The Big Business of Pre-Draft Training for NFL Prospects

Last year at SXSW, a new track was introduced: SXsports. This track was designed to take a critical look at how technology is impacting the world of sports:

Championing a broader perspective on the world of sports unique to SXSW, SXsports explores cultural impact and the human experience, tackles the future of sport in all its forms, and embraces entertainment and innovation. Rooted in one of the most influential cultural events in the world, SXsports offers the sports industry singular access to creative leaders, early adopters and die-hard fans from the forward-thinking convergence areas of their respective worlds.1

This track covers a broad spectrum of topics, across nearly every sport. It seems fitting to begin with a session concerning the most popular sport in the U.S., football. In the session entitled, “The Business of Preparing Potential NFL Draftees,” featured a current NFL player – Aaron Williams, a DB for the Buffalo Bills – an NFL agent – CJ Laboy – and the founder of EXOS, which is widely regarded as the the best pre-draft performance training program – Mark Verstegen. Just to give you an idea of the success of the EXOS, the program has seen 105 of its clients drafted in the first round, and 7 number 1 overall picks, including last years top pick Jadeveon Clowney. EXOS is the standard by which all other pre-draft program is measured.

Verstegen The Big Business of Pre-Draft Training for NFL Prospects

Mark Verstegen and Aaron Williams

The session was illuminating. The extent of the pre-draft program is incredible. While one would assume that the majority of the time at the camp is spent working out, practicing, and doing drills. However, it is quite the opposite. When you really think about it, it makes a lot of sense that this is the case. By the time prospective NFL players have finished with their college careers, they are among the most physically fit, most impressive athletes on the planet. Sure, these players do make physical gains during the program, but these gains are relatively minor. The camp, then, serves as more of a mental preparation, teaching these players how to become professional athletes. The four pillars of EXOS’ training system reflect this: Mindset, Nutrition, Movement, and Recovery. EXOS, as Verstegen put it, is in the business of supply chain management of human performance.

During their college career, NFL prospects are essentially babysat, with athletic and academic staff making sure that they go to class and walk the straight and narrow. There is nothing like that once you become an NFL player. No one chases you down if you don’t go to class or make a dumb mistake. Instead, you get cut. As these players become sort-of small businesses, with agents, trainers, and support staff on the payroll, this support staff has a vested interest in the success of the player. Ultimately, however, the success of the player depends on their ability to transition to a professional.

  1. SXSW, “SXsports”