Football skills with Kevin Jones and Antaan Randle El

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NFL superstars coach you for a day

By: Josh Staph

Imagine your football team being coached by NFL superstars, past and present. What drills would these gridiron greats put you through? What coaching points would they dole out? How would they inspire you and your teammates to play the season of your lives?

The Montour (PA) Spartans can now answer these questions, thanks to ESPN's series Bound for Glory. Camera crews followed the Dick Butkus-led Spartans for an entire season as they attempted to return to their winning ways of years ago. Detroit Lions Running Back Kevin Jones and Pittsburgh Steelers Wide Receiver/Punt Returner Antwaan Randle El joined Butkus for a day to coach the Spartans.

We were there to document every NFL-tested drill, tip and motivational speech these pros had to offer.

Kevin Jones

STACK: What message do you want to leave with these athletes?

JONES: Keep your heads up and work hard every day. Come out ready to practice hard every day, regardless of your record or who you're playing.

STACK: What skills do you want to emphasize with the running backs?

JONES: The most important thing is to secure the football. You can't do anything else if you have turnovers.

Always remember to read your keys. I don't read the defensive line, because it's the linemen's job to get them. I read the linebackers and free safeties to see what they're doing. Run to where the other colors aren't. It's kind of elementary, but that's what my dad always taught me when I was growing up, so I always knew its importance.

I was big into training, because my dad was a strength coach. I was always benching, squatting and doing footwork drills. That is really important for running backs, too.

When I was younger, I practiced catching the ball a lot. Being able to catch is very important for a running back. That is how you get the ball and make plays in the open field. Instead of just getting the ball in the backfield, you're already out in the open, and it's always better to get the ball out in space with nobody around you so you can make plays.

STACK: What skills are you trying to improve in your own game?

JONES: I want to improve my blocking and become a better receiving back, so I do a lot of one-on-one drills with linebackers to focus on those aspects. A running back who can pass-block adds one more guy when you are trying to pick up the blitz. You have to be able to help out, because the linemen can't get everyone.

STACK: What are your words of wisdom for a high school football player who dreams of playing at the next level?

JONES: Work as hard as you can. If you were meant to make it, you will. You never want to look back on your experience and wonder what could have happened if you gave it your all.

Kevin's Advice for Running Backs

Never take a single play off. The second you get lackadaisical, BOOM, someone's going to embarrass you. Even worse, you might get injured.

Kevin's RB Drill

Get Vertical (see diagram for set up)

• Carrying ball, sprint to first cone and make 90-degree cut
• Sprint to next cone and perform a tight spin as fast as possible
• Get vertical and sprint through last cone

Coaching Point: "The best way to get vertical is to snap your head and eyes around as fast as you can. Get your eyes downfield and go."

Antwaan Randle El

STACK: What message do you want to leave with these athletes?

RANDLE El: These guys need some encouragement, and they have to believe. Their record shouldn't matter, or what anyone is saying. You've got to believe in each other. Start with yourself. Once you get yourself to believe, then you can get your teammates to believe as well.

STACK: What skills do you want to emphasize with the wideouts and punt returners?

RANDLE El: Making big plays. Being a wide receiver is all about making the big play—not just in the passing game, but the running game as well. We believe in knockout blocks from our receivers.

STACK: What would it be like if you were back in high school with the skill set you have now?

RANDLE El: I would be unreal. All the little techniques I've learned, things like the 'get-him-off-you grab.' It would make me unstoppable. Like, in man coverage, I know that you need to take your time to win. You can't run the route too fast, because when you get open, the quarterback won't be ready. You need to take your time, get the guy off you, get past him and then get back in your route. Running a good route takes time.

STACK: What skills are you trying to improve in your own game?

RANDLE El: I didn't play wide receiver until my first year in the NFL. So I've really tried to get my route running down in the last two years. I try to focus on being productive while the ball is in the air. You have to go up and get it. If you let the ball come to you, the defender will be able to get to it and break it up.

Antwaan's Advice for Wideouts

Catch the ball with your hands and your eyes. Did you see me drop the ball against New England? I dropped it because I took my eyes off the ball at the last second. Practice looking the ball in and tucking it immediately after every catch.

If the play says to run a 12-yard route, run 12 yards exactly. If you run eight or 10 yards, you are going to mess up the quarterback's timing and give the defender a chance to pick it off.

Antwaan's Advice for QBs

Keep your eyes on the middle of the field until you know where you are going with the ball. This keeps the defenders guessing where you are going. Keep the ball high and drop back fast. The line can't block for you all day.

When you are rolling out and the receiver is crossing the field with you, do not lead him. Aim right at his chest since you already have momentum. If you lead him, you will throw the ball in front of him. I learned this playing QB in college when the rollout was our bread and butter.

Randle El's QB Drill

Scramble Drill
• Line up under center with coach five yards in front of you
• Drop back with ball high
• Respond to coach's hand motions to scramble back and forth, left and right
• When coach yells "get out," tuck ball and run around end at wide angle to get up field

Variation: Instead of yelling "get out," coach yells "get rid of it," at which time the QB throws to receiver.

Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock