Shawn Crawford trots effortlessly alongside Von Miller while calling out orders to the projected top-five pick in this year’s NFL Draft, as the two athletes cover a 60-yard stretch of turf on the soccer field at Concordia University in Irvine, Calif.
Miller bursts past Crawford as he transitions into the acceleration phase of his sprint. But Crawford, the 2004 Olympic Gold medalist in the 200-meter event, closes the gap within one or two strides. Did we mention that Crawford is shouting commands while turned in Miller’s direction?
Crawford’s sprinting form is refined, from the drive phase to his stride length and turnover rate. That’s why the three-time Olympic medalist spends afternoons with the premier talent in this year’s NFL Draft class, teaching them the fundamentals of sprinting as one of a handful of skill coaches with the Velocity Sports Performance team.
“[I make] sure they’re technically sound and being efficient,” Crawford says. “When I speak of being efficient, I’m talking about maximizing each movement with the least amount of effort.”
Sprinting is a skill not traditionally associated with football. But one week from now, these football players will have to sprint during the most important job interview of their careers: the NFL Combine.
This is an entirely new train of thought for many of these athletes, some of whom have never competed in a track and field event. Half the battle is getting them into a sprinter’s state of mind.
Working with a group of future first-round quarterbacks, linebackers and offensive linemen, Crawford aims to teach them to “work for the same turnover with a greater stride length, resulting in fewer steps and a faster  time.”
Crawford insists that the most formidable task isn’t running the 40-Yard Test at the Combine, but practicing and training for it. He says, “The main thing is that when you’re preparing to run, you have to prepare yourself the way that you normally do. Think about the race that you have to run. Go out there and do what you did in practice, run your race like you’ve been training to run, and everything should be cool.”
For more Combine training tips, keep it locked on the STACK Blog, as we’ll be rolling out more training features on this year’s elite players and how they’re prepping for the ever-important showcase event.
Meantime, catch the video above from our original meet with Crawford, when he was training for the U.S. Championships in 2009. The 31-year-old captured the title in the 200-meter race.