TO GMs, COACHES and scouts at the NFL combine, Connecticut cornerback Byron Jones's numbers jumped out. The 6'1" 199-pounder leaped 12'3" in the broad jump (shattering both the combine and world records) and 44½ inches in the vertical jump (just short of the year's best of 45 inches). And at UConn's pro day last week Jones ran 40 yards in 4.36 seconds.
That sort of explosiveness indicates that Jones has great genetics, but also that he has worked hard to make the most of his natural abilities. Jones spent the weeks before the combine training at the EXOS facility in Pensacola, Fla., lifting weights and partaking in a movement training program in which he pushed sleds and pulled against resistance bands to hone his form and boost his burst.
The concept behind Jones's training is "post-activation potentiation"—combining high-load strength movements (a squat with weights) with similar, lightweight plyometrics (a squat jump with no weight). "Having an athlete perform a resisted rep, rest and then follow that with an unresisted rep can produce an increase in power output and explosiveness," says Stefan Underwood, Jones's trainer.
SI's Chris Burke thinks Jones secured a spot in the second round, but he knows it will come down to his intangibles. "My biggest asset is my intelligence," he says. "I don't think the measurements have a lot to do with football, but I expect to use my athleticism to my advantage."
Playing cornerback in the NFL is a unique challenge, but Jones is ready to make the jump.
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When working on everything from acceleration and drive to jumps, Jones uses a system of pulleys and bungees to do three sets of four jumps (two resisted, two unresisted) with one minute in between. Below he shows off his form.
1 With feet shoulder-width apart, stretch your arms behind you and rise onto the balls of your feet.
2 Begin to swing your arms forward and bend your knees and hips.
3 Drive your legs off the ground and simultaneously throw your arms up and forward.
4 Once airborne, extend hips up and forward, and throw your feet forward to keep momentum.
5 Land flat-footed and absorb the impact by bending the knees and hips.
JASON PARKHURST FOR SPORTS ILLUSTRATED (SEQUENCE)