Missouri State offensive lineman David Arkin isn't going to be a first-round pick in the 2011 NFL Draft.
Truth is, he'll probably be a mid-to-late round selection. You know, the ones that draft gurus like Mel Kiper or Mike Mayock barely speak about, if at all.
But, I've rarely looked more forward to an interview for a few reasons.
First and foremost, I have always been curious about walking through the NFL Draft process with a prospect whose performance in the offseason will ultimately be as important to him getting selected as what he did in four years of college.
Second, I knew Arkin was prepping for the Combine and Draft with the prestigious IMG Academies in Bradenton, Florida.
Third and finally, I wanted to spend some time getting to know a smart, talented young student-athlete who is battling for his passion in life—football—even though his academic excellence (3.71 grade point average) would seem to indicate he'll be well-suited to whatever career he ultimately chooses or that chooses him.
First some background. David Arkin is a 6'5" 302 pounder from Wichita, Kansas.
In 2010, Arkin earned first-team All-Missouri Valley Football Conference (MVFC) laurels for the second straight year after grading out at an 87 percent blocking rate with an impressive 82 knock down blocks. He has also started all 44 games of his college career. He is currently rated 11th out of 201 guard prospects (all information courtesy of nfldraftscout.com)
So to review, Arkin is a talented lineman, who will work to overcome concerns about his level of competition and less-than-ideal size for some NFL teams that like their "grunts" to weigh in the 320-340 range.
Enter IMG Academies (imgacademies.com). Arkin explains, "It was a place my agent recommended. I had a guy who got drafted from our school who went there last year and really liked it. So I did a little research and I liked how it was all-encompassing. You got your meals there and you lived on campus. It seemed like a good atmosphere to train in. I got there and really liked it. Also, the weather was really nice."
Don't misunderstand Arkin, IMG is not a country club.
"We'd wake up at 6:00, (eat) and start training by 7-7:30," he said. "At 8:30 we'd work on speed and agility drills. Right after that we would go into our positional drills with our position coach. After lunch, we would lift. Then we like to do a mental conditioning session, a food training session or a media training session. It's a full day and you pretty much just want to go to sleep after that."
Thankfully, I don't need to explain much about the speed and agility training that Arkin went through.
Performance Specialist Trevor Anderson does that job for you with six videos from the IMG website.
Anderson highlights the importance of warm-ups, body position, wedge and cross over steps that you wouldn't necessarily even consider as relevant until you watch the three cone L-Drill at the combine.
Speaking from personal experience, Anderson's videos are worth the time to watch.
For example, when I was coaching high school football, I don't how many players would only plant with the ball of their foot and have their weight unevenly distributed causing plenty of rolled ankles. This is just one of the problem areas that Anderson targets with his training.
Speed and agility will be a critical component to Arkin's performance at the Combine.
"I'm never going to be a big 350-lb. mauler-type guy, but I think I make up for it with my speed and agility," Arkin said. "I put some decent times down at IMG. So, I'd just like to tweak those and make them a little bit better, so that I compare favorably with other guys."
To compare favorably with other offensive lineman, especially that are Arkin's size, he will probably need to run in the 5.1-5.2 range for the 40-yard dash. According to nfldraftscout.com his lowest time is 5.12 and highest is 5.34.
So when he runs in a few days at the Combine it should be the little things that Anderson highlights that could make the difference in Arkin putting up an impressive time.
I didn't want spend to omuch time on Arkin's position drill or strength training, but he did make a couple of crucial points about what he tried to accomplish.
"I was actually able to put on some weight while keeping my body fat down a couple of percentage points," he said. "(IMG) really helped me with that. We worked on technique, which is something I really need to perfect before stepping to the next level. Conditioning is also a big thing.
"I think it's hard for the bigger guys to go as long and hard as I think I can with a smaller frame. It's all about the system you are working in. There are some blocking schemes out there that you actually prefer the smaller, more agile blocker. I don't think it's the huge disadvantage that some people make it out to be."
Strength training provided Arkin with a role model. "I think the guy who makes IMG what it is, is the head strength coach Jeff Dillon. He's a high-energy dude; he's off the wall at times. He's screaming at you at breakfast. I am going down to the cafeteria at 6:00 am and he's yelling, 'Wakey, wakey, eggs and bakey.' When you go lift, he's screaming at you even louder. That (intensity) is what you want from your strength coach. I think that is one of the more memorable things I am going to take away from training at IMG."
Despite all the complex physical training Arkin endured over an eight-week period, perhaps one of the biggest benefits from the experience that he derived was also one of the simplest to understand.
"Just taking care of your body and eating right is so important. Nutrition is such a huge part of the process," Arkin said. "It's something that I definitely didn't take as seriously as I needed to before I got there. I was eating dollar menu cheeseburgers and stuff like that. Eating the green stuff and not as much red meat; I felt a lot better."
I asked Arkin how he was still able to maintain his weight and he gave a simple answer that I should have considered. "It's all about volume," he said.
To this point, I was certainly impressed by Arkin's preparatory regimen, but not necessarily surprised. Then, we delved into vision and communication training and I received a whole new appreciation of the total training package that draft prospects go through.
Arkin tried to explain the importance of the vision training that is similar to the exercises fighter pilots go through.
"Your eyes have muscles and I guess you can train them to move bit a little faster and quicker and be more focused on things on the football field," he said.
"(In one exercise), there is a big board with a bunch of lights on it hooked up to computer. Things light up and you see how fast you can react to it. By the end of all the exercises you're eyes are really tired like you have been in front of a computer all day, but you can feel it working."
Arkin, had a reputation for being a "quiet, country boy" before coming to IMG and taking part in Steve Shenbaum's GameOn Communications Training.
Shenbaum was very succinct in his vision for David and the rest of his students. "I wanted David to have better self-awareness and better sense of his voice. I want the players to have the ability to use humor in an appropriate, uplifting manner, to show personality when appropriate and when to lay back and be serious when appropriate."
Shenbaum has an outstanding and extremely humorous exercise where he demonstrates with a volunteer what it's like to be an eight (showing a big personality) and a three (laying back) and how one can shift between the two communication styles depending on the types of situations you face and the questions you are asked.
Here is the video you need to watch not for a just a good laugh, but to understand how Shenbaum's mindset prepares players for the sometimes intimidating interviews they will face at the Combine from coaches, general managers, and the media.
Shenbaum had a clear vision for Arkin. "David is a little more of the laid back, meat-and-potatoes lineman," Shenbaum said. "I try to teach the players to ask themselves, How do you want to make others feel (when they interview you)? With Dave, I want him to make them feel excited or enthusiastic."
Considering that Arkin was more than enthusiastic and committed in talking to me, I think Shenbaum's strategy was quite successful and Arkin agrees.
"I think it was a really good experience for me; I am more of a reserved guy," he said. "By breaking out of your shell you understand how to communicate a little bit better. I think Steve does a really good job identifying what coaches and the media want to hear from you."
One final benefit of training with IMG is that Arkin got to train with some of the very best offensive lineman in the draft, including Boston College's Anthony Castonzo, Florida State's Rodney Hudson, and Indiana's James Brewer (Arkin's roommate).
"That was one of the best parts of the experience," Arkin said. "You hang around them all day and get to know them pretty well. Those guys are great and you can see that you are all working to the same thing."
I asked Arkin how he could have formed such friendships when in essence he is competing with these guys for a job.
"It probably should be (that way). If you think about it from an outside perspective, if you are selected ahead of them you are going to be making yourself a lot of money, but when you are standing next to these guys it's the kind of atmosphere where you want everybody to do their best."
"I just want to show them that I might come from a small school but I am just as tough and physical and have all the same attributes as the big school guys," Arkin said. "I got what it takes to make the team and work at it."
Thanks to IMG Academies, especially Director Trevor Maowad, Shenbaum, and Kim Berard of Public Relations.
Of course, a huge thanks goes out to David Arkin for his time and a willingness to talk in the future including after the Combine. So, this article is the first of a few which will follow Arkin through the entire draft process.