Whoever said you can't teach speed, has never met Loren Seagrave. Seagrave is a world renown speed and conditioning coach who has helped elite athletes increase their quickness and improve their times. For the past two months he has been working with NFL prospects at IMG Academy to prepare them for the NFL Draft, helping them decrease their 40-yard-dash times. Florida Today newspaper recently featured Seagrave in an article describing his speed-building, time-shaving craft. From the Florida Today article:
Coach teaches speed, gets NFL prospects off to fast start
by David Jones
Loren Seagrave's logic is simple. Give him six weeks and he can make anyone faster. His magic has turned several lower-round picks into much higher draft choices in almost two decades of working with pro football players.
The former LSU and Olympic runners coach almost sounds more like a scientist than a coach.
"It's a matter of reprogramming their nervous system to increase their movement efficiency and consequently take the strength over the years that they have developed and funnel it into power and being able to apply that," explains Seagrave of what he does every January and February to help make athletes even more interesting to NFL teams getting ready to draft players.
While a 40-yard dash won't make a low draft pick into a high one, it can certainly have a major impact. One of Seagrave's all-time favorites was Georgia tight end Ben Watson, who ran the 40 in 4.7 seconds in college. Before combine and pro day workouts in Athens, Watson was projected as a third-round pick.
But after Seagrave prepared Watson, he ran a 4.5 at the combine and a 4.3 at Georgia's pro day. He wound up being a first-round selection.
"There's a lot of science involved. However, science without really understanding the craft of how to do it doesn't necessarily work," Seagrave said of making fast players faster. "It's got to be a system and a process in place that is built upon sports sciences, but it really deals with the art and science of teaching. After all, that's what we are doing, taking their physical qualities and enhancing those through specialized training.
"Ultimately, we've got to teach them to be faster, because speed is a skill and can be taught just like any other skill by coaches who know how to do it."
Seagrave's stance goes against most coaches' thinking: that you can't teach speed. Actually, Seagrave has shown you can. Watson is just one of the athletes he helped leap higher on the draft charts via surprising improvement.
There was a time when only a few of the prospects went through special training for pro workouts. That made it confusing at times and hard to compare one player who underwent special coaching to another who didn't do anything extra. But in today's battle to land a high draft spot, everyone's doing it.
"That's been going on for so many years now that you do have apples to apples (comparisons) where the numbers are at the combine," ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. said.
Simply put, the days of passing on extra work are over, unless you want to go into another field.
Seagrave has been working with future pros since 1992. Just a few of his pupils include Eddie George, Marco Coleman, Terrell Davis, Tony Romo and Herschel Walker. He's coached Olympic sprinters in five countries and is the founder of Velocity Sports Performance, which has more than 90 locations in the U.S.
One of his current projects is Indiana wide receiver Tandon Doss. Doss tore both groins in preseason camp last August and played with the injuries all season, catching 63 passes with seven touchdowns while returning kicks. He averaged 175.8 yards all-purpose yardage per contest.
Doss, who is 6-foot-3, 200 pounds, also had a sports hernia operation after the season, endured watching his college coach get fired and knew the Hoosiers would have a new quarterback and new offensive system in 2011.
"If I would have stayed, my stock would have lowered, so this was the best time to come out," Doss said of the decision to turn pro after his junior year.
Projected to go as high as the second round of the draft, the big issue is whether or not Doss is healthy. He has regularly run the 40 in 4.4 seconds but realizes NFL scouts wanted to see it first-hand at the NFL Combine, which is currently taking place in Indianapolis.
Like so many others, Doss realizes that one run could be worth millions of dollars. So he headed to IMG to work under Seagrave, who was a part of five national championships while at LSU. He has helped hundreds of college stars lower their time and raise their draft status and was one of the pioneers at the pre-draft training strategy for the combine.
Doss, however, doesn't just work on sprints. He's being prepared mentally for the tests and gets special stretching and massages every day to make sure the groin stays healthy for that one big sprint. He also spends time in a hyperbaric chamber, which promotes the dissolving of more oxygen into the blood plasma.
More and more athletes are using the process, claiming it promotes better health and keeps them fresher. Athletes are willing to try anything with so much on the line while trying to cover 40 yards.
"It is a little shocking isn't it?" Seagrave said of how vital the 40 time can be. "There are a lot of antiquated misconceptions about speed. There certainly is a genetic quality that contributes to a person being lightning fast. But anyone can get faster."
Seagrave said most of the future NFL players he works with actually know very little about the art of running fast.
"They've never really been trained, taught how to run," Seagrave said. "There are a lot of misconceptions about what makes somebody fast. Essentially what it is, you've got to be able to put a big force into the ground in the proper direction in a real short amount of time. So the fastest athletes in the world are able to generate unbelievable power.
"Our approach is, what we're looking to do is reduce the amount of time that it takes to put that required force into the ground by 5/1,000ths of a second. At the same time what we're doing, we're looking at increasing the athlete's efficiency to cover the length by 5 milliseconds."
It sounds like virtually nothing until Seagrave explains in greater detail.
"You save 5 milliseconds on the ground every step, you save 5 milliseconds in the air every step, that's 1/100th of a second," he said. "Now most guys are going to take around 21 to 22 steps in a 40-yard dash. That's two-tenths of a second. So that's kind of our goal when guys come down here is we're looking for at least two-tenths of a second improvement from our pre-test numbers. Often times, we've gotten a lot more."
Kentucky running back Derrick Locke has been clocked in the 40 in 4.21 but it was hand-timed.
"Coach Seagrave, he's complicated with all that kind of stuff," Locke said. "But that's why I came here because of him. I am naturally fast, but I need to work on how I run. I felt like this was the best place for me to come. I do feel like I am honestly a 4.2 guy, and this is my chance to show it so we'll see. . . . I've got to prepare myself mentally and physically, and I've got to be coached well. Coach Seagrave is that guy."