At six feet and 175 pounds, Marvin Harrison falls well short of the prototypical standard for NFL wide receivers. But his game numbers- the ones that matter- make up the difference: he’s torn up the league for seven consecutive 1,000-yard receiving seasons, and in 2002, he amassed 143 catches and 1,722 receiving yards for a record-shattering season. Since he is not like those NFL receivers who are naturally blessed with large frames and hulking muscles that pop from their pads, Harrison worked to develop his filthy skills and silly numbers with countless hours on the field, running every pattern imaginable- over and over and over.
"I always want to be perfect in everything I do," Harrison says. "To do that, I know I have to go out there and get open. That’s my mentality: ‘I am going to get open, and I am going to catch the ball.’" Under the guidance of Indianapolis Colts receivers coach, Clyde Christensen, Harrison has become darn close to perfect. Focused on the five skills Christensen deems most crucial to a wide receiver- speed, balance, foot quickness, hand-eye coordination and the instinct to get open- Harrison is the human embodiment of precision. He is undoubtedly the best route runner in the game and perhaps the most prolific NFL receiver ever.
"To be a successful NFL receiver, you have to be able to beat press and man coverage and get in and out of breaks quickly to create separation between yourself and the defender," Christensen says. "Performing drills that require you to burst, break, then burst again will help you learn these things. It’s that stop-and-go effect that gives the appearance you’re going one way, when you are really squatting and breaking to go another."
Christensen confines all of his drills within seven-yard areas. "I’ve found that during games this is the distance in which we get to full speed before having to stop and break," he says.
To create separation between himself and the defenders, Harrison practices the following movement sequence with each drill: explode out of the stance, accelerate to full speed, drop hips down and forward, plant, redirect and hit full speed again. Reinforcing the benefits of this training, Harrison says, "Being quick, fast and athletic on the field is what makes me different from other people."
When performing the following drills, make sure to divide your reps equally on the left and right sides and to alternate breaking toward and away from the quarterback. The number of reps to perform? Well, that’s up to you. Harrison goes through these drills more than a hundred times a day during training camp So, the real question is: how good do you want to be?
Burst with Distraction
Burst seven yards to cone set up just past large dummy.
Plant, redirect and then burst back at 45-degree angle for three yards to catch ball.
Burst with Angle
Explode off line at 45-degree angle toward first cone. Redirect at cone and burst seven yards to next cone. Plant, redirect and burst back at 45-degee angle for three yards to catch ball.
Burst with Press & Agile Bags
Explode off line and get around dummy as fast as possible by using your hands and feet. Burst over agile bags to cone; plant, redirect and burst back at 45-degree angle for three yards to catch ball.