The call always seems to come in around midnight.
With Odell Beckham Jr., it was a text he sent me just after midnight one day in July. He was about to board a flight to Los Angeles, where I live, and he had just learned that his peers had voted him the 10th-best player in the league.
Lots of people would feel flattered to hear this. But O? He wants to be No. 1. He took it as a sign that he needs to get better. And he wanted to start now.
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The message read, “A Mal, let’s get this work!”
I thought to myself, “Where have I heard this before?”
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Rewind the clock five years. I’m in Oakland, California, and I’ve just finished a 12-hour shift at the gym where I work. I’m finally back at my apartment when the phone rings at 11 p.m.
“Hey ‘Mal, let’s get to work,” Marshawn Lynch said.
“Let’s get it, bro,” I told him.
Within minutes, I’m back on my motorcycle speeding toward the facility. I park, open the place up, set up the racks with weights and place down some cones and speed ladders. Within minutes, Marshawn and his cousin Josh Johnson, an NFL quarterback, are there with me, blasting E-40 and getting ready to go Beast Mode on their workout.
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Crazy hours are part of my job. The athletes I work with have to deal with an impossible number of commitments on a daily basis.
But it’s not just crazy schedules that guys like Marshawn and Odell have in common. It’s their drive to be the absolute best, and the effort they put into achieving it.
These guys will train twice a day, at any time of day, to perform at their level.
Take Marshawn. That night in Oakland, while his tunes were thumping, he and his cousin went through my dynamic warm-up.
Suddenly Marshawn shouted, “Let’s get it, ‘Mal. I’m not playing with these boys this year!”
From that point on, he crushed his workout—flying through cones, throwing around weight plates like they were pocket change, stretching resistance bands to their breaking point. We stayed long after midnight.
Now back to this summer with Odell. Like I said, the message came around midnight. He wasn’t on the ground and at his hotel until about 1:30 a.m. Wearing a hoodie and sweats, armed with a bag of cones and tennis balls, I jogged up to meet him.
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Minutes later, we’re standing at the foot of one of those famed Hollywood hills—the type that people have trouble walking up, much less running. I set up cones to mark off yardage while O got his mind right with music. As soon as I set the last cone, Odell spoke to me.
Odell Beckham Jr. running hills in LA under the watchful eye of Jamal Liggin.
“They’re coming for me this year,” he said. “It’s time to take this to the next level.”
There in the dark, surrounded by nothing but a few streetlights, Odell sprinted up, down and around that steep hill. Where Marshawn puts 100 percent effort into crushing every weight he picks up, Odell puts all of his juice into going full speed. As songs by Drake, Future and Young Thug echoed from his phone, he trained well past 3 in the morning.
At 11 a.m. the next morning, Odell met me at the beach. It was time for his next session to begin.
Jamal Liggin is a performance coach based in Hollywood, California. He’ll be blogging about his experience training top NFL athletes at STACK.com throughout the 2016 season. You can also check him out on Twitter, Instagram and at his website.