Being a top-ranked wide receiver in the NFL requires explosiveness, quickness, strong hands and the ability to make game-changing plays—all qualities that Jacksonville Jaguars WR Mike Thomas possesses in abundance. The 2009 fourth-round NFL Draft selection made a name for himself this past season when he caught a deflected Hail Mary pass for the winning touchdown with three seconds left in a game against the Titans.
STACK recently caught up with Thomas to learn his tricks for staying game-ready during the off-season. If you're dreaming of making big-time plays on the national stage, apply these techniques to your off-season training and watch your stats pile up next year.
"After 17 straight weeks and hopefully a playoff run, my body—especially my hips and stepping—is a little off," Thomas explains. "So I'm really trying to dial in on getting that quickness and twitching back to my original form."
He performs "a lot of quick muscle-firing repetitions of exercises like Hurdle Drills, Knee Dribbles, High Knees and Ankle Bounds," with some Sled Pulls thrown in for good measure. These exercises "fine-tune acceleration and are much-needed form reaffirming."
Know Your Limitations
Overtraining gets lots of press nowadays and for good reason—you build muscle when your body has time to recover and heal, not from daily workouts. To ensure he's at his peak, Thomas trains intensely—but he gives himself sufficient time to heal. He admits he no longer trains like a college standout, although he still works out at his alma mater (the University of Arizona) with his old strength coach.
"I'm not in my early twenties any more, so I don't need to do the big buck lifting like the younger guys do," says Thomas. "I want to be around for awhile, and I don't necessarily need [super heavy lifting] in that sense." If he performs an intense workout and feels its effects the next day, he dials it back and adjusts.
Have a Dedicated Work Ethic
Thomas admits he gets little motivation from setting personal goals. Although he doesn't discourage others from doing so, he says he remembers that "I want to go out there and ... play the sport I love. So to me, that involves putting in the work that will come to be everything I know I am."
This mantra translates to giving 110 percent effort, all the time. "Instead of saying I want to catch 90 balls this season or make the Pro Bowl, I focus on making my mark," he says. "If I work hard, everyone will know what I am capable of."
You can apply this to your training by going the extra mile during practice, staying late to get in extra touches or run sprints. It may not produce results right away, but it will definitely help you get noticed.
"You've got to gain the coaches' confidence so they'll want to give you the opportunity and see what you can do with it," Thomas states.
Study, Study, Study
We're not talking academics here. We're talking game film. During the off-season, Thomas makes an effort to review the previous season from every angle. He spends time memorizing opponents' drills and plays. He says, "A lot of teams are getting to where they run different coverages. There are different schemes going on, so to be able to have an idea, to know where everyone is trying to get to, gives you an edge and the knowledge to navigate through the traffic"; and he focuses on "getting looks at every position, that's the most important thing. Repetitions and routes for seeing how certain people play different things is my favorite thing of practice."
Impress your teammates and coaches by expanding your football IQ this off-season. It will not only help your game, it will also improve your leadership abilities. Put Thomas' guide to off-season training to work for you and reap the benefits.
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