Each year, potential draftees enter specialized training programs to prepare for the combine, college pro days, and other pre-draft workouts. One of the top training facilities for pro prospects, Plex Sports & Rehab, is located in southwest Houston. Director Danny Arnold, just back from the combine in Indianapolis, spoke with HoustonProFootball.com about his clients, the combine, and the draft.
HPF: You’re training several of this year’s draft prospects, including some of the biggest names. Who are you working with this year?
Arnold: QBs B.J. Symons (Texas Tech); RBs John Harris (Purdue), Keylon Kincade (SMU), and Shaud Williams (Alabama); FB Mark Pierce (Arkansas); TEs Bobby Blizzard (North Carolina) and Jason Peters (Arkansas); WRs Roman Crenshaw (Southeastern Oklahoma), Tramon Douglas (Grambling), Wes Welker (Texas Tech), Derrick Williams (Central Washington), and Reggie Williams (Washington); OL Brad Lekerkerker (California-Davis); DTs Tommie Harris (Oklahoma) and Cedric Hilliard (Notre Dame); DEs Derrick Crawford (Texas A&M-Commerce), Kevin Emanuel (Florida State), Ron Jones (Southern Mississippi), D.J. Renteria (New Mexico), and Bo Schobel (TCU); LBs Karlos Dansby (Auburn), Rod Dunlap (Western Carolina), T.J. Hollowel (Nebraska), Derrick Pope (Alabama), Billy Strother (New Mexico), and Jared Williams (Texas A&M-Commerce); Ss Will Alllen (Ohio State), Fath’ Carter (Oklahoma State), Brandon Ratcliff (New Mexico), and Brandon Williams (TCU); and CBs Harold Clewis (Iowa State), Vontez Duff (Notre Dame), Chris Gamble (Ohio State), Marvin Jackson (Arkansas), Eddie Moten (Texas A&M-Kingsville), Tyrone Sanders (TCU), and Chris Wright (Oklahoma State). Most of these guys have been with us for over two and a half months.
HPF: How did each of your clients do at the combine?
Arnold: Most of my clients did not work out at the combine via recommendation by me or their agent. Of the ones that did, they did very well.
HPF: Please explain the thought process behind the decision of a player not to work out at the combine, or to only participate in certain tests.
Arnold: The best way to tell it: If your son is playing in the championship game on Saturday, where every scout is going to be in attendance, where if he doesn’t perform his best game ever he would lose so many scholarships, would you: make him sit on his butt for three and a half days before it and not do any exercises, would you make him sleep on a different bed for the three nights before the game, would you put him through intensive written and mental exams for the three days before it, would you not give him a choice of when he has to go to bed, would you put the pressure of media every day before the game, would you wake him up at 5:00 in the morning after he had done interviews until 10:00 p.m., would you not allow him to warm up the way he wants to, would you make him have between 20-25 minutes between every drill he is getting tested on (a 45-minute workout at the combine takes about two hours), and would you have him go to the hospital for many x-rays and MRIs for half a day before his championship game, OR would you just let him play his championship game at home, sleep the way he wants to, when he wants to, in his own bed, eat what he wants to, continue to prepare himself up to the championship game, be relaxed and focused the days before the big game, not get distracted with interviews, and most of all, when it comes to testing out (the 40s, shuttle, and all that stuff) you allow him to warm up the way he wants to and do it on turf he is familiar with at a more reasonable time like 11:00 a.m. or 10:00? So which one would you choose?
Another thing – I have never, ever heard a scout say at somebody’s pro day, "Wow, he ran great, but I’m going to take points off because he didn’t work out at the combine." To top that off, one of the biggest pushers for everyone to work out at the combine is Alonzo Highsmith (a great friend of mine and NFL scout for Green Bay). He tells everyone to work out at the combine, yet when he went there as a player, he didn’t work out. Ironic isn’t it?
HPF: At the combine, did the Texans appear especially interested in any particular players?
Arnold: I spoke to [Texan Coordinator of College Scouting] Mike Maccagnan and Charley Casserly for a while up there, and they did show great interest in some of our players. Tommie Harris they love, but they felt a little uncertain about what he’ll play for them, inside or outside. I particularly think, in working with Tommie for about four years, that you would not completely utilize him unless you put him outside. He is too versatile of a player to keep inside. As big as he is, he weighed 296 at the combine, and as fast as he is, around the 4.7s, you need to put him in a position where he can utilize all of his athletic abilities. If you look back, Tommie’s most successful year at Oklahoma was probably his first year, where he was put in a position where he can utilize his overall athletic abilities. If you put him inside, just to tie up two guys, well, you need to get you a different type of body in there. We have a couple very successful nose-type-tackles, Casey Hampton and Hollis Thomas, and they’re made up totally different than Tommie. As much as I believe in Tommie, I think he will not succeed inside as much as he would outside. Also, we never mention his type of game, when Tommie is held up, he has a tendency to slow down a little bit, but when he is more in an open space, he tears it up. Other guys they like are Chris Gamble, Will Allen, Bo Schobel, and couple other ones for later rounds. They showed interest in Gamble because he is a big, physical corner and with Aaron [Glenn] being small and Marcus [Coleman] losing a step, you can put Gamble on the big receivers, move Marcus to safety, and you might have a nice backfield. With Allen, a great character guy, a little undersized (202 lbs.) for a safety, he is a technique freak. I mean this guy learns everything the second after you teach it. He is a guy that will probably play in the league a long time just because he is a perfectionist. With Bo Schobel, they expressed a lot of interest but also asked me what is the most he can weigh. He was 271 lbs. at the combine, but he can be an easy 285-290; Bo is very lean. I also trained both his cousins, and he might be the most talented one.
HPF: How does Harris compare with the other prominent defensive linemen with whom you’ve worked, such as Hampton, Julius Peppers and Shaun Rogers?
Arnold: I’ll just tell you about him, he will stop at nothing until he does it perfectly (actually this could hurt him a little bit in the long run, injuries and all), won’t accept anything less than being the best, incredible work ethic, great morals, and great character. This should summarize for you: I wish I had a daughter so he could date her.
HPF: Wes Welker always carried the "too small/too slow" label at Texas Tech, but he also made some very big plays. How does he measure up physically, and what does he have to do to make it in the NFL?
Arnold: Wes is about 5-8 ½ , and actually is not skinny by any means. He is extremely quick, I mean really quick, and he will probably run a 4.5. As far as his routes, he runs clean routes and can catch almost anything. And don’t forget, he is going to be a punt return guy besides receiving. So I do think Wes will stick on a team for sure.
HPF: Which drills or tests do you consider the most valuable for evaluating football players?
Arnold: Watching film, not the ones they test on at the combine. Show me anywhere on a football field where a player gets in a 40 yard stance. Teams need to trust their scouts more and start evaluating more rather than relying on numbers. Maybe they should start evaluating their evaluation process.
HPF: Are there any that you see scouts or coaches conduct that you think are a complete waste of time?
Arnold: They’re all about the same, okay for certain things, but more of a thing to put more judgment on numbers rather then someone’s opinion.
HPF: What does the road ahead look like for your clients between now and the draft?
Arnold: They are here training right now for their pro day, after that they stay here until draft and train with me on nothing but football drills to get ready for mini camp.
HPF: How does your program differ from the others that are available for players?
Arnold: The service and commitment that we give to our players, a complete staff in house, physical therapist, chiro’s, trainers, massage people, nutritionist, meals onsite, players lounge, and most of all the motivation and atmosphere we bring to the athlete to make him strive to be the best he or she can possibly be. Remember, you can know every drill in the world, but if you can’t get the athlete to go 100% every day, day in day out, your program sucks. Over here, you think like every day is a championship week. It’s all about attitude, love for what you do, knowledge and dedication you put to your players, football, volleyball, soccer, baseball, whatever sport they play, everyday.
HPF: How did you break into this business at this level and who was your first big-name client?
Arnold: I played football and ran track in college. I played one year of Canadian ball but it didn’t work out due to injury and then I coached two years in both football (defensive back coach) and track (short sprints) at [Texas Southern] University. After realizing that in the coaching business you aren’t really in control of your future, I decide to go on my own seven years ago. My first big, big names were Bobby Taylor and Charles Woodson. They are still clients of mine and continue to train with me.
HoustonProFootball.com would like to thank Danny Arnold for his time and candor. Plex Sports & Rehab’s website is www.plex.cc.
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