Ten years ago, Darry Beckwith could not have imagined that he’d be considered a top linebacker prospect for the NFL draft, training at Athletes’ Performance in Gulf Breeze, Fla., for the Scouting Combine in Indianapolis in February.
He did not start playing football until the seventh grade, preferring to concentrate on baseball and basketball. When he arrived at Parkview Baptist High in Baton Rouge, La., he wasn’t even a sure bet to make the team.
“The coaches there will tell you I was a little pudgy kid who couldn’t run and didn’t really understand the game,” he says. “I mean, I didn’t even know what a 40-yard dash time was.”
He knows now, having been part of the Athletes’ Performance Combine preparation program since early January, working alongside the likes of Vanderbilt cornerback D.J. Moore.
Like a lot of athletes, budding professionals as well as weekend warriors, Beckwith thought explosion comes largely from your quads. The tendency to be “quad dominant” instead of “glute dominant” is a common misperception people have when it comes to proper movement.
“Once I realized that the idea is to explode through my glutes, it’s made a big difference,” he says.
Beckwith says he’s constantly reminding himself to activate his glutes, especially when practicing for the vertical leap.
“I have no hops, just can’t jump at all,” he jokes. “I guess it’s something of a wow factor for the scouts and I’m glad it’s just one of many parts of the process.
Beckwith was a key contributor on the LSU team that defeated Ohio State for the national championship following the 2007 season. He considered leaving school a year early—scouts rated him a potential second-round pick—but decided to return for a shot at a second national title.
That didn’t happen, though he has no regrets about delaying the start of his NFL career. “Baton Rouge is my hometown and LSU is a fun place,” he says. “Plus I thought I had a lot of room to improve.”
That work ethic transformed him from a pudgy ninth-grader into one of the best linebackers in college football the last two seasons. He’s embraced the many challenges thrown at him by the staff at Athletes’ Performance.
“Everyone treats you like a professional and it’s your job to get everything accomplished,” he says. “They’re here for you but you have to put forth the effort. You have to have the attitude that you have the chance to set up your life and your family for the rest of your life.”