can fly; someone like that can make a difference, especially for a team like Philly."
The Steelers also chose wisely in their No. 17 slot, as they picked another of Tom's protégés, linebacker/lineman Jarvis Jones. "Jarvis could be the first Pittsburgh rookie to start as a defensive lineman. If he makes the starting team, he will be a game-changer because he will have really earned that spot.
"He is a football player first because he studies his opponents and figures out their weaknesses. When I watched him play at college he always made a difference and I just have a feeling he will play right away. He has great coaches and he was here training this summer with the likes of Ike Taylor and learning from them, so he has a head start on what to do."
Shaw is also high on Atlanta and their first-round pick, University of Washington cornerback Desmond Trufant - "good kid going into a great situation" - and believes the Jets drafted well in grabbing offensive lineman Brian Winters in the third round to shore up a major weakness. "He has an opportunity to start this season and he will fight and compete. I know how hard he is working."
Other lower-round potential stars, according to the NFL guru, are Detroit's Corey Fuller, a real speed merchant out of Virginia Tech (and a former track star who made a spectacular transition in two college years at receiver) and Greg Herd, Seattle's free agent pick-up in May who could provide much-needed cover for the oft-injured Percy Harvin.
Pittsburgh also landed another potential gem in linebacker Vince Williams, a sixth-round pick out of Florida State - "He has the ability to just flat out out-work people," says Tom - while Kawann Short, Purdue's ferocious defensive lineman, could be a big hit for Carolina.
Shaw's main hope for a major impact this year, though, is Tavon Austin, the No. 8 pick from West Virginia who could have found the ideal home in St Louis. With Sam Bradford urgently looking for some home-run-hitting weapons, Austin could just be a genuine Rookie of the Year contender.
Tom has seen a lot of him at his coaching school, and says: "I believe this kid is going to be a phenomenal player who can change the outcome of a game at any time. He reminds me of guys like Deion Sanders and Terrell Buckley when they also played special teams.
"Tavon will outrun the majority of the defence and can score at any point. He can make backs miss and he can take it the distance, as a returner or receiver. He can also line up at running back. The Rams just need to get the ball in his hands as often as possible.
"He obviously still has a lot to learn and he has to build a rapport with Bradford, but once the quarterback gets him the ball, he doesn't need anyone to block for him. He has one guy to beat and has the best opportunity to score."
The bottom line, though, is that it is increasingly tough for rookies to make an impact in today's NFL, with the restrictions on practices and all-important reps-in-pads. "If you start and become a player who makes a difference, you have really done something," insists Shaw. "For a rookie even to have their name mentioned sometimes is a pretty big deal.
"But teams still need their top picks to pan out. You can't afford any misses. And the top 10 have got to become stars. That's why I can see struggles ahead for the likes of Dee Milliner at the Jets and Chance Warmack at Tennessee. I just think they were drafted too high. And EJ Manuel at Buffalo? I just don't see it. I hope I'm wrong, but that has problems written all over it."
Of course, these are still the earliest of days. The first shots of the phony war - the pre-season - have yet to be fired and the inevitable injuries can also shape a team's season before we get to the serious action (witness the Eagles losing Jeremy Maclin and Baltimore already being without Dennis Pitta).
But Rookie Watching is certainly going to be hugely interesting in the next few weeks and months - and we haven't even mentioned Menelik Watson and Lawrence Okoye yet!
Drop Your 40 With Legendary NFL Speed Coach Tom Shaw
Posted by SportsNutrition.com | Posted on Sunday, September 8th, 2013 at 3:00 pm.
10 Super Bowl MVPs. 122 NFL First Round Draft Picks. 8 First Overall NFL Draft Choices. One Speed Coach.
That’s right, Coach Tom Shaw (www.coachtomshaw.com) is a living legend in the world of speed and NFL combine training. From Michael Vick to Deion Sanders and countless other stars, Coach Shaw has been behind some of the fastest 40 yard times in the history of the NFL Combine. But, it doesn’t stop there. NFL superstar Tom Brady states simple, “Coach Shaw is the best in the business.”
What is his secret? It’s pretty simple. Improve your explosive power and jumping ability and you will run faster. According to Coach Shaw, “If you can increase those two numbers, you will run faster. No matter what kind of form you have, you will run faster.”
“If you look at the NFL Combine results for the last 10 years, the majority of time whoever has the best vertical jump and the best standing broad jump at any position will have the fastest time in the 40-yard dash,” Coach Shaw says. “The numbers can be skewed if you have 22 offensive linemen and 21 are all over 330 pounds, and you have one at 260 pounds. He may run the faster 40 just because he is a different size. But, if you really look at the combine results, the guy who is more explosive and powerful is going to run a faster 40.”
So, how do you do it? Coach Shaw believes plyometrics are the only way to drop your 40 in a major way. Plyometrics will increase your standing vertical jump, your standing broad jump and as a result, cut tenths off your 40 time. Sure, you can improve your running form and that will have an impact, but at the end of the day, if you aren’t explosive you won’t be fast.
Below is a list of plyometric exercises that Coach Shaw suggests you incorporate into your training program to drop your 40 time. Performing each drill once or twice a week will improve your explosive power tremendously. Remember: Do not over-train by doing these drills more than twice per week as part of your program.
Start with just the barbell and add weight as you progress. Now proceed as if you were completing a regular squat. Place your feet at shoulder-hip width, and perform a squat. When you reach the quarter squat position, explode and jump as high as you can. Place an emphasis on jumping straight up with as much power as possible. Display triple extension at the hips, knees and ankles. Do not waste movement. Perform 2-3 sets of 3-5 reps.
Hold a light dumbbell, no more than 20 pounds, in each hand. Now with your feet in the same position as the squat jump, again, lower yourself to a quarter squat position. When you reach the position, explode and jump as high as you can. Remember to achieve triple extension. Perform 2-3 sets of 3-5 reps of dumbbell jumps. After each set, drop the dumbbells and perform 3-5 body weight jumps, which are just dumbbell jumps without the dumbbells.
Step off a 20 to 24-inch box or stair. As soon as your feet touch the ground, jump up as high and as quickly as possible. The key to this exercise is reacting as quickly as you can and exploding into a jump the second your feet touch the ground.
“You are thinking like a superball or racquet ball. Once a superball or racquet ball hits the ground, it recoils real quick and is coming off the ground quickly,” explains Coach Shaw. Perform 2-3 sets of 3-5 jumps.
Depth jump and sprint:
Perform a depth jump as described above. Following the depth jump, the second your feet touch the ground, sprint straight ahead for 10 to 20 yards. Perform 2-3 sets of 3-5 reps.
Alternating leg bounds:
In a running-like movement, jump from one leg to the other consecutively. Fully extend the jumping leg behind you and raise the front leg into a high-knee position. Get some hang time while gaining distance. Try to cover as much ground as possible with each bound. The key is exploding quickly off the ground and jumping as far as possible with each bound. Perform 2-3 sets of 10 to 20 yards.
NFL Strength and Conditioning Coach Tom Shaw Fact Sheet
Coach Tom Shaw has more than 25 years of experience in performance training for pro football, baseball, basketball and soccer players, including some of the biggest names in the NFL (Tom Brady, Reggie Bush, Peyton Manning, Eli Manning, Chris Johnson, Santonio Holmes, etc.). In all, Shaw has worked with 122 NFL first-round draft choices, including eight No. 1 picks, and 10 Super Bowl MVPs.
Tom Shaw Background:
Shaw grew up in the Tampa Bay area and is a graduate of Central Michigan University. He went on to complete his Master’s degree at CMU and later completed course work toward his Ph.D. at Florida State University. He was the assistant track coach at Florida State University for eight seasons before becoming the speed and conditioning coach for the New Orleans Saints for six seasons. He later held the same position with the New England Patriots during their run of three Super Bowls. Shaw is also a Nike SPARQ Master Trainer.
Performance Training Moves to WWOS:
After his performance training operation in New Orleans was displaced by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Shaw moved his operation to ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in 2006 and has continued to train marquee NFL Draft prospects and NFL veterans year-round.
Jets players working out in Florida
Wednesday, April 11, 2012
The New York Jets will begin organized voluntary workouts on Monday but quarterback Mark Sanchez and receiver Santonio Holmes have already started trying to rebuild their chemistry.
Sanchez and Holmes have spent this week at ESPN Wide World of Sports in Orlando, Fla., along with teammates Dustin Keller and Patrick Turner, the Star Ledger reported. Running back Joe McKnight might join his teammates later this week.
Tom Shaw, Holmes' longtime trainer, told the newspaper that Holmes invited Sanchez to join him in Florida. The pair also had met earlier in the offseason as they try to fix a fractured relationship that helped to derail the Jets' 2011 season.
"I know for a fact Santonio Holmes and Mark Sanchez are close," Shaw told the newspaper in a telephone interview.
|Santonio Holmes and Mark Sanchez already are working to repair their frayed relationship this offseason to try to avoid a repeat of 2011.|
Santonio Holmes and Mark Sanchez already are working to repair their frayed relationship this offseason to try to avoid a repeat of 2011.
A handful of players from other teams also are participating in the informal workouts, which began Monday and will continue for the remainder of the week. Tuesday's session lasted five hours, the newspaper reported.
"We got that good work in today!" Keller tweeted Tuesday, addressing some of the players.
Sanchez told reporters last month at a charity event in Manhattan: "It's not a question of if, it's just a matter of when -- and that's now."
Holmes hasn't talked about his problems with the offense since the season ended in Miami, where he was benched late in the game after nearly coming to blows with teammates in the huddle.
There will be a new dynamic for Sanchez to overcome this season, as well, with Tim Tebow added to the quarterback mix. The Jets say they acquired Tebow to play in their Wildcat package and to be the No. 2 quarterback, but if Sanchez struggles, pressure for Tebow to take over will build.
The Jets won't receive their new playbooks from new offensive coordinator Tony Sparano, the former Miami Dolphins coach, until Monday, but Shaw told the Star-Ledger that Sanchez on Tuesday called out routes and plays from notes that he brought with him. Sanchez met with former Jets and Dolphins quarterback Chad Pennington earlier this offseason in an effort to learn about Sparano and his offensive system.
"Mark was in charge, everyone was listening to his instructions," Shaw told the newspaper. "Guys from other teams, too. [The Titans'] Chris Johnson, Larry Taylor, who used to be with the Jets. Once we finished the workout for the day, Sanchez took over. He was in charge of the whole offensive part. He is working hard, and he's doing everything he can to get better."
Shaw described the 25-year-old Sanchez as a "rock star" who handles himself well despite his youth.
"I'm pretty impressed with Sanchez, I really am. I think he's someone the Jets are lucky to have," Shaw told the newspaper.
The Sanchez-Holmes relationship started to fray early last season, when Holmes, a team captain, made publicly critical remarks about the offense. Sanchez called a team meeting, imploring teammates to keep issues in-house, but Holmes continued to tweak the offense.
It unraveled during the final week of the season, when Holmes refused to attend after-hours classroom sessions that Sanchez had organized for the quarterbacks and receivers. The situation imploded in the final minutes of the regular-season finale, when Holmes started jawing with teammates in the huddle and almost came to blows with tackle Wayne Hunter. Holmes was benched.
Holmes was frustrated throughout the season because of his lack of involvement in the offense. He finished with only 51 receptions for 654 yards, his worst statistical season as a starter.
Because of a clause in his five-year, $45 million contract, signed last offseason, the Jets had little choice but to retain Holmes. He already was guaranteed $7.75 million, his salary for 2012, and most of his 2013 salary ($7.5 million, to be exact) became guaranteed on Feb. 8. The Jets had a one-day window with which to release him, but the salary-cap hit was prohibitive.
Sanchez, too, saw his contract sweetened in the offseason. He received a three-year, $40 million extension, meaning he's under contract through 2016. Two weeks after the extension was announced, which came after an ill-fated flirtation with Peyton Manning, the Jets traded for Tebow.
ESPNNewYork.com's Rich Cimini contributed to this report.
Speed keeps Steelers' Taylor in the game
By John Harris
Saturday, July 25, 2009
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Right before the start of the Steelers' final two days of voluntary practices in June, cornerback Ike Taylor was electronically timed in the 40-yard dash by speed coach Tom Shaw at Disney's Wide World of Sports.
Taylor was clocked in 4.26 seconds.
"We had a speed sign out here — it's a police radar gun they put on city streets,'' Shaw said. "We were running the 40-yard dash, and Ike ran 26 mph. The speed limit was 25, so Ike could have gotten a ticket for running.''
But seriously, folks.
"We had other guys running,'' Shaw said. "But 26 was a freak time. And he was just cruising.''
Taylor, 29, is a freakish athlete built more along the lines of a safety (6-foot-2, 200 pounds) than a corner. He also has a 42-inch vertical leap.
He ran 4.18 in the 40 (hand-held) at Louisiana-Lafayette's Pro Day in 2003 (he wasn't invited to the combine), prompting the Steelers to draft him in the fourth round that year despite the fact he played cornerback for only one season in college.
Taylor's speed and one-on-one cover skills influenced former Steelers coach Bill Cowher to start him ahead of veteran Chad Scott in Taylor's third pro season.
Taylor's world-class speed compensates for any lack of technique resulting from making the switch from running back to corner as a college senior.
Gil Brandt, the former Dallas Cowboys executive who now works for NFL.com and Sirius radio, rates Taylor among the top five cornerbacks in the league along with Oakland's Nnamdi Asomugha, Denver's Champ Bailey, Philadelphia's Asante Samuel and Dallas' Terence Newman.
"All I know is he's pretty good,'' Brandt said of Taylor.
In 2008, Taylor enjoyed one of his finest seasons. He recorded a team-high 15 passes defensed while yielding only two touchdown receptions for the NFL's top-ranked defense.
Taylor's play has prompted comparisons to former NFL cornerback Deion Sanders.
"The thing with Deion was that when the ball was in the air, he just out-sprinted the receiver to the ball,'' said track coach Brooks Johnson, who is based at Disney's Wide World of Sports and has coached a runner at every Olympics since 1968. "He didn't necessarily have the best technique, and he didn't have the best initial coverage. But once the ball was in the air, he got to it (first).''
Johnson said Super Bowl XLIII MVP Santonio Holmes, who trains with Taylor in Florida, has "world-class" sprint mechanics.
"If you took the best guys in the Olympics and showed their technique and showed (Holmes') technique, you couldn't tell if he was a football player or a track star,'' Johnson said.
But as fast as Holmes is, Taylor is faster — even with lesser technique.
"Form and technique, you can tell it's not the most important thing because Ike doesn't run like an Olympic sprinter," Shaw said. "The key to Ike's success is his speed. Ike runs like a football player who is fast. Now he's really learning the game of football. He's learning more and more how to play corner.''
Shaw coached Sanders at Florida State in track and later as a star cornerback in the NFL. He gives Taylor the nod over Sanders in the speed department.
"Ike is the fastest kid I've ever trained,'' Shaw said.
Shaw said that would include Tennessee running back Chris Johnson, who ran the fastest time ever at the combine (4.24), and Sanders, who ran a 4.27 for No. 2 on the combine list.
Taylor, who is entering his seventh NFL season, said he has the potential to run faster as he gets older.
Johnson, the track coach, is familiar with Taylor's running style and offered a comparison to Olympic sprinter Carl Lewis, who Johnson said ran faster at 31 than he did at 21.
Taylor said he can do the same thing — thanks to a technique adjustment.
"Tall guys have long strides," Taylor said. "I was kind of like a tall guy with a short stride. Now I'm running like a tall guy. I'm gaining more ground in my steps. I'm gaining weight, running faster and getting stronger. I can wake up, no stretch, no nothing, and run a 4.3. All day.''
Coach Tom Shaw sets up athletes for success
By Preston Kreisler
10:49 PM EDT, July 18, 2009
Before Ike Taylor emerged as a pro football prospect at Louisiana-Lafayette, before he was taken in the fourth round of the 2003 NFL draft, before the defensive back earned two Super Bowl rings with the Pittsburgh Steelers, there was Tom Shaw.
The speed and agility coach has trained athletes for more than 15 years and has known Taylor since he was a ninth-grader in New Orleans.
The bond is so strong that Shaw attended Super Bowl XLIII in Tampa in February — as Taylor's guest.
"He was in New Orleans at first, then he came to Orlando after [ Hurricane] Katrina, and he told me he was here so I moved here," Taylor said. "You can't get any better.
"He'll call me sometimes, and I call him sometimes just to get some insight on what he's seeing and how I'm looking. Other than that, he just lets me do my thing. He takes care of me during the offseason as far as conditioning and training.
"In fact, I got him some tickets to the Super Bowl," Taylor said. "He's my dog, and it was right around the corner from Orlando so I had to show him some love."
While not all of Shaw's clients are as close to him as Taylor, it is an impressive list. Shaw trains more than 45 football players from the NFL and NCAA, among them Super Bowl MVP Santonio Holmes.
Shaw, 48, has earned their confidence. He was a track standout at New Port Richey Gulf High before playing football at Central Michigan. After graduating with a bachelor's degree in physical education and a master's in exercise physiology, he coached for several high school, college and pro teams. He has worked for Florida State, the New Orleans Saints and New England Patriots.
"Being at Florida State, we had a lot of really good first-round draft choices, so I had the opportunity to work with a lot of really good football players while I was there," Shaw said. "Then, when I moved to New Orleans in '94, I ended up working on my own while I was training athletes for the [NFL] combine."
Now at Disney's Wide World of Sports, Shaw works with potential draft picks training for the combine and veteran NFL players looking to stay in shape.
The cost: About $950 per week.
"I come here to stay in shape and get a good workout," Taylor said. "We pretty much know what we're going to do. We know our strengths and our weaknesses, and Coach Shaw is there to tell us if we're doing too much or too little. It's also mainly the elements because it's so hot in Florida. You can't beat working in the heat, and going back to Pittsburgh is a smooth transition."
Taylor is one of nine Steelers involved in Shaw's training system. Under Shaw, athletes train to improve their speed by running the 40-yard dash while a resistance band is attached to them or by doing vertical jumps while being pulled down by bungee cords. Other drills and exercises emphasize the SPARQ philosophy: Speed, Power, Agility, Reaction and Quickness.
"Coach Shaw puts us through some great drills to improve our quickness and speed, and in the weight room, we improve our strength and flexibility," former FSU safety Myron Rolle said. "It's very intense. The competition is very fierce, and you're always working hard and competing every day."
Taylor can attest to that. Two days after the Steelers beat the Arizona Cardinals to win the Super Bowl, he and Shaw were back together — working out.
"That's the key: You have guys that work hard," Shaw said.
"Everybody that's here is dedicated, and it makes it fun knowing that they're here for one reason: to get better and to be able to play for an entire season without getting injured."
Going through the drills at Tom Shaw's Performance Camp
By Lauren Storch
10:49 PM EDT, July 18, 2009
When Pittsburgh Steelers' defensive back Ike Taylor told me he was "just a product of the system," I had no idea what he meant. Little did I know, I was about to find out first-hand.
It happened Monday morning at Disney's Wide World of Sports, where two of my fellow Institute reporters and I trained at Tom Shaw's prestigious camp for NFL athletes.
Shaw's philosophy is unique and some athletes claim he is the best in the business. He wants his players to see what stepping up their game is all about.
"Once you're in shape, you got to work on stuff that's going to make you faster," Shaw said.
After watching NFL players like Taylor, Greg Jones and James Farrior work out in the sweltering heat, it was my turn to try out the "system."
Shaw didn't want to scare us too much, so we started with some simple passing drills. Shaw threw the football and we attempted to catch it.
The key word is attempted.
We only ran one set of these metabolic routes and later learned that the NFL players are trained to run five sets. An onlooker commented, "You guys sound tired." I quickly replied, "No, I always have a shortness of breath."
Following the routes, Shaw took us to the front of the complex to run downhill. As if I wasn't skeptical enough about sprinting on a steep downhill course, the following dialogue didn't help:
"I'm not sure about having them run downhill because it's not too safe," Shaw said.
"We have waivers," one of the assistants replied.
Talk about reassurance. If you're unfamiliar with Disney waivers, a parent signs a form that states if you (the participant) gets injured or dies, it's not Disney's fault.
So on the way to the downhill run, I became nostalgic about all my most fond memories.
As you can tell, I didn't die. None of us fell, either, which was an accomplishment in itself.
Shaw then led us to an outdoor workout area and showed us several types of resistance exercises.
He proceeded to describe a machine designed to exercise the groin. It was so serious that it didn't have a name.
That's when things got interesting.
"Any takers?" Shaw asked.
"Sure," I replied, jumping at the opportunity and thinking to myself, "It can't be that bad."
Boy, was I wrong.
Yeah, I play soccer and I've worked out before. But never in my life had I experienced the pain delivered by this machine, which should be called the "Rack of Death."
This contraption required me to put my feet in restraining bands on opposite sides of each other. Then, the exercise was to straighten my legs in front of me and lift them up. It was a struggle to extend my legs, let alone lift them.
Shaw's groin exercise seemed more like a full-body "use at your own risk" ordeal. I literally feared my body was going to coil up into a tight ball and never unravel.
When asked if I enjoyed it, without hesitation I replied, "No."
There was no point in trying to fool anybody. They could tell by the fear in my face that I wasn't looking to hop back on any time soon.
Note to self: Don't be the first to volunteer on a sketchy-looking groin exercise.
Aside from that trauma, my experience at the Tom Shaw workout was one that I will never forget. It was not only a blessing that I survived, but I also trained with the elite.
I had to learn the hard way, but now like Taylor, I'm just another "product of the system."
Lauren Storch, who will be a senior at Lake Mary High School, is a participant in the Orlando Sentinel High School Sports Reporting Institute. Her mentor is Assistant Sports Editor Matt Humphrey.
Harris: Complacent? Not these Steelers
By John Harris, TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Thursday, February 5, 2009
Coach Tom Shaw worked closely with Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor on conditioning drills, as receiver Santonio Holmes looks on at Shaw's training camp July 1, 2008, at Disney's Wide World of Sports in Orlando, Florida.
The Steelers won Super Bowl XLIII four days ago. Plenty of time for some well-deserved celebrating and merriment at the conclusion of a long season. Good times for all.
Time's up, fellows.
Now get back to work.
This weekend, Super Bowl MVP Santonio Holmes and some of his teammates are expected to attend the Walt Disney Wide World of Sports Complex, training under the direction of speed and conditioning coach Tom Shaw. They'll assist with the development of potential NFL draft picks while also beginning their offseason workouts.
Cornerbacks Ike Taylor and Bryant McFadden, an unrestricted free agent, will join Holmes, with defensive captain James Farrior traveling to Florida after playing in Sunday's Pro Bowl in Hawaii.
So much for Super Bowl complacency setting in among the Steelers.
"A lot of guys," Shaw said, "start feeling sorry for themselves: 'It's been a long season. My shoulders hurt.' You can't do that. You've got to get right back into it."
Holmes -- who trained with Shaw last offseason and, like Taylor, has a home in the Orlando, Fla., area to be closer to the Disney complex -- caught the winning touchdown pass in Super Bowl XLIII in the game's final minute.
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said Holmes' superior conditioning made him a better player. Holmes had nine receptions for 131 yards against Arizona in the Steelers' 27-23 win and scored three touchdowns in the postseason.
"I think it started with (last) offseason," Tomlin said. "He came in great physical condition, much better than he was in '07. This is a guy who has a desire to be great. He's willing to do what it takes to make it happen."
Holmes, Taylor and Farrior all enjoyed their best seasons with the Steelers.
Taylor was named a Pro Bowl alternate and provided tough one-on-one coverage against Arizona's Larry Fitzgerald, holding him to one reception through the first three quarters of Super Bowl XLIII.
Farrior, 34, led the team in tackles for the fifth time in six seasons and was named to his second Pro Bowl.
"A lot of guys not only look to (Farrior) in terms of how they prepare to play football games, but how to prepare over a 12-month calendar," Tomlin said. "This is a guy who is in great condition 12 months a year, takes a couple of weeks off, and then gets back about the business of preparing himself for the next one. Guys followed that model."
Several players had dinner with Shaw in Tampa the week prior to Super Bowl XLIII. NFL Defensive Player of the Year James Harrison, starting inside linebacker Larry Foote, cornerbacks Deshea Townsend and Anthony Madison, and safety Tyrone Carter all made plans to train with Shaw this offseason.
"Quite a few guys said they were coming down," Shaw said. "That's the big thing. You start getting more and more guys because they see the results."
At Disney World, training guru Tom Shaw gets players ready for NFL
By Richard Rosenblatt
February 21, 2006
D'Brickashaw Ferguson is one confident 300-pound lineman heading to this week's NFL combine – thanks to training guru Tom Shaw.
“I'm happy with my progress. I'm faster, stronger and more explosive,” the 6-foot-5 offensive tackle says. “I'm ready to show what I've got. The camp has been very productive for me.”
NFL personnel are eager for a close-up look at Ferguson, an All-American from Virginia expected to be among the first six players chosen in the April draft.
What they'll see at the NFL's testing ground in Indianapolis are Ferguson and about 40 other finely tuned players fresh from Shaw's intensive training program – Tom Shaw Performance Enhancement.
This year, Shaw is based at Walt Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., in a deal reached late last year after Hurricane Katrina damaged his spartan facility in Kenner, La., near the airport in New Orleans.
“We were ready to go again 17 days, but the facility was needed to house people in our apartments, and the fields turned into a tent city,” Shaw says. “We were lucky to find a new home.”
Shaw, a 45-year-old former strength and conditioning assistant for the New England Patriots and the New Orleans Saints, is one of the most respected training coaches around.
He was among the first to open his doors to players hoping to improve their NFL stock. He was a track coach at Florida State, too, and when he began his camp, his top pupil was Deion Sanders, an All-American with the Seminoles who played on Super Bowl winners in Dallas and San Francisco.
Today, there are about 20 different camps around the country offering a variety of programs and run by former coaches, trainers and even sports agents.
“Shaw was a forerunner of these workout programs,” NFL draft adviser Gil Brandt says. “He's highly recommended by a lot of people. His program gets an athlete to do the best he can possibly do and to be prepared for the combine.”
His training philosophy is simple: SPARQ, as in speed, power, agility, reaction and quickness.
“Speed is emphasized,” Shaw's business manager Dave Lowman says. “He's looking to increase speed, plus lower times in the 40 and the shuttle – two big things the combine examines. We also work on stamina and study. Yes, there's class work, too. The players leave with a sense of what to expect, and are usually in the best shape of their lives.”
Over the past six years, 54 players who ended up as first-round picks went through Shaw's program, including Michael Vick and Peyton Manning. But his greatest satisfaction is taking a projected mid-rounder and turning him into a high-round choice. Or a late-rounder into a mid-rounder.
Cornerback Ike Taylor, who had a key interception in the Pittsburgh Steelers' Super Bowl victory over Seattle, is among Shaw's most prized pupils. Shaw has known him for about 10 years – since Taylor spent summers at Shaw's camp while growing up in New Orleans.
“His uncle would send him around in the summers, and he'd be around Deion and Terrell Buckley,” Shaw says. “He's fast, and explosive. He went from walk-on at Louisiana-Lafayette, where he played just two years, moved from running back to cornerback, and went from a later-rounder to a fourth-round pick by the Steelers. Now, after three years, he's become one of the best at his position.”
While Shaw's camp boasts a who's who of NFL stars – Tom Brady, Jevon Kearse and John Abraham also went through the program – it was nearly wiped out by Katrina. Shaw and his partners looked to relocate, and made a call to Disney.
Enter Reggie Williams, vice president of Disney sports and recreation who played 14 seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals.
“Tom Shaw has such a great reputation and we really wanted to work with him to ensure that he could keep doing everything he needed to do, and in a world-class operation,” Williams says. “We host a lot of events, but we still keep our open door.”
Disney's sports complex is the training site for baseball's Atlanta Braves and football's Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It also has facilities for track and field, cross country, tennis, softball, youth league baseball and the 5,000-seat Milk House for basketball, volleyball, wrestling, martial arts and inline hockey.
“We went from a $1.5 million facility to over a $100 million facility – it's turned out to be a Godsend,” Shaw says. “We had some fields with a track around it, and some corporate apartments. Here there are nine football fields, an Olympic track, a huge weight room and a resort with three swimming pools.”
Just two days after the Steelers won the Super Bowl, Taylor showed up at the camp.
“Got to get back in the program,” he says. “The guys are bigger and stronger every year and you've got to keep up. Plus, this is a great place.”
Looking for an Edge
Many NFL prospects turn to training programs such as the one run by Tom Shaw to improve their position in the draft.
February 23, 2006
By Cammy Clark
LAKE BUENA VISTA - On a breezy day more than a month ago at Walt Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex, fleet-footed defensive back Devin Hester of the University of Miami was at one corner of the field doing agility drills.
In another corner, 340-pound offensive guard Max Jean-Gilles of Georgia had a resistance band around his stomach, working on power coming off the line.
''I feel muscles I never knew I had,'' said Jean-Gilles, a North Miami Beach graduate whose perspiration-soaked gray T-shirt read: ``Finish the Drill.''
Hester, who will forgo his senior season, and Jean-Gilles were among 30 college athletes at Disney working toward the same goal: to impress at this week's NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis.
Although teams have hours of game tapes and scouting reports as thick as War and Peace on the prospects, the combine results also are key to the decision-making process for April's NFL Draft.
Running the private training program was 46-year-old Tom Shaw, who got the nickname the ''Speed Guru'' during his days working with Florida State athletes, including Deion Sanders.
Shaw first worked with Sanders while he was with the track team, but the program translated to his football skills, too.
Word got around, and soon a couple of agents in 1994 wanted Shaw to help their clients prepare for the invitation-only combine, which is a whirlwind four-day program of athletic, medical and psychological tests conducted in front of every NFL team's staff.
''Ten or 12 years ago, guys didn't train to get ready for this type of event,'' said agent Roosevelt Barnes of Indiana-based Maximum Sports.
"What we found was our athletes had improvement in the shuttles [a sprinting drill], the 40-yard dash and other drills that enhanced their draft status. After we started sending guys to Tom, then others followed the trend."
Although Tom Shaw Performance Enhancement offered the first combine-specific training program, now there are many around the country. Of the 330 prospects at this year's combine, most have gone through one of them.
''It's like taking classes to get ready for the SATs or any college boards,'' Barnes said. ``It's a critical part of their preparation to move to the next level.''
Shaw's facility was based in Kenner, La., near New Orleans. But Hurricane Katrina forced at least a temporary move to Disney.
His camp includes past and present NFL players who prepare the players for every facet of the combine through teaching and repetition.
READY TO GO
''It's like Groundhog Day every day,'' Shaw said. 'So when they go to the combine, they know, `Oh, that's what I've been doing the last 2 1⁄2 months.' ''
If Barnes didn't believe there was major benefit, his agency wouldn't be spending the thousands of dollars per client to foot the bill.
Shaw, who has three Super Bowl rings from his days working with Tom Brady and the New England Patriots, said his intensive program is ''expensive.'' It costs around $1,000 per week per player, plus room and board. The players stayed at nearby resort condos.
But Barnes and the players know that even moving up just one spot in the draft can often mean thousands of dollars more in their first contract.
''I run a legit 4.3 [seconds] in the 40,'' said Hester, who also was receiving treatment for an injured hamstring. ``I'm now trying to get down to the 4.2 range. It's a big difference.''
Jean-Gilles is trying to shed some weight and get stronger, with Shaw providing a nutritionist.
Shaw has a proven track record, with his client list looking like a ''Who's Who'' of the NFL. It includes Peyton Manning, Drew Bledsoe, Donovan McNabb, Derrick Brooks, Rod Woodson and even the Dolphins' Ricky Williams.
This year Shaw's client list includes Vanderbilt quarterback Jay Cutler and Penn State defensive back Arwar Phillips.
Even baseball stars Johnny Damon and A.J. Pierzynski showed up for a few workouts.
But Shaw cares just as much about helping the projected third-round draft pick move up to the second round as he does about helping a sure first-rounder move up a position or two.
Shaw also knows firsthand how the combine is run. For the past 12 years he has been doing the Cybex testing, which evaluates quadriceps and hamstring strength to ``see how the knee fires.''
Jean-Gilles said he was in the program: ``To get the edge. I hope I move up. That's why I'm here. But even though I know I'll have butterflies in my stomach [at the combine], I also am confident because I will know what to expect.''