Nick Winkelman knows fast.
As a coach with Athletes' Performance who's been instructing NFL prospects in the science of speed since 2007, Winkelman has worked with plenty of extraordinary athletes and trained players who broke records at the Combine. Rarely does an athlete do something that defies his expectations.
"My predictions of how these guys are going to run is usually spot-on," Winkelman says. "This is a science, it's not Vegas."
So it's fortunate for Winkleman that he didn't bet on his prediction for Desmond Trufant. "It wasn't that Desmond was slow," says Winkelman. "It was that expectations were so high, and he didn't come in running a 4.4." He is referring to Trufant's time in the 40-Yard-Dash, the event he needed to improve the most to solidify his standing as a top-flight defensive back.
Winkelman: "His elasticity was incredible. He's the best change-of-direction athlete I've ever had. He came in pushing four seconds on his 5-10-5 and ran a 6.6-second L-Drill like it was a walk in the park," That 40 time was the one question mark. And for cornerbacks, the 40-Yard Dash is where the money is made at the NFL Combine.
"Looking at the top DBs from past years, all these guys are running low 4.4s, 4.3s, and they're the best football players," Winkelman says.
The first thing Winkelman noticed about Trufant, he says, was the "suddenness and spring to him." The challenge was getting Trufant to convert that elasticity into explosive strength when his foot struck the ground.
"His ability to spin the earth—his turnover—is elite," says Winkelman. "We had to use a very aggressive acceleration tactic to get him to that, because I knew once he was upright, it was a wrap."
The strategy worked better than even Winkelman predicted. The hand time on Trufant's sprint at the Combine was 4.31, officially 4.38. ("I had not seen anything remotely close to that," Winkelman says.) That gave Trufant the third-fastest '40 of all cornerbacks, and it may vault him into first-round consideration.
The former Washington Husky, who started 45 consecutive games in his four-year collegiate career, has a football pedigree. Two of his older brothers play in the league. His oldest brother Marcus is entering his 11th season with the Seattle Seahawks, and brother Isaiah is on the roster of the New York Jets. Trufant feels it's his turn to carry on the family tradition.
"Everybody has a legacy to leave in life," Trufant says. "I feel like football—that's what I'm here to do. That's what I'm here to prove."
Photo: Scott Eklund
Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock