Simply by looking at former Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey, it's not hard to envision him picking up a Ford truck and launching it halfway to the moon. He is chiseled like a statue, and his body is built so solidly that he was able to withstand an absurd workload at Stanford, where he accounted for almost 60 percent of the team's offensive touches. There's even the story told by an offensive lineman about McCaffrey pushing a 600-pound utility vehicle 43 times in one of Stanford's offseason workouts. The dude's strength is legendary.
Which is why it was so strange to witness McCaffrey struggle with the Bench Press at the NFL Combine. The 5-foot-11, 202-pound running back put up only 10 reps of 225 pounds, the second-lowest of all the running backs who participated. He seemed almost surprised by how heavy the weight was, fighting to keep the bar straight before finding his rhythm halfway through the set.
In reality, we shouldn't be surprised that McCafrrey didn't impress in the Bench test. Most players coming out of Stanford's program don't, because Stanford's strength and conditioning coach Shannon Turley doesn't believe in it. After arriving at the school in 2007, Turley, who was charged with helping turn around a struggling football program, completely overhauled the team's training philosophy.
"I don't care how much guys can bench, squat or power clean," Turley told Bleacher Report in 2013. "It has nothing to do with playing football. Football is blocking and tackling. It's creating contact, avoiding contact and gaining separation if you are a skill guy on the perimeter. That's football."
Turley tailors his workout regimen to the individual needs of players, focusing on functional movement and exercises that will translate to success on the field. Instead of heavy Squats, Turley has his players do Push-Up Bridges. Instead of focusing on their Bench Press numbers, Turley's players spend infinitely more time stretching. Turley prioritizes things like ankle mobility over upper-body strength.
Across the board, former Stanford players struggled with the Bench Press at the NFL Combine. Richard Sherman put up just 16 reps. Wide receiver Chris Owusu put up 19. Even David Yankey, a 313-pound offensive lineman, could only get 22 reps when it was his turn to bench. They've all gone on to have decent NFL careers, especially that Sherman character.
So while McCaffrey's struggles will make all the headlines today, it ultimately won't be a predictor of his NFL success. How he moves on the field (which is quite well) and his ability to both run the ball and catch it out of the backfield will determine how long McCaffrey lasts at the next level. If he thrives at that, no one will care, or remember, the day he put up just 10 reps at the Combine.
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