Johnny Manziel's trainer and speed coach, Ryan Flaherty, who many in the NFL view as a secret weapon after he engineered Manziel's surprisingly speedy 4.68-second 40-yard dash at the Indianapolis NFL Scouting Combine, is part genius and part human-body mechanic. More on that in a moment. First, Flaherty is agitated.
ESPN analyst Ron Jaworski recently said perhaps one of the dumbest things anyone has ever said regarding the NFL draft—and that is quite a broad category. Jaworski said he would not draft Manziel in the first three rounds.
Jaworski also said that Manziel wouldn't last a handful of games in the NFL if he plays in the pros the way he did at Texas A&M. This statement obviously didn't sit well with the man who is training Manziel to survive the rigors of pro football.
"Johnny knows he can't play the same way in the NFL that he did in college," Flaherty said.
"When you watch Johnny, he was physical in college—he went after guys he knew he could go after. He would pick and choose guys he got physical with. One guy who tried to tackle him was knocked out.
"But Johnny knows he can't run crazy on the next level. He'll play smart in the NFL. I would also say that any quarterback can get a concussion or hurt from just standing in the pocket. They don't have to be running. The thing about Johnny too is that he uses his quickness to get out of trouble. That quickness helps him stay healthy."
Let me make this clear. Flaherty's opinion was not made in haste. This was not a knee-jerk reaction. Flaherty had felt this way before this week and, most of all, he was simply defending Manziel.
"I don't see how (Jaworski) could actually watch film and say what he says about Johnny. You break down Johnny's film, he puts up huge numbers against the best competition, like Alabama. He did this week in and week out in the SEC. Then you break down Blake Bortles. He had one good year. That was it. Teddy (Bridgewater) played in a really weak conference. He put up his numbers against bad competition.
"Johnny played in the best conference in the country. Add up all of the Alabama and Auburn guys he played against that are in the pros versus the pro guys Bortles or Bridgewater went against."
The topic of Manziel on the next level, and if his body can take the NFL beating, is only recently entering the Media Draft Industrial Complex. But Manziel and Flaherty have been preparing for the NFL for a long, long time—and one of the things they have focused on is injury prevention.
Flaherty works at Prolific Athletes and trains a select number of prospects for the combine. NFL team officials say Flaherty has risen to one of the best in the country at what he does simply because his prospects don't just train solely for the combine. They train for life in the NFL.
"A lot of what Johnny and I are working on now is injury prevention," Flaherty explained. "We don't do traditional type lifting. We do things that help to keep him from getting hurt."
This is one of the more interesting parts of the Manziel story. Manziel didn't just train for the combine. His training continues now as you read this, and that training focuses on trying not to become a casualty of injury. They are working on Manziel's sliding, for example, and doing exercises to strengthen muscles above the knee cap and hip, which are important to keep strong because those muscles can prevent injuries.
Flaherty has Manziel do resistance work in three planes: front to back, side to side and then multiple directions.
This helps brace the body for hits and also limits the chance of injury from quickly changing directions.
At one stretch leading up to the combine, Flaherty had Manziel run 24 timed 40s over a six-day period. There were also lots of deadlifts and plyometrics. Manziel's deadlift went from 500 pounds to 680. Manziel's vertical jump also went from 29 inches to 32 1/2.
What Manziel is doing is preparing for the physicality of the NFL after he is drafted in the first round.
Not the fourth.
Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report.
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