In three NFL seasons, Lavonte David has averaged nearly 10 tackles per game. He is a consistent defensive force for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, helping to stifle the run and the squelch the passing game. Yes, he is a talented athlete. But it’s his preparation and his commitment to continued improvement that make David one of the elite linebackers in football.
STACK recently caught up with David to find out how he’s spending his off-season and what he does to play at an elite level.
STACK: You’re already one of the best linebackers in the NFL. What’s on your short list of personal goals for the upcoming season?
Lavonte David: I want to improve on the things I need to so I can get better. I did well in the previous season and I want to build on that. I’m always critiquing myself, finding ways to get better.
Does this mindset help you stay at the top of your game?
I think so. There are always things you can teach yourself. You’re your own best teacher. When you go back and watch film, you can see what you did wrong and work to improve on that so you don’t make the mistake again. In the end, a mistake can end up being positive. You might miss a tackle on a play, but then you critique yourself and get better. The next time that play happens, you make the tackle.
How is your off-season going so far? What’s your daily schedule look like?
The off-season is good. I’ve been working out in Boca Raton, Florida. Focusing a lot on conditioning and training to maintain or build my strength. Also, doing a lot of football-specific drills.
I’ll typically work out from Monday through Thursday. I’m then off for the weekend and I get back at it on Monday. The workouts on each day vary, but typically there will be some sort of lift, conditioning or skill work.
Why is this time so important for you?
The off-season is where you have time away from the game and can focus on your training and skill. You can work on stuff that your coach might not even see. When you watch film, you notice things that you need to get better at. Having the time to focus on this is huge for getting better.
What advice would you give to a younger athlete about this approach in the off-season?
Working out is a part of your job. It’s something you have to do and something you have to set your mind to. It’s a long football season and there’re a lot of rough plays. If you don’t lift weights, then it’s easy to get hurt. It’s a physical game. By lifting weights, stretching, daily massages or weekly massages can really prevent that and help you perform better.
What specifically do you focus on?
For my position, a lot of my power comes from my lower body, especially when you have to break on the ball or make a tackle. So I do a lot of lower-body lifts, like Squats. My upper body is also important, though. I use it mostly when battling with players like offensive linemen.
Do you enjoy this aspect of the game? How do you stay motivated?
I love this part of football. You have to get yourself better. You can make yourself faster. Make yourself quicker. It helps you out tremendously. Football is year round. There are really no days off. I have a positive attitude about everything and keep a great mindset.
It seems like you put a priority on film study. Tell us about that.
In some sports, guys can go out and just play. In football, you have a week of preparation to play one game. There’s lot that goes into it that you need to prepare for. Not only do you need to watch what the coach gives you, but it’s also important to watch on your own so you can get specific with your own play.
What level of commitment and dedication does it take to play in the NFL?
You have to be 100 percent all in. One slip up and it can mean a lot. If you make one mistake or don’t go all in, that may cost you. You don’t want to look back and wish you would’ve done something different or taken it more seriously. You never want to put yourself in that position. That could be the cause of not making a play or not being in the right position on the field.
Where have you seen athletes make mistakes that have prevented them from reaching an elite level?
I think being caught up in the spotlight. You need to know why you’re here and why you’re doing it. You’re not doing it to keep up with the Joneses. You’re doing it for the love of the game, and on the pro level, to prepare yourself for a better life. A lot of times we get caught up in the moment instead of taking advantage of the opportunity we have.