Warszawski: Fresno State's Davante Adams works with track legend for NFL Combine speed

The Fresno BeeFebruary 19, 2014 

For his first job interview Davante Adams is packing a businesslike attitude, if not a business suit.

Adams is in Indianapolis for the NFL Combine, where he and more than 300 fellow draft prospects (including former Fresno State teammates Derek Carr, Marcel Jensen and Isaiah Burse) will be timed, measured and poked at by the league's coaches and decision makers.

To prepare, the record-setting Bulldogs receiver enrolled in a six-week training program at Michael Johnson Performance in McKinney, Texas.

Why there? Did you not recognize the name in the title? It belongs to a four-time Olympic gold medalist.

"I like knowing that I'm being trained by someone who was the fastest man in the world," Adams said over the phone. "That type of stuff is really appealing. I wanted to work with the best."

Coaches and GMs who have watched Adams' film know he excels in one-on-one coverage. That he has good size and hands, crazy jumping ability and a knack for snagging the ball at its highest point.

But there are questions about Adams' speed. Whether he'll be fast enough to separate from NFL corners or be limited to possession routes.

"A lot of scouts and coaches don't know exactly how fast I am," Adams said.

Sunday's 40-yard dash will tell them. And in Adams' case, a blink of the eye could be worth millions.

All NFL rookie contracts follow a four-year scale. A late first-round pick in May might get an $8 million deal with a $4 million signing bonus. Go one round later, and it's $3.6 million with a $1 million bonus. By the third round, you're down to $2.8 million and $600,000.

NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock pegged Adams to go between the late first round and the late second, adding "I really like him as an outside receiver who is going to develop over time."

The 40 doesn't have much to do with football; it's sprinting. At that distance, there's a lot more to running fast than moving your legs.

"I was never a track guy, so I had a lot to learn about technique in a short amount of time," Adams said.

"The main thing is the start. I had to learn how to get off the line without any wasted movements."

Adams awoke each day at 6:30 a.m. and by 8:45 was at Johnson's state-of-the-art facility, complete with 6,000-square foot synthetic field, 60-yard indoor track, heated therapy pools and Nike-sponsored training lab.

The entire morning was devoted to combine drills. Adams and a small training group that included Baylor receiver Tevin Reese honed their 40s and practiced other drills they'll be asked to perform at the combine.

Johnson employs a training staff but handled some of the instruction himself.

"At first I was a little awestruck like, 'Is that really him?' " Adams said. "It's like being coached by LeBron James in basketball."

Position-specific drills and route running were next on the schedule. Former NFL receivers Patrick Crayton and Curtis Jackson assisted with that.

After lunch and a 90-minute break, Adams returned to the facility for an afternoon of weight lifting and mental flexing.

Some days, he took seminars on interview preparation, media training and the Wonderlic exam. On others, he underwent sensory performance training aimed at boosting peripheral vision, timing and concentration.

One high-tech gadget Adams used was a pair of goggles that flashed open and closed, which added another level of difficulty to catching passes.

"It's like you're constantly blinking," Adams said. "You can't do anything else except concentrate on the ball the whole way."

Almost sounds like Yoda teaching Luke Skywalker to use The Force.

Stretching and therapy concluded the work day, plus a video session with a trainer who dissected Adams' performance in drills.

That kind of attention comes at a price. The going rate for elite combine camps like Johnson's runs $30,000-$40,000. (The agent pays in the majority of cases, banking he'll get his money back when his client signs an NFL contract.)

"It's pretty expensive, but you get your money's worth," Adams said.

Will everything pay off? Adams has good reason to believe so. One of the main perks of Johnson's program is a mock combine held at the Cowboys' AT&T Stadium.

Adams said he ran 4.46 during the mock combine. If he does that Sunday, draft analysts like Mayock will be unable to contain their excitement.

Listed by Fresno State at 6-foot-2 and 216 pounds, Adams currently weighs 213 after finishing the season at 205.

"I'm feeling fast -- faster than I've ever felt before," he said. "I'm feeling like this is a good weight for me to run at."

Johnson's clients also have sole access to the latest Nike football cleats, which will be unveiled in Indianapolis. Last year, the Bills' Marquise Goodwin wore them while running 4.27 -- the second-fastest time in combine history.

It's all part of the business attire for a job interview in pro football.

"Football is going to be my profession," Adams said, "so I have to do everything I can to present myself in the best possible way."

The columnist can be reached at (559) 441-6218, marekw@fresnobee.com or @MarekTheBee on Twitter.

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