Lobos for Life: Football Pro Day Training
Feb. 27, 2013
By Greg Archuleta
UNM Assistant Director of Communications
As they pursue dreams of playing football for a living, several seniors from the 2012 University of New Mexico team are getting a lesson in how to prepare for working out in front of NFL scouts.
More importantly, they’re learning what it means to be “Lobos for life.”
UNM is set to host its annual “Pro Day” on March 7. NFL scouts will come to the school to hold a combine-style workout for aspiring Lobo seniors who are looking to participate in a professional training camp in the summer.
A group of seniors have gathered several times each week to participate in a training regimen that Lobo strength and conditioning coordinator Ben Hilgart has designed for them to enhance their chances of impressing scouts and landing on an NFL roster in the fall.
Most players across the country who have exhausted their college eligibility are left on their own to train to get to the next level. The blue-chippers will hook up with agents who’ll send them to specialized facilities – which can cost the athletes thousands of dollars.
As UNM continues the rebuilding process under second-year coach Bob Davie, the bulk of its players are not at the forefront in the minds of NFL coaches or scouts. Hilgart understands this and makes the time to give his players a fighting chance to pursue their NFL dreams.
“These guys have been with me for a year now,” Hilgart says. “They’re my guys. Everybody who’s been in here and put the work in that they have over the past year, they deserve the opportunity to have the best shot they can to compete at Pro Day, put up the best numbers they can to get a shot at the next level.”
Hilgart corrects a reporter who comments that the coach didn’t necessarily have to make time for the outgoing seniors.
“Yeah, I did,” Hilgart said. “This is the right thing to do. We tell our incoming classes, ‘When you sign as a Lobo, you’re a Lobo for life.’ That includes Pro Day preparation. If they have the opportunity to go to the next level and they want to come back in the offseason, they’ll be more than welcome and we’ll encourage them to do so.”
The core group of Lobos training under Hilgart for Pro Day includes linebacker A.J. Butler, offensive tackle Korian Chambers, defensive end Reggie Ellis, linebacker Joe Harris, quarterback B.R. Holbrook, cornerback DeShawn Mills, kicker Greg Rivara, linebacker Joe Stoner and safety Freddy Young.
They understand the benefit of training in familiar surroundings.
“There are other players who go out to other coaches and have to pay to train, but we went to school here,” Harris says. “We have a relationship with coach Hilgart. He knows our bodies. He knows how fast we are; he knows what we’re capable of.”
Adds Stoner, “Working with coach Hilgart has been great. He’s on top of everything. He knows more than anyone I’ve come in contact with. I definitely place him in the top five strength and conditioning coaches in the county.”
Hilgart says he believes that players who stay with him and work out can hit the ground a little faster in preparation for Pro Day because he already knows their physical strengths and weaknesses, as well as how to motivate them.
He also understands what the professional scouts will be watching for on Pro Day.
Coach Hilgart has definitely given me a lot of insight on specific ways to run each drill,” Holbrook says. “Foot placement, starts, things like that. He’s been real helpful to me and showed me a lot of things I didn’t know. Hopefully, I can utilize those tips and skills that he’s instilled in me.”
Hilgart says the idea is to prepare the athletes so they know exactly what will happen during the Pro Day workout.
“We’re going to lay out the entire day for them, and we already have, so that nothing’s unexpected for them,” he says. “It becomes automatic; that’s what training does for you. You do it over and over until it becomes automatic so that day will just feel like another day. The biggest thing on Pro Day is going to be their mentality. Be confident in your ability, in your preparation.
“Everything we do, there’s a strategy involved, a technique we teach these guys that are new to them. We teach them on the 225-pound bench press, it’s not just lying down and benching; there’s a strategy involved as well – how many rhythm reps you’re going to hit in a row, how many singles you’re going to hit in a row. These guys know going into the tests exactly what they’re going to do and the strategy involved.”
Young says he’s had a little bit of an edge in that most scouts know his father, Fredd Young, who was a former NFL All-Pro linebacker. So the scouts are familiar with Freddy.
“It helps to have my name out there,” the younger Young says. “A lot of people that contact me, that’s the first thing they say. As long as I get my foot in that door, I’m going to take advantage of that.”
The other players say their ability to work out together has brought another benefit in that they push each other to bring out the best in all of them.
“It’s awesome. You’re with these guys for five years,” Holbrook says. “To transition with them, hopefully to the next phase in our careers, it’s really an exciting thing. You lean on them, they lean on you.”
Most of the Lobos will have to put their best feet forward to capture the attention of the NFL scouts because of the lack of attention they’ve received up to this point. But they’re not about to let that get in the way of their NFL dreams.
“It doesn’t seem right not to train for Pro Day and try to continue on your legacy,” Stoner says. “I’m going to let the game tell me when I’m done. I’m going to go after my dream of playing professional football.”