Last week, we highlighted the training behind Chris Johnson’s extraordinary balance and core stability, which were on display during the Titans’ impressive win over Jacksonville on Oct. 18. This week, the spotlight is on wide receiver Mario Manningham who, for one play, put his game-breaking speed on hold and showed some finesse with a spectacular sideline catch.
With 36 seconds remaining in the second quarter, the Giants’ wideout eluded coverage on a 12-yard Out Route and jetted for the sideline. Eli Manning, who rarely misses his man, was slightly off target with a laser pass over the head of a fully extended Manningham. Executing a tight rope act along the sideline, Manningham snatched the ball from overhead and hauled it in. Like a catcher in baseball, he seemed to have framed the catch—both feet in bounds—before falling to the ground, ball in hands, first down secured.
Many of the skills shown to perfection by Manningham—precise route-running, footwork, body control and hand-eye coordination—were developed while training with performance coach Tim Robertson, owner of Speed Strength Systems in Cleveland.
To make plays like this possible, Robertson has Manningham perform tennis ball drills aimed at enhancing his reaction time and hand-eye coordination. The concept is simple. According to Robertson, "If you’re able to catch a tennis ball in stride properly, it’s going to be much easier to catch a football."
Follow the progression below. Start with the basic One-Handed Catching Drill, working for no dropped balls, and then perform the Route-Running drill.
One-Handed Catching Drill
- Assume athletic stance facing partner holding tennis balls
- As partner tosses ball in air, react with feet and hands to catch ball in air
- Roll ball to partner
- Perform in continuous fashion and repeat for specified reps
Sets/Reps: 4x10 seconds with 30 seconds rest
Coaching Points: Stay square to partner // Catch ball with hands, not body // Look ball into hand // Have partner toss ball in both directions
Route-Running Receiving Drill
- Run predetermined wide receiver route, receiving tennis ball thrown by partner
Sets/Reps: 1x10 with 30 seconds rest
Coaching Points: Catch ball with hands, not body // Look ball into hands // Continue upfield after catch // To increase difficulty, have second partner shadow your routes to mimic defensive coverage
Stay tuned throughout the football season, as we continue to highlight the training that powers the extraordinary plays you witness each and every Sunday and Monday.