At the heart of any dominant football team lies a formidable defense, and at the heart of that defense lies a fearsome linebacking crew—the fast moving, hard-hitting guys who set the team's tone and shape its identity. Case in point: the Pittsburgh Steelers, whose frequent victories rely heavily on the powerful, motivated play of their All-Pro outside linebacker, LaMarr Woodley.
One of the best LBs in the game, LaMarr continually draws motivation from being knocked, criticized and discounted by NFL scouts, despite a room full of awards from his time as a defensive end at the University of Michigan.
Each season, the 46th selection in the 2007 NFL Draft channels his lingering aggression into pummeling opposing ball carriers, QBs and outmatched lead blockers—people who play for the same coaches who passed him up. During the off-season, the elite training staff at Athletic Republic in Auburn Hills, Mich. provides LaMarr with the perfect outlet—a training program that's as innovative as it is intense.
After a demanding training session, the 6'2", 265-pound sack master recently sat down with STACK to reflect on his career, being doubted and training at Athletic Republic.
STACK: What do you remember most about chasing your NFL dream?
LaMarr Woodley: In college, I won the Terry Hendricks, the Lombardi and the Chevrolet Defensive Player of the Year. I was All-American, team captain, Big-Ten Defensive Player of the Year and Big-Ten Defensive Lineman of the Year. I had so many awards, but coming out, there were so many knocks against me—I was too short to play defensive end and too slow to play outside linebacker.
Guys like Mel Kiper talked about everyone else's 40 times and said all kinds of negative things about me. No one said anything positive. They said I was too short to play against the run. I was thinking the whole time, "They must not be watching the film," because if you watch me against the run, I get after guys!
I was sitting there watching the Draft, and all these guys were going ahead of me. I was like, "What's going on here?!" Finally, the Pittsburgh Steelers called me and said they were going to take me with the next pick. They asked if I could play outside linebacker. Of course, I wasn't going to say no. They sent me the playbook the next day, but I had no idea what an outside linebacker was supposed to do.
STACK: What are your favorite memories as an athlete to date?
LW: In high school, it was the championship game. I was in ninth grade, and it was my first time starting. We were at the Silverdome playing against Brother Rice, and I was playing left tackle. We had a quick pitch going to the left. We pulled around the edge, and I blocked two people. I pushed one guy into another guy. Some other guy ran into my backside, so I got three people on one block. That was actually the winning touchdown.
In college, it was my touchdown against Notre Dame. I picked up a fumble and ran it back 55 yards. That was my only highlight of the game, because I didn't do anything else, really.
My highlight last year was against Brett Favre, when I picked up a fumble and ran it back 77 yards. It was probably one of the slowest returns, but I got there (laughs).
STACK: Take us through your training at Athletic Republic.
LW: It's great to come in here and get one-on-one time. Some places have 20 to 30 NFL players working out, so it's hard to get that. Here, I know I'm doing things right, because [the trainers are] able to watch me and tell me if I do something wrong.
I've really been able to work on my speed, as far as getting off the ball and keeping my speed up for a long period of time. I've also really built up my leg strength. Today, we gave you a little sneak peek, without giving away too many secrets to the competition. We start with a little treadmill work. It's like running up a hill, but the hill continues to move. So if you stop, you're going to fall off.We did a little ab workout and then worked on building some strength and explosion in my legs. All of the explosive stuff really helps me get out of my stance.
Athletic Republic Training
- Set treadmill to speed and elevation; grasp handles and position feet on outside rails
- Begin sprinting; once up to speed, release hands
- Sprint for five seconds, keeping chest up and knees high
- Grasp handles and run with high knees for another five seconds
- Safely jump off belt to start position
Sets/Duration/Recovery: 7x10 seconds, 3x5 seconds sprint only, rest 60 seconds after each run
Coaching Point: Begin at low speed, high elevation and work up to high speed, low elevation
Dumbbell Walking Lunge: Forward and Backward
- Assume athletic stance, holding dumbbells at sides
- Step forward and lower into lunge, keeping front knee behind toes and back knee slightly off ground
- Drive through heel of front foot to rise out of lunge and bring back leg even with front
- Repeat with opposite leg and continue alternating for specified distance
- Perform next set backward
Sets/Distance: 2x15 yards each direction
Physioball Leg Rotations
- Lie on back with arms out to side and hold physioball between feet with legs straight up
- Keeping shoulders and back on ground, lower legs to side as far as possible
- Rotate legs back to start position and lower to opposite side
- Continue in alternating fashion for specified reps
Sets/Reps: 2x6 each side
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