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Original Issue

The Need For Speed

Just because he's a big man doesn't mean rookie left tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson can't be a fast one too

FORMER VIRGINIACAVALIER and new Jet D'Brickashaw Ferguson has good speed for an offensivelineman. He ran a 5.1 40-yard dash at Virginia's Pro Day on March 21 thanks inpart to six weeks with trainer Tom Shaw in Orlando before the NFL draft. The6'6", 312-pound left tackle, who went No. 4 to New York, worked six days aweek on speed, quickness and agility, doing drills few players his size canexecute. "He's explosive, he's powerful, he's not sloppy like some otherlinemen," says Shaw. The trainer says Ferguson, who since 10th grade hasdrunk a quart of nutritional shakes (about 1,400 calories and 50 grams ofprotein) each day to help bulk up (he was 260 pounds as a freshman atVirginia), compares favorably with Seattle All-Pro Walter Jones, the mostathletic offensive lineman Shaw has seen. "Brick trains with the DBs andreceivers," he says. "His work ethic is unbelievable. He's never triedto get out of a drill."

Drill Trainer Shaw ties a large mirror to the back of a John Deere ATV anddrives 12 mph. Ferguson chases it for 100 yards (he's going at about 80% speed)while carefully watching his movements. Five reps, two minutes' rest betweeneach.

Purpose "He'sworking on form and technique," says Shaw. "Brick's elbows used toflail out, and anything that moves side to side is wasted movement. He'sdeceptively fast; he has long, loping strides, but they're very powerful."Says Ferguson, "Some people like to use videotape and then go back andlook, but this is instant feedback. Small differences can be monumental. If I'mclenching my fists, that's going to hold me back. The mirror allows me toadjust on the fly."

Drill Wearing a belt attached to an elastic band that Shaw (right, in rear)holds for resistance, Ferguson sprints over six six-inch-high barriers, placedone yard apart. He keeps his feet as low to the ground as possible. Three repswith resistance, one without.

Purpose "Thisbuilds explosiveness," says Shaw. "The offensive linemen who raisetheir feet are the ones who get beat; they can't react quickly enough.Defensive linemen look for that. The resistance makes him have to strideforward, so he can't take short, choppy steps."

Drill Two lines of six cones are set up two yards apart over 10 yards. WhileShaw provides resistance with elastic bands, Ferguson sidesteps left betweenthe first pair of cones, runs a few steps forward, then sidesteps right,zigzagging through the course. Three reps with resistance, one without(above).

Purpose Meant toincrease foot speed, particularly when moving in a confined space. "It's arunning back drill, but I have Brick do it because he has such quick feet,"says Shaw. "For an offensive lineman, the quicker your feet the betteryou're going to do."

Drill A partner--in this case North Alabama defensive lineman Lee Vickers, whosigned as a rookie free agent with the Steelers--advances down the same courseused in the previous exercise, but in random patterns. Ferguson, movingbackward, mirrors his movements in blocking position. Three reps.

Purpose "He'strying to keep his feet low and keep his center of gravity. If he gets toohigh, he can be bullrushed," Shaw says. "He watches [Vickers's] hips,not his arm. He watches where [Vickers's] body's going."

Drill While attached to the same resistance belt as in the straight-aheaddrill, Ferguson weaves through a course of three cones that are spaced fiveyards apart in an equilateral triangle. He first runs forward, then backward.The belt resists Ferguson's movement as he runs forward, away from Shaw, andassists Ferguson as he runs backward, toward Shaw. He runs five differentpatterns, three reps of each with resistance, one without.

Purpose "Thishelps him develop his explosive first step, the most important step in anysport," Shaw says. "If his feet are too wide apart, he's going to slip.This [the tight pattern] teaches him to keep his feet close together."


Photographs by Bill Frakes