Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Tim Raines, Curt Schilling, Edgar Martinez, Pete Rose…who Belongs in Baseball’s Hall of Fame?

Who is the best of the best not recognized in baseball’s Hall of Fame? I get asked this question a lot and it’s one that is debated in bars, living rooms, and bleachers across the country.

As the race for the playoffs is heating up and with the great response to the last sports roundtable, I thought it would be a great time to turn our focus to baseball.

Cleveland Indian Kenny Lofton.
Joining me this time are two of my former sports writing colleagues.

Orrin Schwarz, a repeat panelist from Chicago, who has covered high school sports from 1991-present and is currently Assistant Sports Editor/DuPage County and pro soccer writer for the Daily Herald Media Group.

Daniel Brown (no relation, although he does share my nephew’s name), awarding-winning general assignment sports reporter from the San Jose Mercury News and author of 100 Things 49ers Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die.

And I covered sports from 1985-86, 1988-2000, and 2012-2013.

So, without any further delay…

Who are the best baseball players, by position, who are not in the Hall of Fame?

Orrin: (PED users need not apply):

C-- Mike Piazza. Really just a DH who needed a position in the NL. Boy, could he hit.

1B -- Don Mattingly. A hitter who could field. Or a fielder who could hit. Either way, he was very good.

2B -- Lou Whitaker. Quiet production.

SS -- Alan Trammell. The other half of the Tigers’ DP combo.

3B -- Edgar Martinez. A great hitter who played a little third base before going to DH.

OF-- Tim Raines. Maybe if he had stayed in one city he’d be in the Hall already.

OF -- Shoeless Joe Jackson. Is this too obvious?

OF -- Riggs Stephenson. Surprised? Look him up. You’ll understand.

SP -- Jack Morris. He gets the call over Doc Gooden.

RP -- Lee Smith. Like Martinez, voters are biased against guys at his position.

Daniel: C -- Ted Simmons

1B -- Keith Hernandez. If you go across the diamond, the best-known defender of all-time from each position is in the Hall. Ozzie Smith, Bill Mazeroski, Brooks Robinson, etc. Not a rule, but a guideline. Hernandez won 11 Gold Gloves (most ever by a first baseman) and could hit a little bit—he was in the league’s Top 10 for OBP eight times. Honorable mention to Jeff Bagwell, but I think he’ll make it eventually.

2B -- Bobby Grich. If you believe in WAR, you might be surprised to know that Grich (70.9) ranks ahead of Ryne Sandberg (67.5), Roberto Alomar (66.8), and Craig Biggio (65.1).

SS -- Alan Trammell. The sabermatrician Jay Jaffe developed the JAWS scoring system to measure a players Hall of Fame worthiness. Trammell fairs extremely well, ranking 11th all-time and ahead of such players as Derek Jeter, Barry Larkin, and Luis Aparicio.

3B -- Graig Nettles.

LF -- Tim Raines.

CF -- Kenny Lofton. I covered Lofton in San Francisco and couldn’t stand him; he was difficult. But he led the league in stolen bases five times and ranks 15th all-time. He was also a terrific defensive center fielder for some very good teams.

RF -- Dwight Evans.

SP -- Curt Schilling. The second best strikeout-to-walk ratio of all-time. The only pitcher better is Tommy Bond, who last played in 1884. Schilling’s career postseason record: 11-2, 2.23 ERA.

New York Yankee Mike Mussina. 
SP -- Mike Mussina.

RP -- Lee Smith.

PJ: C – Mike Piazza. He hit 30 or more home runs 9 out of 10 years and hit .300 or higher for 10 consecutive seasons.

1B – Don Mattingly. He won nine gold gloves, an MVP and a batting title. He did it with his bat and his glove.

2B – Lou Whitaker. He was one of only eight second basemen with 200 homeruns, 1,000 runs scored, and 1,000 RBI. As Orrin said, he quietly went about his business.

SS -- Alan Trammell.

3B – Bill Madlock. Yes, I am a Cubs fan and you might think this is a homer pick. However, look at these numbers: .305 batting average, 3 batting titles, and he hit more than .300 11 times.

OF – Tim Raines. Check this out: 808 stolen bases (only Rickey Henderson, Lou Brock, and Ty Cobb have more), .998% fielding percentage, and 2,605 hits.

OF – Shoeless Joe Jackson. I’m in line with Orrin on this one. His batting average was .356 (third all-time). In his first three years in the league he hit .408, .395, and .378 and didn’t win the batting title. He finished second each year to Ty Cobb. He struck out only 234 times.

OF – Pete Rose. Yes, I’m going there. First, he played 1,200 games in left and right fields combined and played 939 games at first. So, I’m putting him in my outfield. I know, he gambled on baseball games he played or managed in. He’s not the only one. In 1963 Paul Hornung and Alex Karras were suspended by the NFL for placing bets on NFL games. The difference here is that they admitted it, and they only lost a year and are in the NFL’s Hall of Fame. And who can forget the rumors that Michael Jordan was caught gambling and instead of taking a suspension he retired and played baseball for a while. He came back and finished his career and is in the NBA’s Hall of Fame. It’s time for baseball to do the right thing. The all-time hits leader belongs in the Hall. 

SP – Vida Blue. He won the Cy Young and MVP in the same season (1971), 209 wins, 3.27 ERA, 1.233 WHIP, and 2,175 strikeouts. He also threw a no-hitter, was part of a combined no-hitter, and pitched 37 shutouts. He had three 20 win seasons within five years. He is one of only four pitchers to start the All-Star team for both the American and National Leagues. He was 6-2 in postseason play.

RP – Lee Smith. He dominated during his era.

Name two all-time great teams, from 1970 on, that never won a World Series and that we seem to have forgotten.

Orrin: The teams that should’ve won the World Series but didn’t are the 1984 Cubs and the Indians of the late 1990s. Both franchises have gone so long without winning, and both had great chances then. I still remember where I was when watching both lose. So painful because I’m a Cubs fan, and as a Cubs fan I root for underdogs like the Indians and last year’s Royals.

Chicago White Sox Shoeless Joe Jackson.
Daniel: 1981 Houston Astros. A strike threw a monkey-wrench into that season, but it would have been fun to see what the pitching-rich Astros could have done over the long haul. That staff featured two future Hall of Famers in Nolan Ryan (1.69 ERA) and Don Sutton (2.61), as well as veterans such as Joe Niekro (2.82), Bob Knepper (2.18), and Vern Ruhl (2.91). Not surprisingly, that staff led the National League in ERA, shutouts, and strikeouts. They couldn’t hit a lick in their cavernous home ballpark—Jose Cruz led the team with 13 home runs—but that pitching could have been enough to carry them.

1994 Montreal Expos. One of the great what-ifs in baseball history. The ‘94 lockout canceled the World Series and thereby wiped out the best chance for the colorful franchise to win it all. The Expos were 74-40 behind such dominating talents as Larry Walker, Moises Alou, Pedro Martinez, and John Wetteland. They made for a spectacular show—and a heartbreaking place in history.

PJ: 1984 Cubs. They were the best team that season. If only Cubs Manager Jim Frey would have pulled Rick Sutcliffe when he was showing signs of tiring (which was typical of him all season) in Game 5. Frey kept Sutcliffe in too long and we got the infamous grounder through Leon Durham’s legs. The rest is history. The loss is on Frey...and the goat, not Durham.

*                                                              *                                                                                        *

There are lots of great players mentioned above that belong in the Hall of Fame. So many of these players have waited too long for their rightful place in Cooperstown. Let’s hope they are recognized soon.

Follow Orrin on Twitter @Orrin_Schwarz

To read Daniel look here http://www.mercurynews.com/sports or email him at dbrown@mercurynews.com
Follow Daniel on Twitter @mercbrownie

Follow me on Twitter @PJBrown09

Monday, August 3, 2015

Emily McClellan…and the Two-Minute Drill

When I heard professional swimmer Emily McClellan was from Wisconsin, I had to interview her. She’s from Delavan, I’m from Racine. We both stayed in-state for college. She went to UW-Milwaukee and I went to UW-Madison.

Unfortunately, this is where the similarities end. I say unfortunately, as Emily, who specializes in the breaststroke, has an impressive list of accomplishments that many wish they could call their own.

Emily at a meet 
She was the first Horizon League female swimmer to qualify for the NCAAs…and she did this all four years she competed.

She won Women’s Athlete of the Year in the Horizon League and Women’s Swimmer of the Meet (for the League Championships) four straight years, another first.

She never lost an individual event in her college career.

She swam the third fastest time for a woman in 100 yard breaststroke at any level and is the third woman to break 58 seconds in this event. Emily did this at the NCAAs in her senior year (2014) when she finished second with a time of 57.76. This was the second fastest 100 yard breaststroke at the NCAA level.

She won the 100 yard breaststroke title at the 2012 US Open in 1:07 (nearly a second faster than the rest of the field) and came in third in the 200 with a 2:27.49.

She finished sixth at the 2012 Olympic Trials and just missed making the team by over a second.
She won the bronze as part of the 400 medley relay at the 2013 World University Games.

She was a four-time NCAA All-American.

She finished her college swimming career having broken the 100 yard breaststroke, 200 yard breaststroke and 200 IM school and league records a combined 23 times and as the most decorated swimmer in Horizon League history.

And the list goes on.

At the end of June Emily competed at the Quebec Cup in Montreal, Canada, and she won the gold in the 50 breaststroke in a :31.6.

Next up for Emily is competing in the U.S. Nationals August 6-10 in San Antonio, Texas.

I sat down recently with Emily and she shared her story.

PJ: Why swimming?

Emily: I love to race. It’s pretty special to jump off the blocks and push your body. It’s cool to do it with other swimmers. They all push me and I want to think I push them.

PJ: Why did you start swimming?

Emily: My competitive swimming career started at Delavan-Dairen High School when I wanted to be a three-sport athlete. Most kids started community swimming at a young age. I decided to do it and figured how hard could it be? It was a ton of fun and I got a cut and thought ‘Wow, I have potential.’ My coach, Ryon Epping, was the last person to get an Olympic Trial cut. My goal was to make state in my senior year…I ended up winning state in the breaststroke in 1:04. This qualified me for the Speedo Nationals where I swam a 1:02.

PJ: How did you end up at UW-Milwaukee?

Emily: I got some recruiters the winter of my senior year in high school and didn’t commit until February, which is late. I didn’t want to swim in college as I thought it was too hard. I didn’t know much about swimming in college. I only went on one recruiting trip to a Division 1 school. My mom filled out the registration and told me I was going on a trip to Milwaukee. I was terrified of the big city. However, the team was amazing, so I committed. That’s how I chose Milwaukee.

PJ: You had a very successful college swimming career. What helped you achieve so much?

Emily: It was my first time swimming year round. I had never lifted weights. They had to teach me everything. It was tough, yet I benefited from it. I gained muscle. In my freshman year I won and made the NCAAs. It was in Texas and my sister asked if Michael Phelps would be there. This was the women’s event, but I didn’t know. At the time I was so clueless. My goal for freshman year was to survive. It was really tough on my body. Then in the championship season, I did well. In the NCAAs I finished dead last. For me, it was enough to make it. That was an honor. Going into sophomore year I knew I could make it and my mindset changed.

I made goals each year to improve. By the time senior year rolled around, I knew the drill. I wanted to get on the podium and make Swimmer of the Year (in the Horizon League) all four years. My coach helped me a lot and I went from dead last at the NCAAs to second place in my senior year.

PJ: What is your process before a meet?

Emily: I train my body to push it to the max, to wear myself out. Taper is exciting. You get to rest. It’s a change. You take all the hard work and apply it to one race. When you taper you conserve energy. You are rested up and can pour all your energy into one race. My schedule is loaded. I swim twice a day and am in the weight room. After five hours of training, you are exhausted. In the race, you just explode in the water in that moment.

PJ: How is being a professional swimmer different from college swimming?
Emily in action

Emily: I’m not on a college schedule where they tell me what to do. Being a pro is a whole new ballgame. I’m on my own. It’s my own drive and personal goals. It’s not about the team. I don’t have my weight coach. It’s been an adjustment. I am training in California and it’s coming around. It was hard to be my own boss at first.

Now I do club swimming, instead of dual meets. I didn’t have a lot of background with this. I train every day and try to keep things similar. I train with Dave Salo, the coach at USC and the Trojan Swim Club. I am not a sprint-based swimmer, yet he coaches this way. This year I have been learning this, so training is different.

PJ: How has sprint training impacted your swimming?

Emily: Getting faster doesn’t happen overnight. This is a transition and you have to be patient. I haven’t hit goal times, but I can tell by the way I workout that my speed has increased. I hope that when taper comes I am rested and can apply it all.

Yardage swim at practice is a lot different. With Dave the intensity is harder with fewer yards. In college I did more laps and it was more about pacing. At practice now I am more exhausted and have had to teach my body to push itself until it breaks down. When Dave says ‘All out, maximum effort,’ I do it.

PJ: What is your typical day?

Emily: I wake up and swim two hours in the morning. On Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, I do weights in the afternoon. While on Tuesday and Thursday I do one hour of cardio outside of the pool. Occasionally, I swim two hours in the morning and afternoon on one day. I have to let my body recover so I am ready for the next day.

PJ: What motivates you?

Emily: I’ve set goals and even on my toughest days I think ‘I’ve come this far, it would be upsetting if I didn’t achieve my goals.’ I’ve worked way too hard to give up. I want to be able to say to my grandkids that it was pretty special that I got to the NCAAs or Olympic trials. I want this to define this part of my life.

PJ: Who is your mentor?

Emily: My mom (June) is a big motivator. She is an inspiration, is so positive, and loves everything she does. She’s been my biggest fan and loves going to my meets and being in the stands. It makes me want to do it for her. 

Monday, June 15, 2015

David Nolan…and the Two-Minute Drill

David Nolan capped off his college swimming career at Stanford with two more performances for the record books.

At the Pac-12 Championships he won the 200 IM in 1:40.07—the best Stanford, Pac-12, NCAA, and American mark in this event.

David and his backstroke.
Photo courtesy of StanfordPhoto.com
The previous NCAA record (1:40.49) was set in 2009 by Bradley Ally (University of Florida) and Ryan Lochte owned the American mark (set in 2007) at 1:40.08.

Oh, and this win made David the only swimmer in Pac-12 history to sweep this race in all four years.
Then came the NCAA Championships and David took it to another level, winning the event with a 1:39.38 time. He is the first man to swim the 200 IM in a sub-1:40 time.

By the way, just to put all of this in perspective, this is the same swimmer who won eight titles in one of his first meets as a freshman at Stanford.

And in his senior year in high school in 2011 he swam the 200 IM in 1:41.39 (another record) and this time would have won the NCAA title that year. He held five national records and was an All-American in six strokes.

At the end of his freshman year he was named Pac-12 Freshman of the Year, Pac-12 Championships Swimmer of the Meet, and took six first place finishes in the Pac-12 Championships in helping 

Stanford to its 31st consecutive Pac-12 title. He also had seven All-American honors at the NCAAs.
In total, David leaves Stanford with 17 All-American honors, three school records, and nine Pac-12 titles.

I sat down recently with David and he shared his story.

PJ: Why do you like swimming?

David: I like racing a lot. It’s pretty neat that you can control what you are going to do at the end of the season. I like a sport when you mange yourself in the pool and weight room. You figure out what will make you as good as possible at the end of the year.

PJ: As a senior in high school you had what is called the best swim in high school history when you broke your own national record in the 200 IM by nearly two seconds at 1:41.39. This seems to be one of your best races. Why do you like the 200 IM?

David: It definitely was the best cause it was the national record, in high school, that is. The 200 IM is a combination of all strokes. I like how it takes all strokes in. I work with the mid-distance group and just change the stroke, rotate through all strokes by the end of the week.

PJ: What was different in your training this season that may have helped you to set these new
David starting the race at the 2012 Pac-12 Championships.
Photo courtesy of StanfordPhoto.com

David: Just being really into training all year. Being super-focused literally doing all you can do. I
was way more conscious and diligent this year. The goal was in the back of my mind. I wanted to get better and was going to do what I needed to do. And it worked.

I was diligent. I ate healthy and worked really hard. I was very focused in training as opposed to going in and just swimming the laps. The specific thing that changed was my schedule. I lifted in the afternoon and it made it easier to lift heavy. That’s really the only thing that changed.

PJ: Did you know you were on pace to beat the record during the races?

David: Sometimes I feel good when racing and this felt pretty good. Although, I did not know I was on pace for the record. I didn’t see it coming. It was pretty exciting. I didn’t know I had the record until it was over and I heard it on the loudspeaker.

The second time, I was fully shaved and ready to go. I was excited to race and it worked out.

PJ: The second mark your set put a little more time between you and the rest of the pack. How long do you think it will stand?

David: I think it will definitely be broken. Maybe even next year. Records are set to be broken. It’s what everyone aims for…there’s not even a question they are going to win. Then they think about what else can I do? It helps you go even faster.

PJ: What’s next?

David: Making the Olympics…that’s my one and only goal. This is always every kid’s dream…to compete in the Olympics. I will stay at Stanford and train. I am mostly focused on the long course. I haven’t figured out yet what events I will focus on.

PJ: What is your best memory swimming?

David: This year in the Pac-12 championships when the team swam fast all-around. That is my favorite memory.

PJ: What athlete has had the most impact on you?

David: Tiger Woods is my role model. I like playing golf and it’s so cool that I went to the same school as him. His domination in the game of golf is pretty inspiring. My family has helped me out greatly, but he is my athletic inspiration.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Drew Jackson…and the Two-Minute Drill

Editor's note: On June 9, 2015, Drew Jackson was selected in the fifth round of the MLB First-Year Player Draft by the Seattle Mariners. Drew was the first Stanford player selected in the draft.  

Professional baseball may have another Jackson brother in its ranks in just a few short weeks. Baseball’s first year player draft runs June 8-10 and the Jackson family in Orinda, CA, will be watching closely to see if Drew gets the call.

Currently, Drew’s brother, Brett, plays center for the San Francisco Giants’ AAA Sacramento River Cats. He was hitting .277 through May 27 before being put on the seven-day disabled list.

Drew turning the double play against UCLA
on April 26. Photo courtesy of Bob Drebin/StanfordPhoto.com. 
Drew, a junior shortstop at Stanford, finished his season leading the team with a .320 batting average and was second in runs scored with 27. He also led the Cardinal during fall ball with a .358 average. He spent two summers playing for the Cotuit Kettleers in the prestigious Cape Cod League.

I sat down with Drew recently and he shared his story.

PJ: You broke the hamate bone in your hand earlier in the season. Tell me about it.

Drew: It’s a weird injury. It was nagging me before I broke it. I fouled off a curve ball and felt something wasn’t right. Next thing I knew I was picking up a bat and it was unbearable. I was playing again in 3 ½ weeks, so the recovery period wasn’t so bad. Right after surgery I had a soft cast on for one week to let the swelling go down. When they took it off, I didn’t even have a bandage on it. The doctor said…let pain be your guide. It was hurting when I played, but I gave it a whirl. The Saturday game against ASU was my first game back and it was hurting real bad when I was swinging. In fact, the first two weeks hitting I was in a lot of pain. The doctor told me I’d have a lot of pain for the rest of the season. Now I don’t notice the pain…it’s gone, which is awesome.

PJ: Pablo Sandoval (current Boston Red Sox and former SF Giant) broke these bones in each hand. I heard this is a common injury.

Drew: I hadn’t heard of it before I broke mine. Yes, Pablo broke his, but I didn’t think it would ever happen to me. After I had the injury I started hearing about others. Drew Storen, the closer for the Washington Nationals, broke his during batting practice. There was a player at Cal [Mike Reuvekamp] and a Stanford teammate, Matthew Decker, one week after mine.

PJ: What type of physical therapy did you go through?

Drew: I was doing leg workouts…everything I could do to keep my whole body in shape. After I got my cast off I did wrist strengthening exercises in the weight room. I swung the bat for the first time the Wednesday before the ASU series [March 27-29]. The more I swung, it made the healing better. I really didn’t have physical therapy.

PJ: You were named Pac-12 Player of the Week for your series against Utah in April. You went 7-for-14 with three doubles and five runs scored. This was only a few weeks after coming back from your injury.

Drew: Yeah, that was pretty cool. It felt good and it was nice being back on the field. Being injured I realized how important baseball is to me and how amazing it is to play at such a high level. I’m trying to take it all in. I’m not sure how much longer I will be playing baseball or be playing at Stanford.

PJ: So, you are thinking about the draft and playing pro baseball, right?
Drew bunting against Utah on April 19.
Photo courtesy of Bob Drebin/StanfordPhoto.com.

Drew: I want to get drafted. I am ready to play pro ball if the opportunity is there. But, there is nothing bad about coming back and playing at Stanford. Ideally, I do want to get drafted and play at the pro level.

PJ: Why baseball?

Drew: My dad tried walking on at Cal and he play soccer. He is the biggest baseball fan. Ever since I remember I’ve had a wiffle bat and ball in my hand. It’s ingrained in me…I have a deep appreciation for the game. When you put a lot of hard work into something and you see the results of your efforts, you appreciate it more. I like other sports, too. But, there is something about baseball. I love the game.

PJ: Your older brother, Brett, plays for the Sacramento River Cats. How much of an influence has he been on you?

Drew: He’s my biggest role model and one of my best friends. It’s nice to have someone go through it before me to give me a heads up. I think I have more knowledge of what to expect than others who don’t have a brother in pro ball. I was growing up dreaming of being a professional baseball player and the fact that he’s made it is so cool. I remember the day he got called up [August 6, 2012, with the Chicago Cubs]. It’s cool to say my brother’s been there. He’s hitting well and I hope he gets called up by the Giants.

Brett is five years older than me, however the way he treats me you wouldn’t notice an age difference. My younger brother, Connor is 17 and will be going to Cal. We’ve all grown closer. They are my best friends. Growing up the five-year gap seems bigger. Brett was a good role model on how to treat Connor and be a good big brother. We just hung out and played wiffle ball in the backyard. I have to give a shout out to my sister [Lindsey], too. She is the best sister out there.

PJ: Have you seen your brother play for the River Cats?

Drew: I haven’t seen him since spring training. He came to see a couple of my games at ASU and we had dinner together. Our schedules are so tight. In fact, spending time with all six of us [the entire Jackson family] only happens a couple of times a year. I cherish those times…they are my favorite times of year.

Drew ready at short against Utah on April 19.
Photo courtesy of Bob Drebin/StanfordPhoto.com.
PJ: Speaking of Cal, most of your family has gone (or in the case of Connor, is going) there. Are they tough on you for breaking the family tradition and playing for the enemy?

Drew: Nearly all of my extended family has gone to Cal…11 cousins and siblings. I do get heat for going to the dark side, as my family calls it. But, it makes it fun…we tailgate for the Big Game. We really get into it. My loyalties lie with the school I chose, but I still root for Cal when not playing them in football.

My sister gives me the most heat about going to Stanford. She has the most Cal pride of any Jackson. She won’t wear red to my games, but she says I’m the only Stanford player she will root for. My parents are decked out in red for every game [even though Mom went to UCLA and Dad to Cal]. They are my biggest supporters.

PJ: What is your best baseball memory?

Drew: Last year in the regionals [for Stanford]. I had pinch hit and was on second base. Tommy Edman was up and I was just hoping he’d get a slap single so I could get home. He hit a walk off home run…he had never hit a home run left handed before. My other one came last summer. I played in the Cape Cod league for the Cotuit Kettleers. In one game I hit the game tying run and then I hit the game winning run to send the team to the championship. That was pretty sweet.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

David Parry…and the Two-Minute Drill

Editor's Note: On May 2, David Parry was selected by the Indianapolis Colts in Round 5 of the NFL Draft. He will join former Stanford teammates: Andrew Luck, Coby Fleener, Griff Whalen, and Henry Anderson. 

The NFL draft is fast approaching.

For football players who have declared for the draft, the last few months have been packed with training, training, and more training. Although, the type of training they’ve been doing is slightly different from how they typically work to get ready for a football season.

Pac-12 All-Academic first teamer David Parry, a nose tackle, who played at Stanford, is one of these athletes. He was invited to the NFL Combine, participated in Stanford’s Pro Day, as well as regional tryouts for a few teams.

David Parry, No. 58, during the Foster
Farms Bowl in Dec. 2014. Photo courtesy
of StanfordPhoto.com.
Last season, as a fifth-year senior, David tallied 34 tackles and 4.5 sacks. He was a semifinalist for the Burlsworth Trophy and was All-Pac-12 honorable mention.

David has taken an incredible journey to this point. Coming out of Linn-Mar (Iowa) High School he played both offensive and defensive tackle. As a senior he was an Iowa Newspaper Association 4A all-state first team offensive lineman, made the Iowa Preps Elite all-state first team, All-Mississippi Valley Conference and all-Cedar Rapids Metro Area first team, and was selected to play in the Iowa Shrine All-Star game.

With all that, he wasn’t offered a Division I college scholarship. I still can’t believe that and I’m not the only one.

He walked on at Stanford and was awarded a scholarship during training camp of his second year. He quickly made an impact on the team.

David who stands at 6-2 and is 300+ lbs., made his first career start in his junior year at UCLA and had a team-high five solo tackles, a sack, and a pass deflection. In the Rose Bowl against Wisconsin that year he had three solo tackles. The following year he finished with 23 tackles.

The draft analysis on David points out that he: explodes out of stance and into linemen with force. He also: has strength and functional quickness to be a factor against the run while creating push and pocket disruption against the pass.

I sat down with David recently and he shared his perspective and what’s he’s been doing since the end of the Stanford football season.

PJ: What have you been doing since the bowl game?

David: After the bowl, then it was the East-West Shrine game, then the NFL Combine, then Pro Day. It’s been one goal at a time. Since then it’s been all football, all training.

PJ: Some players go away to train for the combine, why did you decide to stay at Stanford?

David: Throughout my career I’ve worked with Coach Turley. He’s tailored my workout for my body and how my body responds to the conditioning. It was about me trusting him fully. There was no question if I would get the same quality training here. There are lots of reasons to go elsewhere. Some think it’s more glamorous and some want a change of scenery. I had everything I need here, so there was no reason to go anywhere else.

PJ: What was the difference between training for the NFL combine and Pro Day?

David: The combine training is very specific. You know the position drills you will be doing. They’ve done the same drills for 20 years. You can train for these. Some argue that this is a good thing because you can take the results and compare them to guys from 10 or 20 years ago. At Pro Day, when it comes to position drills you don’t know what you’ll get. Coach Turley told us some (coaches) just like to work you until you drop. For Pro Day, you just have to be ready for anything.

PJ: How was your training for the combine and Pro Day different from how you train throughout the year?

David: During the year training is broken into four seasons. This training was like our spring training. It was about explosiveness, speed, and power. In the summer we do more conditioning to get our joints and muscles ready for the season. In-season we do maintenance and continue to do lifts and exercises to prevent injuries in games and practices.

Here, our favorite time is spring, as the sun is out more. It’s fun to run and lift. For my drills (at these events) my strategy on the 40 yard dash was to run a good 10 yard split. That’s what I focused on… as an inside linebacker the explosiveness was important for me.

PJ: So, break down your training.

David: Mondays and Thursdays we came in by 10am to lift for an hour and a half to an hour and 45 minutes. We were on the field and ready to run at noon for one hour to one and a half hours. On Monday we had speed-oriented runs. On Thursday they were lateral-based for drills. Tuesday was lifting. Wednesday was a day of recovery with the foam roller, yoga, and a cold tub.

PJ: Coach Turley is on the cutting edge of strength and conditioning training. How is his training different?

David: On functionality, each lift has a purpose. The focus is on detail. Each movement helps you stay on the field and perform at a higher level. At the beginning working with Coach Turley was definitely a learning curve. If you talk to every guy who is a fan of Coach Turley he probably hated him at one point! Initially, we butted heads a bit, but I looked at the older guys who played my position and realized if you buy in to what Coach Turley is trying to teach, you’ll be successful. There are a lot of factors that have gone into me getting here. Coach Turley has been very instrumental in my development as a football player and as a person. One thing that doesn’t get talked about much is that he also trains you for life.

David, No. 58, against Notre Dame
in Oct. 2014. Photo courtesy of
PJ: Has your dream been to play pro football in the NFL?

David: Almost unknowingly. I always dreamt of playing big time college football. Coming out of high school I had no scholarship offers, so I focused on playing football, strictly that. When I got here, I started playing for my team. Now I am on the verge of making this happen. It’s pretty cool.

PJ: Has not getting scholarships been a motivator for you?

David: It definitely will motivate me for the rest of my life. The idea of being doubted and underappreciated upsets me and is the fuel that has motivated me. It’s the chip on my shoulder for training and especially when I’m playing. I showed I can play at this level, now going to the next level, there are doubters again. They say my arms are too short and I’m not tall enough to play. I will end up thanking these people (for the motivation).

PJ: What was your ‘I made it moment’?

David: In the first Rose Bowl against Wisconsin. I faced the best offensive lineman (Travis Frederick) I’ve ever played against, besides David DeCastro (who is an offensive guard for the Pittsburgh Steelers and played at Stanford). I was making plays that game. I competed and even got the best of him at times. I showed I was in the right place. I was not complacent. After he got me on plays in the beginning, I wanted to still compete, and play against someone at that level and dominate them.

PJ: Where will you watch the draft?

David: I am going home to Marion, Iowa, to watch with Mom and Dad, my brother and his wife and their two kids, and a few friends from high school. I’m not planning a party as I’m not sure if I’ll be drafted.

PJ: Who was your favorite athlete growing up?

David: To be honest growing up my brother (George, who played football at Harvard) was my favorite football player. He and my dad taught me everything. My brother played with a physicality and tenacity I like to bring to my play. I was fortunate to watch him play growing up.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Kevin Nathan…and the Two-Minute Drill

When I first starting working with Kevin Nathan at 24 Hour Fitness in 2010 I thought he was a good trainer. We met my goals and that is all you can ask from your trainer.

But then, everything changed. 

Kevin Nathan and me
after a tough training session.
Kevin moved over to Bodies by Amorim (with Travis Amorim) and I was coming off a few surgeries, not having full mobility of my left arm, and both arms were very weak. I had done some physical therapy to gain more mobility, but wasn’t nearly ready for my next surgery. We had a month to get strong and were limited to training twice a week. So, we had 8 to 10 actual training sessions to move the needle. Any improvement from where I was would be a small win.

However, we were both unprepared for what happened next. I actually got so strong that my recovery was much easier. And, when I got back into the gym after a few months, it didn’t take as long to ramp up.

We didn’t achieve a small win; we achieved a big win. One that has stayed with me the past year-and-half and motivated me to accomplish even more.

And a win that made me recognize that Kevin isn’t just another good trainer. Kevin is an extraordinary trainer. He has helped me get back to normal and take these big and small wins to propel me even further.

I sat down recently with Kevin and he shared his perspective on training.

PJ: How did you get started as a trainer?

Kevin: For years my only goal was making it to the NHL. When I was growing up in California it was nearly impossible for a kid from here to make it to the NHL. So, reality was that maybe I won’t make it, but I can make it to the league in another way…take another path.

My mom has worked at Palmer College of Chiropractic for 30 plus years. I never wanted to be a chiropractor, but being around them, I thought this wasn’t a bad path. I saw the application. One of the guys (at Palmer) was active in sports, had seen injuries, remembers the process with his injury, and decided to pay it forward and help someone else. My situation was similar. I thought maybe I could help someone else, another athlete. Then it all clicked when I saw one of my best friends, Craig, working at 24 Hour Fitness. I saw all the things I could do….I could have fun doing this…I could see my path.

PJ: So for you it always comes back to hockey.

Kevin: Yes. Hockey is a huge part of my life. I can’t remember it not being part of my life. When I learned how to walk my dad had me on skates. The bond I have with my dad is from hockey. No matter what happened during the day or if I was in trouble, if hockey was on, we dropped everything. Hockey taught me leadership, how to have balance in my life, responsibilities, etc. This passion for hockey translates to the gym. I can do something and truly be happy.

I want to be part of keeping hockey in California. I want to develop a training center for kids to get better on and off the ice. I don’t want these kids to be at a disadvantage because they can’t just water the parking lot and play.

PJ: Let’s talk about how you’ve helped your clients come back from setbacks. Tell me about working with your client who had the stroke.

Kevin: For me it was something different than I had experienced in my 10 year career. He crashed his car and at the same time blacked out. He tried to get out of the car but couldn’t move his left side. The funny part was that the first thing he said to his wife when he woke up in the hospital was…you have to get a hold of Kevin and tell him I cannot make the session.

He’s 6-2 or 6-3 and when we first started working together, before the stroke, he couldn’t do sit ups on the ball…his knees would hurt. When he came back after the stroke he was a changed person…his priorities. His reality was…I am lucky to be here. The most important thing was to go back to the basics. To understand what his body was allowing him to do. First, it was, how do we get him through the day—get out of bed in the morning, go to work. How do we get him to have a normal life? Weight loss was not a part of it.

Trust was a big thing. Anything I told him to do was in his best interest and he knew that…that I would be there if his arm couldn’t do something. He wasn’t big into lifting heavy, but as a male there are certain expectations. He was under that level and he wanted to at least get to this level. Now he is back to normal, which is great. For me, my success is when my clients can do what they want to do. It’s about how good they feel inside accomplishing certain tasks. His measuring stick was going to the Dish to walk. He is able to do this now, and that is a big thing. You could see this brought him joy. This was one of my biggest journeys.

PJ: How did you help JJ Ambrose, a professional athlete, come back from an injury?

Kevin: The opposite spectrum is JJ. He is ready to go and sometimes I have to pull back the reigns. If I would to tell him to eat glass, he would, because he trusts me. When someone that motivated needs to pull back it’s hard to explain to an athlete you can’t do this. I try to create a program to go around it or word things differently. When he can’t do certain motions and he wants to, it’s about how do you trick him into not doing it. I need to distract him so he doesn’t get hurt more.

PJ: What was your plan when I came to you after my surgery?

Kevin: You trusted me and that was key. As I said before, it doesn’t work without trust. I knew that you would do what I asked and you knew that I wouldn’t injure you. It might hurt a little, but those were the steps you needed to take. I trust you to know when you say it hurts you are not trying to get out of doing it.

We were looking to wake up your muscles. After looking at your limitations, I did a backwards program. The idea was to start and progress forward. Progression is the key. With surgery you were limited to certain movements and some muscles were helping others to recover. The supporting muscles needed to be strengthened. So I thought about what we could to do work on those supporting muscles. Then, we could work on the progression from that point.

PJ: What was your plan to strengthen my arms prior to surgery?

Kevin: I looked at your limitation and time was a big factor. We only had a month to work. So I decided that what was best was to do function with resistance moves with bands and balls and adding weight…to do every day movement. We surprised ourselves. When you came back from surgery it was huge! You had exercised enough where your body had strength and your muscles had started to activate again. We couldn’t have done it without the resistance bands. It worked wonders in one month. Your recovery was better. So when you came back your muscles woke up, you didn’t have to start from scratch. Function and daily movements are big.

PJ: Helping your clients come back from injuries, surgery, and a stroke, is a relatively new thing for you. How do you like this aspect of training?

Kevin: Physical therapy is a great field. What I like about it is that my mind is active, it’s exciting. How do I make it fun for you and me? At the end of the day, how do I make you come back? It’s about doing a lot of functional moves with balls and bands. It’s intricate. To the outside person it just looks like throwing a ball. But to me, it relates to every day functional things. Can you reach up into the cabinet to get a glass with no pain and not reinjure yourself? That’s the everyday side of it.

*                                                                              *                                                                         *

Check out Kevin on Twitter @meshKappaDoobie
Contact Kevin at meshkappa@gmail.com