Football strength training with Mike Williams

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You're a 6'5", 230-lb. top-rated college wide receiver. After your sophomore season, you're number one on the University of Southern California's all-time list for receiving touchdowns. You're eligible for the NFL Draft, thanks to a court ruling that overturned the league requirement that you have to be three years removed from high school before declaring yourself.

Your name is Mike Williams. It's the winter of 2004 and you've got serious decisions to make.



You're a 6'5", 230-lb. top-rated college wide receiver. After your sophomore season, you're number one on the University of Southern California's all-time list for receiving touchdowns. You're eligible for the NFL Draft, thanks to a court ruling that overturned the league requirement that you have to be three years removed from high school before declaring yourself.

Your name is Mike Williams. It's the winter of 2004 and you've got serious decisions to make.

1: Do you declare for the NFL draft, foregoing college eligibility, or return to NCAA competition?
Decision: Two severe ankle sprains in college could have ended your career. It's time to make the jump to the league so you can provide for yourself and your family.

2: Of all the agents to choose from, who will represent you?
Decision: Ken Harris—a top sports agent located in your hometown of Tampa, Fla.

3: You've gained some serious pounds since the end of the 2003 season, and the biggest crack on you is your speed. Who can help get your body in shape and your 40 time down?
Decision: Chip Smith—an elite performance enhancement coach, whose clientele includes Brian Urlacher, Champ Bailey and hundreds of others who made the jump to the NFL.

4: How soon do you get after it in the weight room?
Decision: Immediately. Get to Smith's facility, Competitive Edge Sports, in Duluth, GA., by March 1, 2004, to start your journey to the NFL.

On Feb. 27, 2004, Chip Smith flew down to Tampa, Fla., at Ken Harris' request to talk with Mike Williams and his family about preparing for his pro day and the NFL Draft. Three days later, Mike was at Competitive Edge to begin training under Smith's watchful eye.

Over the next 18 months, Williams trained almost every day, performed at two pro days and one Combine, got denied in one NFL Draft and selected in another. Here, Smith describes their journey and the commitment it took ultimately to make Mike the 10th overall selection, by the Detroit Lions, in the 2005 NFL Draft.


Monday, March 1, 2004
Mike Williams started training at CES. I made a plan for all the other services he needs while he is here. We tested for his 40-, 20- and 10-yard dash times, vertical jump, broad jump, short shuttle and 3-cone and measured his height, weight and body composition.

He also met with the CES nutritionist, who took his measurements and developed a diet for him. Three meals per day will be prepared by the nutritionist and delivered to CES. His meals will be adjusted in terms of taste and volume, and he will be weighed and measured each Monday before workouts.

The first goal I set for Mike was to weigh in at 228 lbs. and run his 40 in the 4.5s. With his pro day in early April, he had only five weeks to reach these numbers. Adding pressure, Mike had to refine his receiving skills. To do this, he ran routes and caught balls daily; I shot him hundreds of footballs with our jugs machine.

Mike's Monday and Tuesday workouts were two hours of speed and position work, then two hours of weights. On Wednesdays, Mike did aerobic work in the pool for an hour. These are the hardest days at CES. Thursdays and Fridays were the same as Mondays and Tuesdays. On Saturdays, he worked on Combine-specific drills. On most days, Mike ran routes outside for an additional two hours. As his pro day got closer, we did extra cardio work early in the evenings to make sure his weight was less than 230 lbs.

Roger Theder is the quarterback coach for CES. He's the best in the business at tutoring QBs. He was the head football coach at the University of California at Berkley and the offensive coordinator for the Baltimore Colts and San Diego Chargers. I suggested to Ken that he use Roger to script Mike's routes. After Ken agreed, Roger suggested we bring in Jack Hawley Jr., a young quarterback from San Diego State. Jack had played in the Canadian Football League the previous year and was available immediately to start throwing to Mike and work on their timing. Every day for about three weeks before Mike's pro day, Mike and Jack worked on the following script to tweak Mike's routes and Jack's throwing.



  • Quick slant
  • Quick slant and go
  • Fade
  • Curl (12 yards back to 10)
  • Smash and return
  • Dig vs. Zone (16 yards)
  • Skinny post (14 yards)
  • Comeback (16 back to 14)
  • Play action post


  • Quick and out
  • Quick out and up
  • Fade
  • Regular out (9-12 yards)
  • Dig and return (10 yards)
  • Man dig (12 yards)
  • Post corner (post break at 10, corner break at 14)
  • Streak

Friday, March 19, 2004
Larry Fitzgerald—the top rated receiver in the '04 Draft—had his pro day today at the University of Pittsburgh. We've been waiting for this day so we could use it as a benchmark.

Monday, March 22, 2004
Today was a new day for all of us at CES. Mike's attitude changed, and his workouts were done with renewed vigor.

Mike is an extremely competitive person. Once he heard top-rated receiver Larry Fitzgerald's pro day numbers, Mike set a personal goal to beat them. His last two weeks of training were amazing. We retested all of Mike's measurables and they all improved. The one thing I learned about Mike is that he is not motivated by money; he's motivated to be the best receiver ever.

Thursday, April 8, 2004
Mike's pro day at the University of South Florida was finally here. Mike's agent, Roger and I scripted his whole workout—his height, weight, body comp, vertical, standing broad jump, hand size, shoulder length and, finally, his 40-yard dash, short shuttle and on-field workout. We set up all these tests, but the scouts remeasured everything. It was pretty funny watching them—like we were going to cheat and have Mike run a 38-yard dash.

Mike weighed in at 228 lbs. at his pro day—he was ripped. I overheard coaches saying his weigh-in and appearance were enough to convince them he was ready for the NFL. His body fat measured at 6.4 percent and vertical jump at 37 inches—better than Larry's 35 inches. Mike jumped 10 feet for an excellent standing broad jump.

We then went outside, and Mike warmed up for the important 40-yard dash. As I made my way to the finish, Mike lined up to start. He exploded off the line. As he crossed the finish, I heard and saw 60 different times. One coach directly in front of me had a 4.49. Others had mid-to high-4.5s. Mike ran on a Mondo surface, so some scouts adjusted his time to reflect a track time. But for that one hour, Mike Williams showed the world he was plenty fast enough to play receiver in the National Football League.

A week before the Draft and hours after the judge's decision, Mike's father called to tell me that Mike, along with Maurice Clarett, were not eligible for the 2004 Draft.


October 2004
I flew out to Los Angeles to meet with Mike's new agents, Mitch Frankel and Tony Fleming of Impact Sports. Mike requested that CES continue his training for the next go. Mike was taking classes at University of Southern California in the fall, hoping the NCAA would allow him to continue his collegiate career. The NCAA ruled against his football eligibility because he hired an agent.

Mike returned to CES in October 2004 to begin a super-structured program. Every day was planned for him: meals, speed and strength work, receiving drills, Combine drills, 7-on-7 days, work with top defensive backs, massages, active release appointments with Dr. Dave Radaszewki, interview skill tutoring with Ken Herock and, later on, daily work with Roger and quarterback coach Giovanni Carmazzi. I brought in Carmazzi to script and throw to Williams for his private pro day in Tampa. In between this work, Mike managed to spend a few days with Chris Carter to work on running routes and reading defenses.

He pretty much had the CES complex to himself, so most of his work was one-on-one. December changed that though, because good college players who played on bad teams were there to get ready for all-star games. So with more players, we were able to set up 7-on-7 sessions. The Combine class had 15 quarterbacks who needed to throw daily. So Mike had plenty of QBs to throw him balls. David Green, the QB from the University of Georgia, said, "Mike Williams is the best pure athlete that I have ever seen." Not bad from the winningest QB in NCAA history.

We worked with Mike on what to do and what not to do at the Combine. The one thing everyone constantly agreed on was that Mike wasn't going to run his 40 in Indianapolis. We decided this for many reasons: the impact he could make at his pro day in Tampa would be bigger; we wanted to control his workout; the RCA Dome is known to be a slow track; and it's uncommon for potential first round draft picks to run their 40s at the Combine.

Friday, February 25, 2005
As I walked into my house from training, my cell phone rang. It was Mike's father, who asked me right away if I had changed my stance about Mike running a 40 at the Combine. I told him I hadn't. But his dad told me he'd just watched Mike run the 40 at the Combine. I thought he had to be kidding me, but immediately asked what his times were. His dad said between 4.56 and 4.6. Within the hour, I talked again to his dad plus his agents, the media and Mike. Mike said he ran because he felt pressured from the coaches and general managers. They led him to believe he was hurting himself by not running. We had a week to work on damage control.

Thursday, March 10, 2005
His pro day was finally here and the sun was out for a beautiful day. Mike's agent had the event catered for the 60 or so coaches, scouts and GMs who showed up.

Mike stepped on the scale and weighed 228 lbs. His vertical measured at 38 1/2 inches—1 1/2 inches higher than his jump on his first pro day. Next, Mike went out to the track and jumped a 10'3" broad jump.

When it came to the 40, the track was soaked from rain that fell the previous couple of days. But Mike ran with the wind, and his times were anywhere from the high-4.4s to the mid-4.5s. Most agreed that Mike's times were faster than what he ran at the Combine. After the 40, Mike ran the short shuttle and L-Drill. He ran the shuttle in a 4.2, which isn't a bad time for a player who weighs almost 230 lbs. and is 6'5", and the L-Drill in 6.95 seconds. Any time less than 7.2 seconds is outstanding.

Finally, Mike got to do what Mike does best—catch the football. Mike, Roger and Gio worked on the script for a long time, and it was the time for Mike to shine. Mike and Gio were on target with passes and catches. Mike didn't drop a single ball thrown his way.

According to the Tampa paper and draft sites, Mike's day was a huge success.


Strength training was a significant element of Mike Williams' program. The following is week 12 of his weight training.


Bench Press

  • Lie on back on bench
  • Lower bar to chest
  • Press bar above chest

Incline Press

  • Lie on back on incline bench
  • Lower bar to chest
  • Press bar above chest

Shoulder Press

  • Sit on bench with bar behind neck
  • Press overhead

Front Raise

  • Hold a dumbbell in each hand
  • Start with palms facing front of thighs
  • Raise arms 90 degrees


  • Start with arms extended in dip machine
  • Lower body until upper arms are parallel with ground
  • Extend arms back to starting position

Bicep Curls

  • Start with bar at thighs, palms facing out
  • Curl bar to chest, keep upper arms stationary



  • Start with bar at thighs, palms facing in
  • Slightly bend knees and bend at the hips
  • Keep bar close to legs, lower toward ground
  • Keep lower back tight and push hips back


  • Start with bar on back atop traps and feet hip-shoulder width apart
  • Squat until thighs are parallel with ground
  • Keep chest up, and lower back and abs tight
  • Extend at ankles, knees and hips; return to starting position

High Pull

  • Start in athletic stance with bar at thighs
  • Rapidly extend at ankles, knees and hips
  • Shrug with traps, then pull with arms
  • Pull bar to mid-chest level


  • Start with bar at thigh level, palms facing in
  • Shrug shoulders toward ears

Leg Extensions

  • Use leg extension machine
  • Fully extend legs, then return to 90-degree bend

Side Lunge

  • Stand with dumbbell in each hand
  • Step laterally into a lunge

Lat Pulldown

  • Use a lat pulldown machine
  • Keep back upright, pull bar to chest

Calf Raise

  • Stand with bar on back atop traps
  • Feet hip-shoulder width apart
  • Raise up on toes


DB Press

  • Sit with dumbbells at shoulders
  • Press dumbbells overhead

Lateral Raise

  • Start with arms straight and palms facing sides of thighs
  • Raise dumbbells laterally to 90 degrees

Close Grip

  • Perform bench press with hands 12 inches apart


Front Squat

  • Hold bar across chest, elbows pointed forward
  • Feet hip-shoulder width apart
  • Squat down until thighs parallel with ground
  • Keep chest up, and lower back and abs tight

Bent Rows

  • Stand bent at waist with back parallel with ground
  • Hold bar with palms facing thighs
  • Pull bar toward chest

Upright Rows

  • With hands 12 inches apart and palms facing in, hold bar at thighs
  • Pull bar toward chin
  • Drive elbows up

Dead Lift

  • Start in squatted position
  • Feet hip-shoulder width apart, bar on ground
  • Grip bar one palm in, one palm out
  • Keep feet flat on ground, low back tight
  • Extend at ankles, knees and hips
  • Lift bar until standing upright

Leg Curls

  • On leg curl machine, curl heels toward butt


  • Use a pull-up bar
  • Pull chest toward bar

Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock